It is not possible to capture Paris in a single blog post. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that big a city, but its dense neighborhoods, and varied charm is impossible to summarize in one post. If someone was to ask me, “We are heading to Paris for a few days. Any suggestions?” my simple response will be – go buy the Frommer’s guide to Paris and follow it to the T. But if you are going to be in Paris for a week, like we were, then you might find something interesting here.
Our flight landed in Paris at 3:00pm on a Saturday. Do NOT reserve one of those airport shuttles ahead of time. No one showed up at our gate at the expected time and so we ended up taking a cab to Marriott Champs Elysees. The cab ride was quite uneventful, given that the driver was not too interested in speaking to us. And Agam made it worse by trying to speak some French with him. The French are prudish. Simply avoid trying to speak their language if you are not certain of the pronunciation. I was a tad bit disappointed to begin with since we lost an hour or so waiting for the shuttle at the airport, but little did I know that in summers, the sun sets at 11:00pm in Paris. We checked in, showered and walked out of the hotel to merge into a sea of tourists.
Staying in Champs Elysees was like living at Times Square in NY. It is always crowded and always buzzing with energy. Even at 2:00 am in the morning, you can hear live bands playing on the streets, young Parisians drinking in the open and restaurants packed with tourists. Do I recommend staying there? Well, if you have hotel points – Yes, if you are spending your dime – No. It is very expensive and I’d rather live in the heart of the commons, than in the alleys of Cartier and Swarovski.
So our first evening in Paris was spent walking up and down the most famous street in the world Avenue des Champs-Élysées. To be honest, it was no different than walking down Fifth Avenue in NY. The Cartier’s, Louis Vuitton’s, Swarovski’s, Gucci’s and Chanel’s all lined up in a row. The only difference is that this historic street is wrapped at one end by the Arc de Triomphe and at the other end is the Place de la Concorde, that further leads into the Jardin des Tuileries and further up to the Louvre. It is quite a grand view, if one was to stand in the middle of the street. Beware of the traffic though!
Unlike NY, Paris is not at all intimidating. After exploring the Arc de Triomphe from every possible angle, we wondered off in one of the streets around the Arc called Ave de Victor Hugo. A fine street with a fine canopy of trees, fancy cars, designer boutiques and up-scale dining options. We traced our steps back and started heading back towards the hotel.
To end the night we landed at a restaurant that seemed a bit reasonable in terms of prices. Combo offers are very common in Paris. Dinner at 17 Euros per person was the lowest we could find it included an entrée and small dessert – not bad. Just like the rest of Europe, service is poor in Paris. So be prepared for long waits and rude waiters. They really do test your patience with their relaxed pace of service. I don’t blame them. Dining is a leisurely activity in most of Europe. I remember how team dinners in Amsterdam lasted over five hours sometimes. If you need a quick bite – go eat at McDonalds or Pomme de Pain.
That was a wrap for Day 1! Paris impressed me with its energy… I was already in love with this City. More in the upcoming posts..