Paris – 5/30/2018
Our first day started when we landed at the Paris ORLY airport at 1:22 pm Paris time on Tuesday, May 29th. I actually didn’t feel that bad after the six hour flight, and felt like I might be fine with this whole “time change” situation. We got off the plane and went through security; the Customs official looked surprised to see my “Talent Visa” and asked what my talent was, after Kelly said, “scientist”, he let us right through. We collected our luggage in no time and were off.
Our first challenege was finding the ORLYVAL train, which conviently, goes right to Antony where our HomeAway (think AirBNB) was. After some confusing signs, we wound up at a door being blocked by a French security guard, he told us to find the next stop on the train. We then proceeded to wander around the airport (having to lug all our suitcases up a flight of stairs in the process) until we figured out that the ORLYVAL train entrance was just around the corner from where we were originally looking. Two stops later, we were in Antony.
Antony seems like a nice little suburb, but even there, there was a ton of activity – cars and people whizzing back and forth. Most of the streets are smaller, some even cobblestones. After we momentarily got lost leaving the train station, we found our way to our block, and to where our apartment was. Since it was still a little early (check-in was at 4:00 pm, it was about 3:00 pm at that point), we stopped at a cafe/bar across the street from our apartment.
Kelly is much better at communicating than I am, and so when we got to the cafe, a man came up and tried to talk to us, in French of course. It wasn’t clear whether or not he worked there or was just hanging out there, so I was a bit confused and asked for a menu (in English). After a second, the man (who did in fact work there) called over someone else who spoke English, and we ordered two coffees. I guess I should have been more prepared to say what I needed to say, but it’s hard to get used to not being able to automatically and effortlessly communicate with people. We stayed at the cafe for about a half hour; now that we knew the situation, we looked up how to ask for the bill (l’addition, s’il vous plait), paid for our bill, and went to our apartment.
Our apartment is part of a small complex, a 3 or 4 story nondescript gray building, other than the beautiful blue shutters around the outside of the windows. Passed the outside gate, you walk under a small tunnel before seeing a courtyard with a beautiful garden where the entrance to the residence is. After a few minutes, we were met by the person giving us the keys, who showed us around the small apartment. It’s a studio, with one bed (maybe slightly bigger than a twin bed?) and a couch that converts to a bed. Even though it’s very small, it still has a microwave, toaster, coffee maker, electric grill, fridge, washer, electric kettle, a fully equipped kitchen. It’s pretty cute – the one end table next to the bed is actually a chair that matches the ones at the small bar/table.
We dropped off our luggage, got changed, and started exploring! Kelly had been to Paris a few times before, so she showed me around to some of the various sites. We started by getting a metro pass for Zones 1-3 for the day (Zone 1 is a circle around the center of Paris, and each outer zone is a concentric ring which covers more and more of the area lying outside of Paris, Antony is in Zone 3). As we got closer and closer to the center of Paris (we were taking the RER-B line to the Arc de Triomphe), the train car got more and more crowded, to the point where one more person tried to get on the train and couldn’t move any further in, and when the doors closed, he was actually hit by the door.
We managed to escape the train at our stop (which was a feat), and after following some twists and turns underground, we emerged at the Arc de Triomphe. Like many of the main attractions of Paris, I’d seen pictures of the Arc before, but the pictures really don’t do it justice. It’s a massive monument, over 150 feet high (finished in 1836!), but the most impressive thing about it is the beautiful sculptures that seemingly protrude from the Arc – they tell the story of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. When we got there, a ceremony was just starting – at the center of the Arc de Triomphe is an eternal flame for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which is “rekindled” every evening in a military ceremony that remembers the soldiers France has lost.
We then went to the Eiffel Tower (of course) which, again, looks smaller in pictures than it actually is. The Tower is over 1000 feet tall, and finished in 1889 (it was built for the 1889 World’s Fair), was the tallest building in the world for over 40 years. Since we were hungry (and feeling “touristy”), we stopped and got a nutella crepe with strawberries (so good).
We walked around the park next to the Tower, and eventually made our way to the Louvre. The history of the Louvre is amazing – it was originally a fortress built in the 12th century, then became the main residence of French Kings in 1546, then became the place to display the royal art collection in 1692. It was finally opened as a museum in 1793 and currently has about 38,000 objects in it’s ~783,000 square feet. We didn’t have time to go in, but just the sheer size and age of the building is impressive.
We kept walking until we walked to Notre Dame, and at this point, it was getting late in the day (around 8:30 pm), so we got some pictures and headed back to our train. As we started heading back the weather got worse, and when we got back to Antony, we got caught in a pretty bad storm (lightening actually struck the Eiffel Tower during that storm).
https://www.thelocal.fr/20180529/video-eiffel-tower-hit-by-lightning-again-as-storms-lash-paris – video from Ulysse Paris here: https://twitter.com/ulyssepariser/status/1001223111667343363
We waited for the rain to die down and then made a run for it – our apartment is only a few minute jog from the station, but we still got soaked. After making the bed, putting away some luggage, eating dinner, and taking a much needed shower, our first day in Paris was in the books.
We went to bed at about 10:30 pm Paris time (4:30 pm EST), and I felt sufficiently tired, but little did I know, my internal clock was still ticking away. I ended up waking up at 2:00 am Paris (8 pm EST), and after trying to fall back to sleep, I decided to write this blog post! It’s currently 4:17 am, and I think I’m going to try to go to bed again – wish me luck!