I’m currently writing this post from Day 2 in Paris, which means we survived Day 1. We have been following the Daniel Bachhuber Jet Lag Avoidance Protocol (DBJLAP), which means I wasn’t sure if we (or, I, specifically) would survive… but we did, and Paris is just lovely! The DBJLAP calls for as long a nap as possible on the airplane ride to your far-off location, and then powering through the entire arrival day with minimal or no sleep until a suitable local bed-time. The night before we left Portland I slept quite bad, perhaps because of the anxiety of wondering if we would miss the plane. Then on the plane I slept maybe 1 hour at most, so when we arrived in Paris on Thursday morning, local time 8:00am, I wasn’t sure if I would make it through the day. I was dragging.
But, being off the plane and emerging from the subway line onto the Parisian streets was exhilarating. This is my first time to Europe (!), so I was/am excited to soak it all in. Our first day ended up being totally action packed and for me, shockingly, mostly caffeine-free (well, I had several black teas throughout the day). We headed to our hotel (Hotel de Buci), located in the neighborhood St. Germaine, and dropped off our bags. We were immediately off, without even tidying up, because our rooms would not be ready until 2pm. We walked a few blocks and found a suitable place for breakfast – crepes and omlettes. After, we were off on a massive walk.
We walked about a mile to the Louvre, walked around in the main courtyard area and Daniel showed me the famous glass pyramid. Then we headed along the Seine River and saw the Paris Ferris Wheel ahead. We figured, why not?, so bought 2 tickets and settled into our little cabin and enjoyed what three rounds, and the magnificent views of the city, the Seine and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
After we were kicked off the Ferris Wheel it was off for more walking. We strolled the entire length of the Champs Elysees and took in the sights, mostly it was great people watching. I quickly realized how, at that moment, I could never, ever fit in as a Parisian. Why? I was wearing running shoes and Nike yoga pants (it was my plane outfit because, remember, we hadn’t had the chance to change yet). I looked and looked and looked and literally never once saw a Parisian wearing running shoes on the street (still haven’t at the end of Day 2). Eventually we did spot a couple who was wearing running shoes. They turned out to be American.
At the end of the Champs Elysees we gazed at the Arch de Triumph and took a short rest on a bench, where I considered taking a nap. We thought about walking the 3 miles back to the hotel, but I reckoned I would die of exhaustion, so we took a cab back. Although not part of the DBJLAP, we decided to take an hour nap, which accidentally turned in to two hours. Although it was very difficult, we peeled ourselves off the bed and headed back out on the town. Destination: Eiffel Tower.
By the time we arrived, it was long past sunset and the Eiffel Tower was lit up and sparkling. I must say, it is just as majestic as it is in the movies. We wanted to go to the top but I needed food so I didn’t crash before we summited. Several blocks away we found a charming little cafe (Paris is literally swarming with charming little cafes, so this was not difficult!) and enjoyed dinner (me: a salad, Daniel: duck confit, a little wine and a raspberry tart for dessert) and some good conversation. Then we headed back to the Eiffel Tower, bought tickets and headed up. One tip I have for people visiting Paris is to take the elevator up to the top at night instead of during the day. The line was probably 10-15 minutes in total. I can imagine that during the peak of the day hours, the wait is probably 1+ hours.
The views from the top were spectacular (and it was very cold!). I hypothesized that the Eiffel Tower must be the #1 place to get proposed to in the world. Of course, at the top there was a raving girl calling everyone she knew because her boyfriend had just proposed. Finally, we headed down and hitched a cab ride home. Daniel’s anti-jetlag method mostly worked (I did wake up once for 3 hours at 3am), but managed to fall back asleep at 6:30am or so.
Overall, Paris is just so charming. It lives up to its reputation in many ways: it is a pleasure to walk through the streets and observe the old buildings and architecture, it has a very romantic feel, the sidewalks are teeming with cafes with tiny tables squished together where friends and couples huddle and smoke cigarettes, it feels full of history and everyone seems very classy and chic. Oh, and yes, and people everywhere actually do walk around carrying baguettes.
*One of my first observations was that Paris is a much more diverse city than I expected. Obviously I know it is a big cosmopolitan city, but I was surprised at how many ethnicities can be seen on the streets. There seems to be an especially strong north and east African contingent.
*As I mentioned above pertaining to running shoes, everyone dresses chic. It is not necessarily like everyone looks straight off the red carpet, but everyone looks put together. Their clothes seem high quality. They do not wear running shoes and yoga pants, ever. People mostly wear black and neutrals. Definitely no one ever, ever wears sweat pants.
*A LOT of people smoke cigarettes. This is one thing I have been quite surprised about. A huge portion of the population seems to smoke: young, old, men, women, everyone. One of the main Parisian past times seems to be sitting at a sidewalk cafe, at one of the outdoor tables, with all your friends, drinking small coffees and smoking cigarettes.
*There seems to be a lot of similarities to me between Japanese and French culture. After making this observation, I’ve noticed more and more sushi restaurants, more sushi restaurants than any other “international” cuisine. It makes me wonder how many French move to Japan, or vice versa. Both countries have deep cultural traditions surrounding food and socializing. French around coffee, Japanese around tea, both around food. Both have ritualistic traditions around each one.
*There seems to be a strong culture of spending time with other people, especially at cafes, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. It seems like people actually take the time to be with each other, rather than just having a “power lunch” and heading back to the office. There is more a feeling of enjoyment and relaxation, rather than “go, go, go,” as in America.
*Food is delicious, yet simple. Meals are often made up of only a few ingredients, but very good ingredients. They are more enjoyable because you don’t get “too much” and eat until you are stuffed, which often happens at restaurants in America.
4 hours of sleep over 48 hours, just off the plane and RER Paris subway, looking for our hotel and surprised how FRIGID Paris is. Typical little market in St. Germaine. Everything is just cuter, isn’t it? Even this bike next to a sign is charming. Macaroons and pastries everywhere. Sidewalk cafe – this is in the morning so no one was there, but in the afternoon and night the outdoor seats fill up. Little market. We walked over a bridge to the Louvre and it was covered with locks. Please write _____ loves ______ and the date on the lock, usually. So many locks! Daniel with the locks. Checking out the Seine River. Perfect place for people watching. Views from the Ferris Wheel. First glimpses of the Eiffel Tower. Our attempt at a selfie on the Ferris Wheel. Spot the American! Don’t be fooled because this outfit is all black, it also is made up of, *gasp*, running shoes and yoga pants. I am a lousy Parisian. First close-up glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Night scenes on the way to dinner. Eiffel. Us (three!) in front of the Eiffel. Summit views. More views from the top of the Eiffel Tower.