PARIS IN THE SPRING TIME


BAKERSFIELD

It was not a dark and stormy night, but rather a peaceful, sunny morning in downtown Bakersfield.  People drifted into the Lambourne Travel lot in groups of 3-4, carefully deposited luggage and said their goodbye’s to friends.  There were 33 travelers boarding, Linda and I among them, and of course, there were some (a loud, fun loving group of 4 women) who were “just a little bit late.”  In fact, one or the other of them was always late.   The bus waited for them.  Then, after a few words from our tour leader, Dallas Myers (from Taft of course), we headed south, picked up I-5 and made a smooth, non-stop trip to LAX.

Air France loomed before us, with the Boeing 777 ready to fly with all of its required features: wings, fuel, engines, baggage compartments, doors, pilots and crew.  In truth, it was the nicest airline, and most comfortable physical flying accommodation I have yet experienced. That was a good thing because we were about to spend 10.5 hours aboard, taking an arc over Greenland to Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris.

For a long flight, boredom and cramped quarters are two difficult issues. Air France, and the B-777 created the best possible atmosphere.  We were greeted not only with the traditional pillow and blanket, but with a small packet containing a sleeping mask, ear plugs, headphones, and with a seat that had both “footrests” as well as curved, supportive, adjustable head rests.  In the back of the seat in front of each of us, there was an interactive monitor that allowed access to one’s choice among 6 different movies, 8 different games, international news, sports and weather, and music from 8 different categories, “pop to great opera vocals to jazz”.

We approached our first contact with food with a certain apprehension. We need not have worried: hot meals, diverse menu, extraordinary service, and adequate portions kept us well fed for the long adventure across the Atlantic.   All that we needed was a setting sun and then we could try to get some sleep before arrival in Paris at about 2:00 a.m. Bakersfield time (11:00 a.m. Paris time).

We waited for the sun to set….and waited…and waited, and while I did doze for an hour or two, the sun barely set.  At our latitude and altitude, we were in the air of the “midnight sun”.  Morning didn’t arrive; darkness just never fell.  Hence the sleeping masks.

While the air was quite choppy over Hudson's Bay, it was smooth arriving over the continent, and we happily all went through baggage and took our charter to the Hotel Mercure Tour Eiffel en Sufrens.  We received final instructions from Dallas, (including reminders about pickpockets), recommendations on sidewalk café dining, location of ATMs, currency exchange rates, and agenda options.  Then, we were sent unpacking.

In deciding to take this tour, Linda and I were motivated by two factors: we wanted an agenda that was very loosely structured so that we could do things at our own pace;  we also wanted the guidance and service of an experienced tour leader, and Dallas certainly supplied that.  So, after this first little gathering, we pretty much went our own way for the next six days, passing up options to spend evenings at the Moulin Rouge and a dinner cruise on the Seine.  Both extended late into the night and we needed our rest.

So our days and most evenings were spent doing things that were of great interest but never anything that kept us from going back to our hotel whenever we wanted. It was, to us, a fast paced, challenging but very satisfying week.  As I have reported to friends, we walked between 4-6 miles every day, over concrete, cobblestones, gravel, and asphalt, and climbed and descended a total of 300-500 stair steps along the way.  While Paris is a “flat city” we seemed to run frequently into steep inclines and occasionally up a  circular staircase.  Each helped us to remember that young people do better at this than we do.  Still, with Ambien for the nighttime and ibuprofen for the daytime, we were generally rested and pain free.

PARIS: DAY ONE :
There were three things that we wanted to do: walk enough of the city to get a feel for it; sit, eat, and enjoy watching people; see some of the major physical features and historic sites scattered along the Seine and nearby Versailles.  Without question, we walked the city, not always along a described path (a special friend gave us a guide to the seven great walks in Paris) but rather just in seeking out a tourist site and sampling it.  By the time we had finished the “task of the day” we were all walked out.

Without doubt, our first stop was to be the Eiffel Tower.  There were three reasons for this: one, when one stepped out our hotel and turned right, there it was two blocks away, looming magnificently over us and ascending gracefully into the blue above us; secondly, we wanted a view of Paris from its elevation; thirdly, it was the first place Dallas took us to photograph, looking back at it from the Trocadero across the Seine.  Over the next few days, we walked around it, ascended it, photographed it, lunched in the park beneath it, and marveled at it. 

For a very brief history of the construction and survival of the Eiffel Tower (1 meter is about 3 feet), GO TO:
http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel/
For access to live web cam views of Paris from various sites, in real time, GO TO:
http://www.abcparislive.com/
Around the Tour Eiffel are small parks, and alongside them, apartments restfully casting  their shadows into those of the trees lining the walkways. Within the patches of grass, people gather to relax in sunshine, picnic, visit with friends.  Amidst it all, there is the security of the peddling patrol.  Everywhere we went in Paris, officers were friendly, and it was clear how comfortable people were with them. 
LOVERS TOUCH, WHISPER AND DRINK THEIR PERSONAL ELIXER, ONE ANOTHER.
CLICK ON AFLAC TO CONTINUE
INTERACTIVE MONITORS DURING FLIGHT
OUR GROUP; WE ARE FAR RIGHT
ENTRY TO HOTEL MERCURE
ENTRY TO MONEY
THE TOWER.....MASSIVE AND GRACEFUL
TOP: FROM UP IN THE TOWER: LINDA AND PARIS. NAPOLEON'S GOLDEN DOME IN BACKGROUND; BELOW, THE SEINE
LEFT: SOCCER PLAYERS ! !

RIGHT: A GOOD LOOKER.
A PARK ABOUT THE TOWER