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Paris was a great place for a layover. As promised, here's the highlights. Some pictures are posted in our SmugMug albums. I'll be adding more photos soon, that Michael took with his iPhone. The pictures aren't tagged at all yet, just mass-uploaded.

We tried to take a taxi to the hotel from the airport, but when the driver heard where we were going he unloaded all our luggage and insisted we take the shuttle. So we waited for the hotel shuttle for almost two hours before giving up and finding a different taxi. The time was enough exposure to the ubiquitous cigarette smokers that it triggered a migraine headache. I wrapped my head in a towel for a blindfold, and Michael and I hit the bed and slept for pretty much the whole day.

Our hotel was the Hilton at Charles de Gaulle airport. I would not recommend it to anyone who is not on an airline's expense account. The room was clean and service was okay, but they didn't honor the complimentary breakfast (my husband had made sure it had one when he'd booked online). The sink drain was stopped (which they fixed) and the light bulb was burned out (which they didn't fix). Worst of all, the Internet was 30 euros a day, capped at 500 MB download and 50 MB upload. Forget trying to upload pictures!

The other problem with the hotel was that it's not in downtown Paris; it's a 40-minute train ride to the tourist sites. I couldn't try a Parisian latte or French wine, which I regret. We saw Paris for all of five minutes at night, dashing to a restaurant and then to the subway through the thick crowds of young clubbers and their clouds of cigarette smoke.

Paris is a beautiful city. The old city is like one big park with beautiful architecture everywhere (pictures). Notre Dame cathedral was gorgeous (pictures). We went up to the bell tower and saw the gargoyles and chimeras (chimera = gargoyle-like sculpture but without a water spout). They had a huge "great bell" there and a lot of fascinating chimeras.

We had lunch at a little cafe near the Pont Neuf. My sweetie wolfed down several Grand Mariner crepes and a beer, while I had a tasty croque - a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich with grilled cheese on top.

Our next stop was the Louvre, where we attempted to see everything in a single afternoon. We took lots of pictures of artefacts (permitted but no flash allowed). The Mona Lisa was in one room so crowded with people we couldn't get close. The rest of the museum was much better. I found a Roman sculpture of a lady with buttons down a divided sleeve. Hey [profile] pedropadrao I thought of you when seeing a nifty turquoise hippo from ancient Egypt. The camera auto-focus started to give out part way through, but I'm hoping most of the pictures came out. There was so much to see that I'm looking forward to going through them again.

The next day, we had lunch at a little restaurant near Notre Dame. I cooked my own beef borguignon and sweetie had goat cheese fondue. Yum. No wine though; I didn't want to push it with migraine-triggering smoke all around. We asked the waiters and finally communicated that we wanted to go tour the sewer system, and they told us to go to the Pont d'Almas.

The Paris sewers ("Les Egoutes") were justly made famous in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. The sewer system is really quite interesting, and it tells the history of the city and its population growth.  The fact that the sewer museum is inside a living sewer gives it a very rich, if pungent, atmosphere. I can't help drawing comparisons to medieval Paris when I look around the Delhi back streets with their streams of liquid waste running down the side of the roads. The Paris sanitary infrastructure was hailed by Napoleon as one of his greatest achievements.

The bateaux-mouche (Seine river tour boats) were directly across the bridge. So we spent a little over an hour relaxing and taking photos of bridges and the architecture.

Of course, we had to do the Eiffel Tower. It was a stark reminder that we were not in the US anymore, with police with assault rifles standing around the masses of crowds. So we waited about an hour standing in line, and went up to the top in nice big elevators. We didn't stay long due to the crowds (and smoke) but it was a breathtaking view, especially because we went up right at sunset. When we came down it was night and there were strobe-light lights flashing all along the tower.

Nighttime in Paris was the 5 minutes I saw of it between the train and the pub and back. I ate some smoked salmon and Sweetie had even more crepes. We raced past the nightclubbers, every one holding a cigarette. That part of Paris at night reminds me in some ways of DC's Dupont Circle, but smokier and with more tourist attractions.

Paris was quite a trip. And we're just getting started!

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