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“From Frankfurt to Paris”

Another travelogue …

Impressive. Panache. Enchanting. Beau monde. Artistic. Paris is all of these things. Its attraction is undeniable. It had me at Bonjour.

I’d arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on a Friday evening, excited to meet Kathleen for a weekend getaway in the City of Light. She was in France for a month-long business program boot camp, as it were, with her first week consisting of team building activities in the wilderness of Fontainebleau. And just like with her challenging deep woods adventures, I, too, could feel the adrenaline. I’d be in Paris for the first time.

After greeting her with an overly romantic smooch in the Opera district, with my overstuffed carry-on bag strap pulled tightly across my shoulder, the two of us embarked on an unintentional sightseeing warm-up exercise. For roughly an hour and a half we strolled through the streets together, lost and unaffected by our map-reading inabilities, yet content that it was only us, lugging our bags and chatting away while soaking up Paris on a warm summer evening.

When we finally arrived at our hotel, we were pleasantly surprised by its quaintness. Kathleen got caught up in the moment and set the mood in our room by unpacking her backpack full of drinks and snacks, including a bag of strong cheese and onion potato chips, an interesting choice for our first night together in the most romantic city in the world. Still, we nibbled and sipped all we could and successfully gave our breath a new identity in the process. It was adequate preparation for another walk through the city, and for our first stop at the Louvre, with its magnificence ultimately inspiring us to roam the streets and gaze at the beautiful evening sights. Along the way, we spotted a very nice-looking restaurant, where we had a late-night dinner and some French wine to consummate the evening.

Who says croissants are only for Frenchmen? The following morning was a typical French breakfast in the cool, cave-like basement of our hotel. (The hotel room shower resembled a mechanical testing device used in an automobile factory, though it proved to be utterly fantastic with its multi-water spouts and adjustable knobs.) The end result was Nutella overload. We were starving for a remedy so afterwards we forced ourselves down the street to the local wine merchant. Exiting the store with four newly purchased bottles of fine wine, we felt that window shopping and cavorting in some of the high-end stores was our next logical step. I did my best to dissuade Kathleen from emptying her wallet in places like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hugo Boss, and she obliged, as indecisiveness had taken hold of her. Then it was on to the magnificent Notre Dame, with a brief walk-through tour of the beautiful cathedral.

The Ste Chapelle wasn’t far around the corner, so we skipped on over there as well. Coincidentally, it was closed for security reasons that day, but one of their evening music concerts was still in session … The show must go on! Ten minutes later, we claimed two student-priced tickets—when a French man asks if you are a student, it’s best to nod and say yes, even if it’s not the truth—for an eight thirty classical music concert in the lower section of the chapel. We killed some time back at the hotel and then returned for the concert ... and a relaxing symphonic performance it was indeed. The show featured pieces by Bach, Mozart, Schubert and other famous classical music composers.

A favorite was the third piece (title unknown), a number so wrought with emotion that it made you want to go out and buy a brand new car or climb a mountain. The elderly woman in front of us may not have shared the same sentiment, however, as she was slouched forward catching flies, glasses hanging off her face; and on the back of the bald, shiny head of the guy sitting next to her were three large wrinkles that commanded an altogether separate performance, dancing gracefully each time he leaned back in his chair.

After the concert, we joined a crowd of spectators huddled around a small group of fly street break dancers. I hadn’t seen grown men spin on their heads in quite some time; it was awesome. These guys had some harebrained, wacky moves. Their lasting energy would be more than enough to propel us forward for a brief walk-through of the Latin Quarter, where we later found Chez Clement restaurant, a place high on ambience but ordinary in the cuisine department.

Finally, it was time for the spectacle that is the Eiffel Tower. We trekked through the city for over an hour and arrived there just after one o’clock in the morning. And oh my, what a splendiferous sight it was to see this wonder up close with its flashing lights. I bought my love a red rose on the ground level directly beneath the tower—it’s always a nice move to reach into your romantic bag of tricks and pull out an unexpected surprise. A crazy taxi driver then zipped us back to our hotel at the end of the night, where we promptly rested our heads on a couple of French pillows.

The last Sunday was saved for heaps of sightseeing. We saw, just to name a few, the impressive Sacré Coeur, where we observed a French mass in session; the magnificent Louvre (again); a weird-looking art museum; the Champs-Elysées shopping strip, where the McDonalds looks like a five-star restaurant; and the famous Arc de Triomphe at its end. It was a day of simple pleasures: walking, talking, eating French fare, taking pictures, and enjoying the outdoor charm that is Paris. The sun even peeked its head out for a couple of hours. What a nice touch to a super-duper weekend.


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