I flew to London to meet Traci who had been there for a week of business meetings. We were able to explore the Tower Of London before taking the Chunnel to Paris the next morning. We spent five days in Paris visiting marvelous attractions such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, Versailles, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. We also had some great meals and met some remarkable people. We were on the go from morning until night and still never scratched the surface of all there is to do in this charming city. Our hotel, Le Faubourg, was the icing on the cake. It was located in walking distance of several attractions, restaurants, and stores. The hotel staff and amenities were top notched. All these factors made our vacation in Paris a wonderful experience.
The language of France is French; however, we found that many people in Paris also speak English - especially in the tourist areas. All of the television channels in the hotel were in French except for the CNN and the BBC.
Between junior high and high school, I took four years of French. Before I went on this trip, I bought some French language tutorial CDs and a phrase book to help me refresh my knowledge of the language. Unfortunately, I procrastinated and only studied the CDs seriously about a week before my departure date. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to trying to speak a little French on this trip.
My attempts to speak French were successful about a handful of times. Sometimes I could ask for what I wanted and understand the responses. Other times, the person would immediately respond to my questions in English. There were many times when someone would say something to me and I became a deer caught in the headlights - I had no clue.
The currency of France is the Euro. At the time we were there, one Euro was equal to approximately 1.19 US dollars. There were plenty of currency exchange places in the tourist areas but you would have to pay a fee and/or commission depending on where you exchanged money. Traci and I used our credit cards whenever we could. I also found out that my ATM card worked in Paris, so I was able to avoid the currency exchange fees and commissions.
One of the most efficient ways to get around in Paris is the metro. It is relatively cheap and can get you to just about anywhere in the city. The metro runs from early morning until around 12:30 or 1 a.m.. I don't think we ever waited for a metro train longer than five minutes. In addition, the metro passes can be used on public buses and at several tourist attractions. We carried a pocket metro map we got from the concierge desk of our hotel. It was very helpful for determining which metro trains to take.
Like in many cities, the metro can get extremely crowded during rush hour. At these times, it is pretty much standing room only. The cars near the back of the train were typically less crowded, but even these become packed during rush hour.
Traci in the metro station ready for a night on the town
One thing I enjoyed about the metro was the musicians. I normally heard them performing during rush hour in the station and on the trains. There was a guy playing classical music on an accordion one morning. He was playing some very technical passages with amazing dexterity. The strange thing about it was that the acoustics in the metro station made his accordion sound like a full pipe organ. I was blown away by what he was playing. I couldn't stop talking about his performance for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I never saw this guy again for the rest of my stay in Paris. continue...