We left Echternach early to drive the 380 kilometres back to Arras where we had originally rented our car. It was a straightforward, if not an ordinary drive , mostly along motorways. It took a little under four hours and for most of the way, the traffic was light enough or us to drive right on the speed limit of 130 kmh.
We returned the car at the station without any problem, although a long queue meant that we had little time left grab a coffee and a sandwich for lunch from the cafe at the station. We hurried to the platform where our train arrived right on time at 12.49 pm. It was a relaxing fifty minute trip to Paris on the fast TGV train.
We caught a taxi to our hotel and found it easily enough, just up the road from Le Madeleine, in the centre of Paris. Our rooms on the fifth floor are quite small, reached by an even smaller lift that is only large enough for two people with suitcases. I have my suitcase under the bed, as there is no where else to put it and the best way to get things from it is to do it by lying face down on the bed.
We decided that the best use of time on our first afternoon here was to go and see the Eiffel Tower. We caught the Metro easily enough. I had a program on my PDA that let me get directions as to what line to catch, where to change lines and how many stations it would be to any destination on the network. I had forgotten that I had loaded it, but it has details of public transport in over 600 cities and is very useful. I last used it in Tokyo.
The weather here is cool, but fine (so we thought until we were hit by a thunderstorm while waiting in the line for tickets to go up the tower. We were soaked and while Ruth had here umbrella, I was very grateful for the man behind me- from Slovakia, who shared his umbrella with me at the height of the storm, when it began to hail. However, we had a good view from the second level of the tower. (The top level was closed due to high winds).
We found a very nice restaurant for dinner and enjoyed their meal of the day. The young people who ran it were very friendly. We aim to go back there on another evening.
We must have been quite tired last night as we all slept very well. (It could have ben that extra glass of wine with the nice meal, but we will put it down to travel fatigue.
It’s May Day today and nearly everything in Paris is closed. We decided that the best thing to see that would be guaranteed to be open were the Arc de Triumph and Notre Dame Cathedral. We walked to the Arc de Triumph by going past Le Madeleine, through the Place de la Concorde and up the Champs Elysee. There seemed to be a -fairly strong police presence o the streets. I’m not sure why – perhaps it is just May Day or it could the that we are at the 40th anniversary of the famous Parisian student riots of 1968. At one point, we passed a police water tanker equipped with water cannon, but we haven’t heard of any violence in the news that we have seen on TV.
We stopped at the Arc de Triumph for a good while to do some crowd watching and watched as the fire brigade stopped in front f the arch to take some photos of their trucks. From there it was a nine-station ride on the train to La Citie where we got off to visit Notre Dame. This was also a good spot for people watching; especially as the police and ambulances were -dropping all the drunks off at the hospital across the road.
The interior of the cathedral was open and grand and the stained glass windows were spectacular. The famous rose windows were magnificent.
By this stage of the afternoon, we were running out of things to do on an afternoon when everything was closed, so we decided to come back to our hotel and catch up on some domestic activities. Our day ended with dinner in a brasserie near Le Opera. On the way back, we stopped at a souvenir shop and found one of the highlights of our trip – a model of-the Eiffel Tower- with flashing LEDs. I couldn’t see myself bringing it home,- so I took a photo, which following a line from the movie ‘The Castle’, I’ll print as soon as I get home so that I can hang it straight in the pool room!