July 24-27 1998

Paris, France

Well, we did it again. We went on another trip. This time we went to Paris, France with a full day at Disneyland Paris. It was a USO pre-planned trip. I think we like doing those types because we don’t have to worry about driving, getting lost, not being able to speak the language, etc. The one draw back though would have to be the schedule—not having as much time where you want to go or too much time where you don’t. But, that downside is easily overlooked when all the plusses shine through. The trip was from 10pm on the 24th and would last until early Monday morning. So, Anthony took a 4-day pass and I put in for a day off on Monday. We would sleep on the bus on Friday night, spend all day in Paris on Saturday, sleep in a hotel on Saturday night, spend all day Sunday in Disneyland Paris and return home, sleeping on the bus Sunday night. If it sounds busy—it was! But well worth it!

We arrived on time for the trip, but the coordinator was late. We had two huge busses that were to take us. Both seated 50 people plus 2 drivers. And both busses were filled. See, the USO had two tours to Paris this weekend. One was Paris and one was Paris and Disneyland—one bus for each trip. Both were filled. We finally started the trip around 10:30-10:45pm. We had 3 other stops to pick up, which were on our way. Since both busses we filled, we didn’t have a lot of room. And, with our backpacks and munchies above our heads and in our laps, we were quite cramped. I was very tired from working all day, but couldn’t sleep because it was so cramped. I think I finally dozed off around 3am. Both Anthony and I did not sleep, more like cat napped. The trip to Paris was pretty much straight through, since it is open borders now through Europe. They did stop once to change drivers, though. I think it is law here that if bus drivers are driving a long distance they have to have another driver. One sleeps while the other drives. This makes for a safer trip. (I wish it were law in the states.)

After all that, we finally arrived in Paris around 6:30 am. We arrived at our breakfast place a tad bit early. They were not expecting us until 7am. This gave us a little time to stretch after that long ride in the bus. The restaurant we ate breakfast at was behind the Place de Concorde. This square is actually the center of everything we did that day. And in the center of the square you will come across a large needle type Egyptian statue (very similar to the Washington Monument) in the center of a roundabout. The needle marks the site where Marie Antoinette was beheaded. Across the street from our restaurant was the Jardin de Tuileries. This is a large garden that famous Kings of France used to call their backyard (including Napoleon). Now it is a public place. This is the place the French revolution started with the peasants killing about 600 Swiss guards that guarded the French palace. It is also the place where Napoleon is buried. Did you know the French buried Napoleon in 9 caskets-one inside the other because they didn’t want him coming back?! We had a traditional French Breakfast consisting of a croissant, French bread, and coffee, tea or juice. The bread and croissant were wonderful but not filling at all. And to top it off it was about 40French Francs each (about $7 each).

After breakfast, we started our site seeing tour. The first place we went was Notre Dame. Oh, what a lovely site. The cathedral is centered on an island in the middle of the Seine River. It took about 20 years to complete the building. I have found this to be the most simple and most beautiful of all the catholic churches I have ever been to. Where gold adorned alters, intricately carved pews and pulpits, and wonderful paintings and stained glass are all very wonderful to look at, all that says to me is "look how much money we have" and a church is supposed to be humble, not rich. So, out of all the churches I have visited, Notre Dame is by far the best. The architecture is very detailed and the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame was very close to the actual building. The two towers were supposed to be 60 feet taller than they are, but they were never finished. There is a flight of 387 steps leading up to the top of the towers and you can get a better view of the gargoyles and the city. Unfortunately, we did not have the time for that. We did manage some great pictures, though.

From Notre Dame, we went through the city by bus. We had a brief stop at the best photographic point for the Eiffel Tower. It was still early and there wasn’t a lot of traffic out yet. We stopped by the Louver and visited the outside. If we were to go in, it would be an all day trip. This is the museum that displays many priceless paintings like the Mona Lisa. The one on display here is not authentic, due to the many attempts to steal it. Across from the Louver, was a souvenir shop our tour guide said was very reasonable on their T-shirts. We had already purchased sweatshirts at a small shop outside the Notre Dame, it was quite chilly that morning. No bust though, it wasn’t a big difference. After that short stop, we carried on our tour of the city, driving by the Place de Concorde again and going by the Arc de Triomphe. The avenue that connected the two is called the Champs Elysees. The Champs Elysees is often called the most beautiful avenue in the world. There are many shops, business and cinemas along this avenue. There is a Disney Store on this street along with Planet Hollywood, where we stopped and ate our lunch. The hamburgers were huge and they came with a ton of french fries. After all that food, they even served us ice cream. After lunch, we ventured out on the Avenue. It seemed as though people were waking up in Paris as the streets were filled! It was about a ½ mile to a mile trek to where our bus was to pick us up—right in front of the Arc de Triomphe. We got a nice picture of the Arc from across the roundabout. We dared not step one foot out in the street to go under the Arc. I think Paris is the worst place to drive. The street around the Arc had to have been at least 8 lanes wide—but no painted lines. There were no signs dictating who had the right of way. It was a mix of cars, busses and motorcycles all fighting to be first and no one giving anyone else any courtesy. There was no way to cross without dying, I felt. (Come to find out when we got home, there was a tunnel under the road we could have used to cross over).

After our bus came and picked us up, our next stop was a perfumery. It was a free tour and we got to learn how they make perfume. This perfumery makes fragrances for Calvin Kline, Este Lauder, L’Oreal, and Eternity to name a few. (It was free, until you got to the end and they tried to sell you some perfume). There are 3 classes of perfume: parfume has 20% of essence, which is the natural oil from the flowers, perfume has 15% and Eau de Toilette contains about 6%. Parfume will stay on your skin about 12-14 hours, depending on your skin type. Perfume will last between 8 and 10 hours and Eau de Toilette will last only a couple of hours. Also, they sale there Parfumes in aluminum containers. They say they last longer that way—they are not exposed to light and heat (the two main enemies of perfume). The tour was neat and at the end, we got to see if we had that special gene where we could distinguish between 300 different scents (there are only about 10 of these such people in the world). I found two perfumes that both Anthony and I liked—excuse me, parfumes, since they contained the highest essence in any perfume and they only had 1 or 2 Eau de Toilettes. I paid about 550 French francs, which is about $85, two 5 ounce bottles! In the states, you couldn’t touch that! I looked at getting a half-ounce of Tea Rose Parfume and they wanted $150, and that was just Tea Rose. So, our tour ended here, some money spent, it was off to our hotel room for a brief nap or freshen up before our dinner and boat ride.

We had about two hours before we left for dinner. We relaxed and I even took a short catnap. It had been a tiring day already, especially since we didn’t sleep very well on the bus the night before. When it was time to go, we felt better but new we would sleep well that night—we had a bed! Since our hotel was on the outskirts of Paris we had about a 30 minute drive back into the heart of the city where our tour guide had arranged our dinner. When we got there, it was on the side of the street and as you walked in, there looked to be only two tables. Then the waitress led us down the stairs into an old wine cellar they had converted over to be the restaurant. The atmosphere was excellent! Our meal was to be a 5-course meal. Anthony and I were both still stuffed from lunch. We started off with an appetizer. Anthony got the escargot and I had a salad with a cheese pastery. I tried the snails also. They were not bad at all! It tasted like sautéed mushrooms smothered in garlic butter—and I mean garlic! The next course was our entrée. Both Anthony and I had "minced of turkey norman art". It was turkey strips in a white sauce with butter rice on the side. It was simply marvelous! My mouth is watering just telling you about it. Next came the cheese and the "calvados". I am not exactly sure what calvados is, but it was pretty much a shot of alcohol. The waitress said it was to aid in digesting. Who knows! Our last course was dessert. MMMmmmmm. Both Anthony and I had the Chocolate Mousse. The whole meal was heaven! We didn’t think we would enjoy French Cuisine but it was wonderful! Between each meal we were serenaded by one of the waiters. It was funny. Since the drinks were free and all you can drink, even the beer and wine, the later it got (and the more people drank) the livelier we were with the singing waiter! Eventually we all joined in one of the French songs every child knows—not Fares Jacque but the other one.

After our two-hour dinner it was time for our open-air boat ride on the River Seine. This ride had exquisite views of most all the sites in Paris. Again, we got some very nice pictures. The whole boats ride lasted about an hour. We went underneath 22 bridges and saw the Eiffel Tower, The Louver, Notre Dame, and everything all lit up in the sunset to dusk sky. It was all very beautiful. They say the French pride themselves with their work on lighting effects, and it truly was a site. After all that, we headed back, through the city of lights, to our hotel for a night of restful sleep before our adventures at Disneyland Paris.


E-mail us with any questions, comments, suggestions.