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Oh, what a trip. I'm still feeling satisfied from the sights, the sounds, the food, the drink (I'm longing for a petite cafe au lait right this very minute), the walking, the language, the company...oh la la. Paris is exactly how I thought it would be. After feeling a little discombobulated at Charles de Gaulle airport, I ditched the idea of traveling by metro to the city and took a taxi. The driver was so quiet and polite - no cell phones and the Mercedes was clean and new. The New Orient Hotel was perfect - small, convenient and oozing with charm (thank you Khaleem for forwarding to this NYTimes article Affordable Paris). Free internet was available in the lobby and an epicerie was right across the street. It was just around the corner from the Villiers Metro Stop where it was so easy to take the M2 or the M3. On Friday, I Khaleem collected me and we spent time walking from the Champs Elysees to the Eiffel Tower, with a break for a lovely lunch Chez Clement. Delicieux! After Khaleem left me to return to his "work", I explored the area near the Opera Garnier and my Villiers neighborhood. I just happened to come across a lovely street market and then spent time trying to converse with a lady in a brassierie near my hotel. Most Parisians do speak English or at least try...meanwhile, I only know a few words in French! I had no problems though and my accent improved by the end of the trip.
On Saturday I impulsively decided on a hop on/hop off bus tour - two days + a boat ride for 35 Euros which is not bad. It was fun to just see everything in a few hours...without deep exploration of course. On Saturday evening, I met Khaleem at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees for the concert of Kiri te Kanawa and Frederica von Stade, an event we had waited months for. Stay tuned for details on this another day. After meeting them at the stage door, we walked toward the Champs Elysees and just happened to turn around to catch the most magical moment - the Eiffel Tower was sparkling! So perfect! C'est magnifique! We ate, drank, walked, talked for hours.
On Sunday morning, I woke up early and hit the hop-on/hop off bus for Montmartre and Notre Dame. I didn't explore the interiors because seeing the exteriors was enough for this trip. I did the boat tour on the Seine next - don't take the Batoboat. Non! While nice, it was too limited; it didn't sail by the Statue of Liberty or especially La Grande Jatte. Then it was time for the opera. Khaleem was already seeing Julius Cesare at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees starring counter-tenor Andreas Scholl, and since I loved him in Rodelinda last season at the Met, I simply couldn't resist the experience. Stay tuned for details on this another day. The area surrounding the Theatre des Champs-Elysees is close to Champs-Elysees and is stylish and lovely, it also is near the Seine and a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. We walked over to see the Eiffel Tower at night and then hopped on the M9 from Alma Marceau to the RER to go to the Left Bank. We had frites and poulet roti in a tiny little cafe in Le Quartier Latin - bon appetit! We then walked to St. Sulpice (more Manon!), Luxembourg and the Pantheon. Paris at night is incredible - so peaceful - seemingly asleep but so awake.
Monday morning came too soon and it was time to say au revoir to my little hotel. I can't wait to return to Paris soon and hopefully often.