Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leaving London: Paris Day 1

On Saturday, October 23rd, we said a sad goodbye to the little corner of South Kensington that had been our home away from home. 
Ranell heading into our hotel.
Our local internet cafe

In front of the NH Harrington Hall Hotel in South Kensington.
We packed up and dragged our bags into the tube station, where we headed to St. Pancras station to catch our Eurostar train. I spent the last of my British pounds on random food items to take home as souvenirs (lemon curd and "Percy Pig" gummy candies, anyone?) and next thing we knew we were zooming under the English Channel.

Ready to board the Eurostar train

Traveling to Paris in high-speed comfort.
We enjoyed a light breakfast en route of hot chocolate and croissants. One two-and-a-half hour train ride later and we were in Paris. Our hotel was right next to a major train/metro station so we decided to just catch a train to our hotel rather than take a taxi. We had mastered getting around on the Tube and how different could the Metro be? Easy-peasy. The line to buy a carnet of tickets from an actual person was really long so we just went to a machine. After trying several different times and spending about 20 minutes trying to figure it out we realized that the machine just wasn't accepting our American credit/debit cards so we ended up standing in the super-long line (which wasn't actually that long after all).

We started navigating through the enormous station toward the platform for the RER train to the Metro area of Paris --but not without me getting Ranell and a bag hopelessly stuck in a handicapped entry turnstile and having to find some Metro employee and convey to them in pidgin French that my friend was stuck and we needed him to let her out.

We finally made it to the platform, but unlike the British Tube--where every stop had a huge map of the line and the next stations to which the train would be going--this platform had only monitors listing arrival times. I could see no easy way of determining which side was coming from and which side was going to the Gare St.-Lazare. Finally, I walked up to the nearest man and said, "Train? Gare St.-Lazare?" He said three words that most likely meant "To or from?," unfortunately, I had no idea which word was which, so I just pointed back and forth and said, "St.-Lazare? St.-Lazare?" He must have gotten the general idea because he leaned over and pointed in one direction and said, definitively, "St.-Lazare." I still wasn't sure that I had conveyed what I was looking for, but following his directions seemed better than picking in the dark, so we boarded that train and started checking the stops as we went to make sure it was going in the right direction (It was. Thank you, nice Parisian man.) We then, after wandering through the Metro station, eventually emerged above ground, walked a block or two dragging bags with us, checked in to our hotel, the Concorde Opera Paris (thank you, Priceline!) and finally rested.
Our hotel: The Concorde Opera Paris
Tbe grand hotel lobby

The check-in desk

And across the street, a Parisian McDonald's... what a travesty!

After getting our bags settled and recovering somewhat from our Metro/train adventure, we decided to start out by visiting our hotel's namesake, the nearby Opera Garnier. It was the Paris opera house until the opening of the new Opera Bastille-- now it is used mostly for ballet. This is the extravagant opera house that inspired "Phantom of the Opera," almost a taste of Versailles.

In front of the Opera Garnier

The grand staircase. Yes this inspired the "Phantom of the Opera" set.
Inside the theater.
The beautiful ceiling painted by Marc Chagall.

One of the grand hallways for promenading during intermission.
Need a spot to flirt and show off your gown? Look no further.
Ranell on the outside balcony of the Opera Garnier, overlooking the Place de l'Opera below.
After our Opera tour, we headed over near the Tour Eiffel to the Rue Cler. We whiled away the afternoon wandering around, eating lunch at a café, buying chocolate truffles and having a long conversation over gelato at Amorino during a downpour and thunderstorm. 
Delicious gelato at Amorino.

We then headed over to see Le Tour Eiffel at night, up close and personal.

Then we headed back to our hotel to get some R&R and plan our next day's adventures.


Ranell said...

The gelato in the tent during the rainstorm is one of my favorite memories from our trip and only cost us 8 euros!

Now I'm sad we didn't get a picture of me stuck in the turnstile (with the bags). It wasn't so funny at the time, but I would laugh now!

Caren said...

Such beautiful pictures Karen! A trip of a lifetime! I haven't gotten to read all of it yet, but will find some time to.

brittanimae said...

Wow! That Opera House! It made me think of the premiers of Carmen and Rite of Spring and every other crazy thing that happened there (if I'm not mixing up my locations, I mean). But seriously WOW!