three years of yielding first to the demands of jobs and then the exigencies
of illness, the stars finally aligned and Natalie and I got to take a long
vacation to a place we had visited together many times in our imagination
We both slept badly on the overnight flight from Chicago - Natalie from a nagging thought that unless someone stayed up and believed the plane was still flying we would end up in the Atlantic and I due to the lack of leg room - but we arrived at Charles de Gaulle early on Sunday, June 18th ready to immerse ourselves in the City of Light.
We caught a shuttle bus that dropped us off at the Paris Opera and then took a taxi through the nearly empty streets to our hotel in the 7th arrondissement -- the Hotel Eiffel Park on the Rue Amelie, a quiet side street in a maze of residential apartments and small shops between Les Invalides and the Champs de Mars. We checked our bags and headed out to explore.
A nearby sidewalk café gave us a chance to sit down and watch Paris slowly wake up as we sipped a much needed café crème. Thus caffeinated we walked over to the Champs de Mars and decided to go up the Eiffel Tower, see the panorama of Paris laid out before us and get our bearings. As we waited for our turn going up the inclinator, we listened to all the different languages and accents of the crowd and watched the conspicuously armed French army patrols as they watched us. From the second level observation deck it was a little hazy but still a great view of the city. All the well-known monuments and churches of the city and the green waters of the Seine stretched out beneath us.
Eventually we made our way back to ground level and strolled through the Champs de Mars park and watched Parisians as they picnicked and sunbathed. We walked back to our hotel to check in and found that the hallway to our 4th floor room was hung with pictures of American movie stars from the 50's and 60's - photos of James Dean and a very young Marlon Brando would later assure us as we stumbled out of the elevator that we were on the right floor. We collapsed on the bed for a short rest that turned into a not-so-short nap and woke up ready to find some dinner.
Finding dinner proved to be somewhat problematical - we apparently had slept through the Paris lunch hour and most restaurants were closed between lunch and dinner. We finally found that the Café du Dome was willing to serve us coffee and sandwiches. We sat outside watching the parade of fashionably dressed Parisians with a remarkable number of babies and young children as they walked off more substantial lunches in the hazy golden sunlight of mid-afternoon.
After dinner we walked a little more ourselves - down the Champs de Mars to the Ecole Militaire and the Peace monument that confronts it across the parade ground, then back to Les Invalides, our hotel and, very shortly, bed.