When I scheduled my flight from Dublin back to the US, I had the option to route it through Atlanta, New York City, or Paris. In each possible layover scenario, I would have to wait for at least 16 hours again before my connecting flight so I thought to myself, "Eric, you've already spent a day in Atlanta and you've been to New York a number of times. You're already in Europe, it's been a while since you've been to Paris, and you'll get to visit another airport!!"
Paris it is!
My flight left Dublin at 9am and I arrived in Paris's Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) a little after noon. On the way to Ireland, if you remember, I had problems with an overnight layover and had to claim my luggage at ATL rather than checking it all the way through to SNN. On the way back, though, the ticketing agent at DUB asked if I wanted my bag checked all the way through back to ORD and after I confirmed I would not need to pick it up in Paris, I was scot-free and only needed to worry about my backpack and camera!!
The ride in from CDG to Paris didn't take too long at all and the trip was pretty comfortable and I soon found myself standing in front of my friends', Bruce's and Judy's, apartment. It was really good being able to see them and they welcomed me in to their cozy, but spacious, flat and we talked for a good hour before deciding we would take a little excursion.
Bruce and Judy live only a few blocks away from the Seine so we walked down to the riverfront, right through the plaza in front of the Hôtel de Ville. To me, it is absolutely amazing the variety of architectural styles in Europe. Berlin was more industrial and there was no real unity, architecturally, from one building to the next, though the European elements were still present. And Ireland was much more pastoral and simplistic with the smooth, painted, stucco-front buildings lining the small town centers. The buildings in Paris are pieces of art themselves. Every street is lined with stone buildings, each façade flush with the next, but the amount of detail going into the stone carvings, the wrought-iron, the courtyard gardens, and window glass was so precise that it just makes you wonder how many days' worth of work went into building what are even now simple apartment complexes! And then of course you have the city landmarks like the Hôtel de Ville that take the level of detail and architectural style to an entirely higher and more unfathomable level!
In Paris in the summer, there is a Caribbean beach vibe as the city brings in loads of sand for beach volleyball courts in front of the Hôtel de Ville and along the Rive Droite (Right Bank), the city closes one of the streets that courses right along the bank of the Seine and turns it into a beach called Les Paris Plages, complete with lounge chairs, sand sculptures, playgrounds for kids, and a host of other activities for people of all ages! It was so neat to be strolling through Paris and feeling like you're somewhere tropical!
|The ornate façade of the Hôtel de Ville|
|Les Paris Plages|
|Les Paris Plages|
|Looking across from Les Paris Plages to La Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her death|
|Playing volleyball in front of le Hôtel de Ville|
|These photos need no captions|
|Full façade of Notre Dame|
|Upper façade of Notre Dame|
|Lower façade and transepts of Notre Dame|
|Main rose window|
|Bell towers from behind|
|Rear of the cathedral and its flying buttresses|
Judy and I then walked across a bridge to the Île Saint-Louis, the smaller of the main two islands in the Seine, stopped for some gelato, at a nice little shop where I was able to use my French to ask about different flavors and order. It was refreshing to have someone working the store who knew I was not a native French-speaker yet spoke a little more slowly and clearly so I could understand what he was saying. It was my only successful foray into conversational French the entire time I was there. Judy explained to me that Paris is divided into 20 different "arrondissements" or neighborhoods. The oldest part of the city is in "le Première Arrondissment" (or the first section) and as new arrondissements were added to the city the layout kind of spiraled around the old city-center, giving the layout the nickname of l'escargot (the snail). Judy gave me a tour of the Quatrième and Troisième Arrondissements on the way back to their apartment and we passed such sites as the Place de la Bastille and La Place des Vosges before returning.
|July Column in the center of La Place de la Bastille commemorating the July 14, 1789 storming of the Bastille (a political prison set up by the monarchy) and successful capture of the arms and ammunition being stored there.|
My original idea in coming to Paris for the day was to run a smash-and-grab sightseeing operation, but I am so glad we took things easy because there is just so much to do that one day is not even enough time for a single site. Paris is a city I will need to visit again and take a few weeks to explore!
Until next time, Paris, au revoir!