This morning started at 4:00am after two hours of sleep followed by a breakfast of an oaty flapjack and bottled mineral water. This was rapidly followed by heading out the door to grab a cab to the Aberdeen airport.
Before getting on the plane to Charles de Gaulle, I had a nice conversation with Damon who was at the airport and heading back down to London. We exchanged contact information and talked about collecting all the photos that everyone took in a central place before saying our goodbyes and boarding our respective planes. Getting on the plane to Paris however, we were notified that we did not have a landing slot in Paris and we would not be going anywhere. I was not terribly worried as there were two hours scheduled in CDG, but the engines did not start until an hour and fifteen minutes later. In my admitedly imperfect French I asked if they could inform the gate I would be arriving and also could I find out which gate I would be flying out of? I was informed that yes, they would call the gate and no, they could not tell me which gate…. This of course made no sense to me, but I let it go and figured that the iPhone would help out as soon as we landed which it did.
Upon landing at 9:30am, I had to take the shuttle to the gate then it was an all out sprint through the airport hauling my luggage with me (no checked luggage) for almost 3/4 of a mile. I had other passengers cheering me on, yelling “Allez, Allez!” while I jumped over other people’s luggage, ran up stairs rather than waiting for the escalator and out-ran the moving sidewalks before sliding around the corner at the gate just as they were closing the door. “I’m here!” I called only to be told, “sorry… flights gone”. “But the plane is still there!” I replied….. “Sorry, too late”…. Gah!
So, off to the ticket counter I go to find another flight home only to be told “Come back tomorrow”. I replied that it was 10:00am and there must be another flight to somewhere in North America… New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver…. anywhere in North America so that I could find a flight home to make meetings I had the next day. I was told that all flights were full and I could only come back tomorrow. Ooooookay… “Can you get me a hotel room tonight?” “No, I was told”. “Ma’am, this was not weather related and it was not an act of God. It was an act of Air France, I am out of clean clothes and good spirit and I am not going *anywhere* until we negotiate a room for the night”. Eventually, she agreed to get a supervisor and the supervisor arranged a room at an airport hotel called L’Hotel Pullman. The hotel was nice enough for a place right out of the 60’s complete with white leather couches and Frank Sinatra playing on the overhead. The room was clean if a bit worn and after sitting on the edge of the bed for all of 30 seconds, I decided that the only *right* thing to do would be to go into Paris.
So, 60 Euros and 30 minutes later and I am getting out of the cab at the Musée du Louvre. I’ve always wanted to visit the Louvre and figured that even though I was exhausted and had just a few hours in Paris, it would be worth stopping in, if only to see some of the paintings I’ve read about over the years. One of the paintings for some reason did surprise me. As I walked through the museum into one large room, I looked up to see the Mona Lisa on the wall in front of me. I guess knew that this painting was here, but some part of me really did not expect to see the Mona Lisa and it came as a bit of a shock to suddenly recognize that I was standing in front of it. I’ve had the same thrill with other paintings in different parts of the world by Rembrandt, Matise, Pollack, Van Gogh and others as the realization of standing in front of history sinks in. It is part of what I love about museums in that they deliver this sort of comfort in the continuity of the history of man through good and evil, and no matter how badly we manage to screw things up, some beauty still remains as we cycle and progress through good times and bad, learning and forgetting all that history has taught us.
Of course I am also a huge fan of the natural history type of museum and had I another day or two there are wonderful museums here in Paris for those disciplines as well. But for now, I had to console myself with a little taste and plan on coming back, especially with the direct SLC to CDG flight that Delta will be offering starting in June.
The Musée du Louvre is a massive place with Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities along with a beautiful display of Islamic art, a sculpture exhibit and of course the drawings and paintings the museum is famous for. You can enter through the main entrance which is the famous glass pyramid in the courtyard and then can select which of the numerous portions of the museum to start at, then walk through massive rooms filled with exhibits and even Napoleon III’s apartments.
Unfortunately, I did not have much time in the Louvre and could only devote about four hours to walking around, though I could easily spend several days here exploring the history, the architecture and art.
After the Musée du Louvre, I walked up the road a bit to see the famous gothic Cathedral de Notre Dame. Unfortunately the catacombs were closed as I really would have loved to have seen them along with some of the famous French Underground.
There was a considerable police presence and just about everywhere I went in central paris, one could hear the constant whine and drone of sirens, but one approach I thought was quite effective was seeing mounted police officers quietly walking through the Paris streets on horseback. They were quite friendly and rode beautiful horses.
I also just loved walking through the streets of Paris examining the various neighborhoods as people got off work, children left schools and restaurants opened for business. I gradually made my way from the Notre Dame, winding in no particular path through the streets of central Paris with the general goal of arriving at the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately I arrived too late to see any of the museums in Les Invalides, a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, but also museums, monuments are memorials related to the military history of France. Again, perhaps I’ll come back and devote two or three days just to see museums in Paris and put this one on the list. Les Invalides is also notably the tomb of Napoleon.
I have got to say that the Eiffel Tower is much larger than I expected. I mean it is *big*. So big I really had no concept of the scope and grandeur of this 1063 ft. high structure made even more dramatic because of the lack of other tall buildings around it. Yeah, many structures in the world are taller, but there are few that are as isolated as the Eiffel Tower and it is hard to imagine that such a structure could be constructed even today given that 7,300 tons of steel were required to build the Eiffel tower starting back in 1887.
By the time I finished at the Eiffel Tower at 8:30pm, I had been on my feet since 4:00am, walking through Paris and the Louvre since 10:45am and was looking for dinner which was had at a little place called Riba a couple of blocks away from the Tower. For dinner, I had a respectable duck terrine, steak with a Chimay and a lovely pastry for dessert.
After dinner I ambled back through the Paris streets at night, just taking in the scene until around 12:00am when absolutely exhausted, I grabbed a cab back to the airport hotel for about five hours of sleep prior to hoping to catch a flight home.