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23 June 2009

This is what our itinerary for today says:

Bienvenue! Paris greets you today. Relax and become acquainted with this beautiful city. Special welcome dinner this evening!

IamMetro.jpg (36995 bytes)Apparently nobody told Ian.

Ian is our new tour guide as our original one sprained her back; so they called in the big guns--Ian. I may be wrong, but I think he has a university history background and really knows his stuff. Everything he has to say is fascinating; but he is so eager to give us history, background and tips to increase our appreciation of what we will be seeing that he spends more time teaching than we have to SEE what he's talking about.

After an 11 hr flight on which I got NO sleep; we had 30 min to check into our rooms and meet in the lobby to go to Notre Dame. 

We went by metro and Ian spent a long time teaching us how to use the Metro (which those who have ever used BART or London's Tube probably found unnecessary).   The metros in Paris are like London -- very efficient but needing to travel long distances between platforms, often going up and down stairs.  This was my first day and I had a very difficult time keeping up (something that would become the norm as the tour progressed over the next two weeks)

After he lectured us from three different spots in the plaza in front of Notre Dame, standing up in the hot sun with no place to lean, so that we would be prepared to appreciate what we were going to see inside, he told us we had 15 min to tour the inside and meet him back outside to go on a boat ride along the Seine. Fifteen minutes to see the church he had just prepared us for 15-20 minutes to appreciate!!!  (And the 15 minutes included the time we spent in line trying to get in!) We raced through the church and outside and he told us we could have an additional 15 minutes to look at the flying buttresses. 

I came to refer to this day (as many other days) as a "Bataan march."  At least it felt that way to me.  From Notre Dame we hiked back over to the metro (it was "just a hop skip and jump" to get to the Metro, he said, and it would let us right off at the boats).  We did more of the up and down stairs and long passages until we finally got to the Eiffel Tower and from there we WERE at the boat dock but OUR boat was the farthest one -- naturally. 

NEW STUFF: OK...I have my second wind, a cheap computer and an ENGLISH keyboard, so let me finish this entry...

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The damn French keyboard.  the A and Q are reversed.
the M is on the right and all the characters are in
different places -- hell for a touch typist!

First let's go back to the plane. As we got into our "extra leg room" seat, I have VERY glad I wasn't in the cramped seats because we had so little room. I was wedged in and my ploy of getting a window seat so I could lean against the window didn't work because of the shelf between the seat and the window, tho it was big enough to put my backpack on, which gave me all the leg room without having to step around the backpack.

We had several choices of movies and our own TV screen in back of the seat in front of us (the downstairs people didn't have their own TVs) but my butt took up so much of the seat that I couldn't get to the buttons and when I finally, with GREAT difficulty managed to get the TV turned on and actually FOUND a movie ("Doubt") it was the French version and I couldn't find the English version to save my soul. So I watched it in French and spent the rest of the flight reading. I didn't sleep at all.

Ian met us at the airport and our Bataan march began. As I said, we had 30 min to check into our rooms and meet in the lobby to start the trip to Notre Dame. The metro was just up the street, but then there were two flights of stairs down, LONG corridors to walk, then up stairs and then down stairs again and I lost count. At every turn Ian was there to encourage us that it was "Just a hop, skip and a jump." Yeah. Right.

Our 15 min in Notre Dame was very nice and he even gave us an additional 15 to check out the flying buttresses on the side,but then we had to get back on the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower station to catch the boat. "It's just a short bit,"he would say,before leading us into another maze of metro steps and corridors.

For those of you who watched "Biggest Loser, Couples," I really knew how Ron must have felt when starting the program for the TV show.

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It was only the first half of the first day and already
I was ready to die

By the end of the day, people were being very solicitous. At one point, after I told Jeri that I'd gladly pay 10 euros for a bottle of water (1 euro = about .65) she ran off and to check something and came back with a huge bottle of water for me. I almost cried, I was so happy.

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When we got off the boat, we just had to take the metro back. "It's just a short walk," Ian promised, indicating that it was "just by that building." I wished I'd had binoculars to see the building Waaaaay off in the distance. "Just a short walk" including walking the distance of one bridge to another, crossing the bridge. Walking to a long incline, then up a couple of flights of stairs and then just around the corner to the metro, which started with a very long set of stairs down, more corridors and stairs again. Ian was there encouraging me all the way, but I was fallng more and more behind.

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After walking from one bridge to the next and then up the long incline at the left
(and it's steeper than it looks here), there are only "a few stairs" to climb before
you enter the metro and start the up and down stairs and long walkways there.

When we got home, he gave us 15 minutes to "get ready" and then walk to dinner. "Just a hop, skip and a jump." Everything I was wearing was wet, so I had to have a shower (and in so doing flooded the bathroom.) When I got downstairs, everyone had left, except Jeri and Jenny who had waited for me. It wasn't exactly a "hop, skip and a jump," but I did make it...eventually. When I got in the restaurant, the ever ebuliant Ian said "They've given us a lovely little room upstairs."

I nearly cried.

Mercure Paris Opera Garnier
4, Rue de l'Isly

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We are staying here 3 nights...and Internet access is available.


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