Those who have been to Paris and were expecting to see the beautiful, white lights along the Champs Elysees were generally disappointed unless they were visiting during the Christmas season. Granted, the disappointment doesn't last for long. The Plane trees along the avenue may not be lit, but they are equally elegant when covered in their large sycamore-type leaves. It's strange that they can both soften and add a sense of formality at the same time. The tourists and locals seem focused and preoccupied, and are certainly more interested in the shops and restaurants than the park-like atmosphere provided by the trees. It doesn't take long to be lured into the crowd and before long you find youself window shopping or walking, with the flow, towards the Arc de Triomphe. It's somewhat surreal to see buildings, cross-streets and metro stations named for American statesmen and politicians. One can't help but feel proud that a country as young as our USA had such a strong impact on the history of France, just as they had on us when they helped us fight the British for our independence. We'll pretend that you don't see that McDonalds restaurant and breathe a sigh of relief that the Starbucks is inside a concourse rather than facing the sidewalk. It's alot nicer to see our impact on the political history of the city rather than our impact on their cuisine choices. I don't want to sound too good for fast food; nothing could be further from the truth. I love french fries too, but I prefer to eat them with a platter of garlic buttered clams and a glass of white wine at a brasserie right near the cinemas on the Champs Elysees. I can catch a movie (American movies come out in Paris weeks and sometimes months before launching in the USA, and they're in english). When I get ready for coffee, I'll take mine at any one of the hundreds of coffee shops or restaurants. I'll leave the American restaurants for the Parisians to enjoy. I must admit that one of my guilty pleasures is to sit near a window in one of the restaurants along the Champs Elysees and people-watch as I drink a double espresso and eat an outrageously good pastry or dark chocolate confection. Hey, It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. OK, so it's not at all a dirty job, and nobody "HAS" to do it, but who could resist? I certainly can't...
Bateaux Mouche approaching Notre Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cite'.
If there is one thing that Parisians can depend on, it's the constant traffic throughout the city. That traffic doesn't stop at the water's edge. On any given day or night, you can find water taxis, boats for sightseeing tours, commercial and private barges, police and harbor boats, and even house boats and barges which have been converted into wonderful floating homes. The most famous boats on the Seine are called Bateaux Mouche (bato moosh). The word bateaux means boats. A mouche is a fly, like the insect. There are always plenty of them plying the water with their decks full of tourists, snapping photos and listening to recorded highlights of the historic city which stands proudly and comfortably along the banks. A cruise on a bateau mouche is a must-do tourist event for morning and night. As you cruise along and see Paris during the day, it is at once ancient, yet modern and busy. As night falls, you understand why she is called the city of light.
The sun goes down and Paris transforms into something incredibly romantic and majestic, sparkling in the dark. A surreal and beautiful way to end the day.
If you want something a bit more comfortable and tasty, there are several dinner cruises available on the Seine. Most of these companies offer at least two dinner sailings and slowly lumber along while you sip wine or champagne (or both) and enjoy the views of Paris over a gourmet meal. It's much cheaper to dart along on a bateau mouche, but I promise you it's worth it to splurge at least once and enjoy the fine food and wine which add to the french experience.
If you have the time to walk along the quais of the Seine, you might stumble upon the Bassin Arsenal, also called Port de l'Arsenal. It's near the site of the Bastille prison which was torn down during the revolution. The boat bassin now houses boats and barges, moored there until the owners come aboard and drive them through Paris and along the canals of France and Europe. Some barges and house boats are permanently moored at the Arsenal port and the owners live there or rent them out as vacation rentals. Climb a few steps and you leave the quiet, peaceful port and are suddenly in the middle of busy Paris near the site of the old Bastille and the modern opera house.
BUT THAT STORY WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR ANOTHER POST...
It's hard to imagine that, while its over 100 degrees in many states this week, September is fast approaching and soon the Travel and Tourism trade shows will begin in Paris and we will start thinking about the cool weather in the evenings and what clothes to take to France. Paris never disappoints, but we have so many loose ends to tie-up and so many projects in the air that the stress levels will be high until the wheels leave the tarmac and we are on our way to Paris.
We are busily planning tours for next season and working on private tours for vacations, anniversaries and
birthdays. The devil is certainly in the details, so it requires alot of research and preparation to provide a successful, traveler-friendly tour with plenty of great memories and no unwelcome surprises. We love what we do and we work hard to build tours on which we would proudly send our families and friends. Frankly, its very difficult to resist travelling all the time. I have a feeling that most travel agents have a greater than average case of wanderlust. We love to travel and we hope it shows in the way we design our tours. So now we continue to plow through the in-box and the pile of work that has to be finished before September, but it will be worth it. Even though we will be in Paris to work, I can't think of a more beautiful or tasty place to work. We will enjoy the excellent french food and wine while we work on our future tours. C'est la vie! Look for updates while we race towards September and, after we leave, we will drop-in on the blog to show you our views from Paris.