Preface, Chapter 1, Chapter 2
We woke up early (but not too early!) to get started on our first sight-seeing day in France. We had decided to split our 9 days between France (mostly Paris) and London, so that only gave us a few days to see the sights. Our hotel offered breakfast so we enjoyed cereal, fruits, croissants, tea and coffee. (We had croissants every day of our trip, and they were fabulous!!!)
Our first stop of the day was to head back to the Eiffel Tower and catch the view from the top! They had one fee to the first deck, and slightly higher fee to the upper deck, or for just a small fee you could climb the stairs! Can you imagine climbing all those stairs in that cold weather? Neither could we! We paid the extra charge to go the higher deck, and we were so impressed by the view. From every direction as far as the eye could see was the city. Just incredible! We spent some time admiring the view until I got too cold and we came down. We had to buy a hat for Spiral, as he had left his at home and found the weather a bit too cold. We walked across the street and watched the carousel go round and round. Gabriella would have loved it.
We made our way to the Arc de Triomphe and took the required pictures. We then crossed under the street to get a closer look. We were told that normally you can go to the top, but I forget why you couldn't this day. It didn't matter to me - after freezing my... ears off atop the Eiffel Tower I wasn't interested in spending more time outside.
We walked down the Champs-Elysees, and found a little Bistro for lunch - Bistro Romain. I had mussel bisque, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would! I loved the little water carafes all the restaurants used to serve water at the table. I'm sure that's one of those things the locals don't even think about, but I thought they were cute. After lunch we strolled down the street and browsed a few shops. I couldn't resist Natalys, a children's shop. The next day I would come back and buy a little dress for Ella, and a matching outfit for her unborn brother.
Then we took the Metro to go tour Notre Dame. Before making it there I, of course, had to use the restroom, so we stopped at a little cafe to get something to warm us up. It was while we were there that we discovered that Spiral had left his debit card back at the bistro, so it was back we went to try to get it back. We were very confused when we were told that our waiter had taken it, but he had gone home... it seemed that this was a perfectly normal thing to do. We never did find out what exactly happened, but we canceled the card, and luckily had mine to use for the rest of our trip. (That took a nice chunk out of our day.)
Back to Notre Dame, I would have loved to see its face lit up by the sun, but even with the over-cast, gloomy day Notre Dame was spectacular. By now it was snowing lightly, which only added to the beauty. We walked in and were very surprised to find a wedding going on, right there in the middle of all the tourists! I felt very out of place, like I was intruding upon this couple's special time, and here around me were hundred of people just milling about and walking around - some with the self-guided "earphone tour". I found it difficult to fathom all the history in that building, and was just in awe. (Here in America, as you may know, anything over 50 years old is OLD as far as we are concerned.) The stained glass was amazing, as was the architecture. (J would have loved it!)
In general, I was terribly impressed with the Metro. I found it so efficient, and we had not one problem getting around. (I am not a stranger to big cities, but I've never lived in one that had a subway system, and generally when we want to get somewhere, we drive.) I was also only slightly surprised at the culture shock I experienced. Spiral kind of just rolls with things and deals, but I'm much more... uptight. Even though it was rare we had to communicate with someone who did not speak English, the language barrier really intimidated me.
We ate dinner at Hippopotamus Citroen on the Champs-Elysees. This was the only time (I remember) having trouble communicating with "the locals". They brought us bread with our meal, and Spiral wanted butter to go with it. Our waitress, (in my opinion) just refused to understand us, both in English and in French. (I realize when I "speak" (I use the term loosely) French I do so with a horrible American accent, but I'm sure I could utter the word "beurre" well enough to get some sort of understanding.) Other than that, we enjoyed our meal, and headed back to our room for some sleep.
When we got back to the hotel and turned on CNN (the only English channel we got) we found out that while we were enjoying the amazing beauty and wonder of Notre Dame, the Space Shuttle Columbia had broken apart on re-entry, killing all seven astronauts onboard. We watched the footage from Texas for the rest of the evening before going to sleep.