Sunday, January 25, 2009

Three American's in Paris or "The French Connection"

Being without an SUV and having 9 very large and heavy suitcases presented a dilemma of it's own. But having a son like Parker who is resourceful and blessed with some very good friends, he managed to arrange to take us to the airport in his best friend Brandon's F-150. Our luggage was covered with a tarp to protect it from the rain, and our time with Parker was running was a very emotional time for all of us and I admit that fighting back the tears was difficult for me. Parker is very much a man of his own at the age of 19, but it is still sometimes very difficult to not think of him as a boy. I wanted that hug to last a long time;I wanted it to be meaningful; I wanted it to speak the words that were not coming out, but were running through my head; I wanted that hug to be memorable (for both he and I). He helped with the luggage, waved goodbye and the three of us made our way into a very crowded airport to board the Air France flight to Paris.....
We landed at 10:00am without much sleep, but the adrenaline and the cold weather helped to keep us going. The excitement of the adventure had begun.....we had less than 48 hours and had the best intentions of making the most of every minute. We came well prepared with tips from Woody and Katie on the "MUST DO's", the "MUST SEE's" and the "MUST EAT's".....but our bodies were telling us that we "MUST REST". After checking in and with time nearing lunch, we decided to brave the cold and explore. We stopped by the Concierge and obtained a map and directions, donned our coats and gloves and stepped out onto the streets of Paris.

With map in hand we walked to towards the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe. The sun was shining and we found Paris still dressed in her Christmas best. Huge crowds of both locals and tourists.
We reached the Arc and found it to be every bit as impressive as we had imagined it would be. After years of reading about it and seeing pictures in books, it was hard to imagine that we were actually seeing it firsthand. The lines were too long to make our way to the top and decided that it was time for a bite to eat...we opted for a "bistro" on the "CE" and had a great lunch.....then more walking. Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Peugeot.....future cars.....Starbuck's and more. After a few hours of pushing ourselves to our limits it was getting dark, so we headed back to the hotel to thaw out and nap......and we did sleep well, only to awaken and discover that we were hungry again. Before venturing out, we stopped at the Concierge and asked for a great "local place" to eat within walking distance...and that was open was almost 9:00pm before we got our act together. We braved the elements again with the anticipation of a wonderful meal awaiting us at the end of our walk. When we arrived at "Bouef Sur Le Toit", the hostess told us that they were no longer serving, despite having the assurances from the Concierge that they were. Cold, disappointed and hungry, we turned to leave when a waiter quickly turned things around and dressed a table and we were able to enjoy a wonderful meal......the French Onion Soup was yummy! By the time we finished and were back at the hotel it was 1:00am. We planned to rise early, drew the blackout drapes, called for a wake up call, set the alarm and climbed in a very comfortable bed.

The wake up call came, the alarm went off several times, but our bodies didn't want to move...none of the time we did stir and have a foot hit the carpet, half of the day was was lunch time and we were well behind our "scheduled" plans for the day. To make matters worse, it was raining.....and it was cold......but, we braved the elements again and ventured out to get something to eat, which seemed to be what every one's idea was.....the bistro's around the hotel were packed, so after walking a few blocks in the rain, we returned to the hotel for lunch. Which was good.....Preston had a Hamburger.....which he thought would be his last chance.
Although our intentions were to catch the tour bus, we were unsuccessful.....I tried and tried, asked several people.....but nothing was working. We walked up and down on the Champs Elysee trying desperately to find the correct bus stop.....our feet were cold, the rain turned to snow and although it was beautiful,Preston was getting worried that he was not going to see the Eiffel was getting dark......we walked up and down the Champs Elysee, popping into stores to warm up, then venture out again......we never could catch the tour bus.
Determined to make it to see the famous tower, I asked Linda to "trust me" and coaxed her to follow me a few blocks away to catch a public transportation bus. she and Preston reluctantly followed me as I jumped on the bus, to be greeted by yet another "Parisian Bus Driver" that spoke no English and didn't appear to even understand "Eiffel Tower" and my hand gestures. There was only one other person on the bus, and he quickly came to our aid and assured me that we were heading in the right direction.
We exited when told, were given directions to walk to the end of the street make a left, and we will see the Tower. At least that's what I understood.....but when we got to the end of the street and turned left.....we saw nothing.....Linda and Preston were truly doubting my ability to lead them......and despite being "peppered" with comments such as "You don't know where you are going", etc. they followed. We crossed a few intersections, made a right turn in front of the Theatre, and when we rounded the building...there it was....beautiful, splendid, magnificent, and romantic...even with Preston in our presence. I had goose bumps and not because it was freezing. I think all three us us stood in awe of the site. It was the highlight of the trip...we were unable to make it up to the top due to the ice and snow, it was simply too dangerous and it was closed.
We missed out on a great deal, but we vowed to return and discover Paris on our return to the States in June/July when Parker is with us. It just didn't seem appropriate to be enjoying Paris without him there to share the experience with us.
And Preston won his bet with Parker; he did meet a beautiful French Girl and he had his picture taken with his arm around her on a very memorable night on the Champs Elysee! SO PAY UP Big Brother!

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