On Tuesday, we hopped on our Air France flight from Nice to Paris. I had booked us into a hotel on Avenue MacMahon, just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe so getting to the hotel after our flight was easy.
After checking into our hotel and freshening up after the flight, we met in the lobby of the hotel and then took to the streets. Our first stop, of course, was the Arc de Triomphe. To be specific, we were headed to the top. The last time D and I climbed the stairs to the top it was a very cold night in January and we were very jet-lagged. This time, the weather was warmer and Mom was with us. Still, we were excited for the climb. And when I say “we” I’m referring to D and me. Mom was shaking her head at the fact that we were going to make her climb 284 steps to the top. Lest you think we’re just mean, Mom is in good shape and kicked some seriously good butt going up.
The view was gorgeous. Paris was enjoying a heat wave and the smog I remembered from my first trip to Paris — back in 1990 — was a thing of the past. It was, to refer to another jazz tune, “nothing but blue skies”.
After admiring the view of Paris we descended to see that the lighting ceremony of the flame where the unknown soldier is laid to rest was underway. (I thought of you Oneika as there were men in uniform everywhere waiting to have their photos taken.) The ceremony seemed to be a solemn affair and was only marred by the poor singing of La Marseillaise.
The weather in Paris, however, was absolutely perfect and invited strolling and my favourite multi-task activity: patio sitting/apéritif drinking/people watching. We found a spot at a resto on the Champs Elysées — a little overpriced but a lovely experience for Mom — and had a leisurely dinner. Yes, the drinking did continue and Mom seems to have fallen in love (or serious like) with rosé wines and muscat. I can’t fault her. After dinner, we strolled further down the Champs Elysées before returning to our hotel for the night.
Wednesday would prove our workout day. We had only one thing on our schedule: the Château de Versailles.
If you’ve never been, you should go. If you’re a history buff like me, you should go. If you like walking, you should go. If you like hordes of people and the press of bodies, you should go. I’m sure that it’s not busy at Versailles all the time but my recommendation to you would be to avoid holidays. As luck would have it we chose to visit Versailles on the Wednesday before Easter. Some of France’s students were on vacation and/or on a school trip and they spent the day with us at Versailles.
The hordes of French students, vacationing French, German, British, and Dutch families didn’t detract from the visit (except when we had to go back through the entire château — and I was staaa-arving! — because we had missed the King’s apartments). The place is absolutely gorgeous and just filled, chock-a-block with all the history you can think of.
The château is one thing however. You also have to visit the gardens as well as the other related buildings including le Grand Trianon and le Petit Trianon. This fact struck me during our visit and still makes me chuckle: imagine taking a vacation from home and travelling, with your consorts, aides-de-camp, etc across the garden — it’s a huge garden — to your summer castle. For vacation. Seriously.
While Louis XIV may have travelled from the château to le Grand Trianon by horse and carriage, we walked. Admittedly, it was a great day for a walk but I felt for my poor Mom who, upon seeing the distance and the time it would take almost balked. But my Mom is a trooper and a fighter so walk we did. Actually, we strolled because it was way too hot. At the end of our visit, however, there was no talk of walking back. We took the mini-train back to the château and headed to the station to catch the RER.
We got back to Paris, took a couple of hours to freshen up before heading out to dinner at one of my favourite places to eat.
On Thursday, D finally decided that he should do some work. He had a conference call in the morning and that left the morning and part of the afternoon free for me and Mom to do some shopping. After a leisurely breakfast we met in the lobby before taking the métro to BHV. We had a quick lunch, took a quick spin in front of Notre Dame cathedral — hordes and hordes of people, no pigeons — before heading back to the hotel for our 4 pm meet-up with D.
We left the hotel around 5 pm and headed for the iron lady herself. No, not Margaret Thatcher; I’m talking about the Eiffel Tower. Say it with me: hordes of people. We joined the throng and lined up for our ride to the 2nd floor. We had our eye on our watches the entire time as we had reservations for a dinner cruise on Les Bateaux Parisiens.
The views from the Eiffel Tower were amazing. (This is where I admit that it was the first time I’d ever been to Trocadéro. Don’t ask.) Mom, who has a fear of heights did superbly well, posing (somewhat uncomfortably) by the rails. (Love you Mom!) Our visit was a quick one but worth seeing Paris and my beloved Arc de Triomphe from this vantage point.
It was time to descend to street level and cross the street to the quai for our dinner cruise. This was the perfect ending to Mom’s first trip to France. Dinner started with a flute of champagne and little olive cakes. The meal and the service were a delight…but the views of Paris stole the show.
Friday was a travel day: Mom flew back to Toronto; D and I took the train — urrrgh, 6 hours and 17 minutes and more than 1,000 kilometres — back to Nice. Still, we had a great time with Mom. And I know she had a great time too. Sure, she said as much and in those words. For me, however, all was revealed in the question she asked me on the phone on Saturday:
What wine are you having today?