We loved the Thalys train, it lived up to, or exceeded, all expectations. Two hours (08:05 to10:05) for 200 miles from Brussels to Paris, including a midway stop in Mons - roomy, comfortable, smooth - now this is the way to travel!!! The Paris Nord station was big and fairly easy to get around, also had the chance to see the other "best & newest" trainsets - the Eurostar (London-Paris & London-Brussels routes) and the SNCF (Paris-Milan) train. They are impressive. The other "impressive" thing encountered at the station, was Police and machine gun armed troops patrolling the station.
Realizing that we had a limited amount of time, we limited ourselves to "must see" sights - Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower, and for the benefit of the "kids" back home - we included a stop at the Hard Rock Cafe - Paris. The Paris Metro (subway) system was good, not too much difficulty learning how to navigate it and not "too much" of a language barrier.
We took the Metro from Gare De L'Est (Paris Nord) to the Saint Michel RER station at Place St. Michel. Here we encountered our first "language barrier" when we requested assistance from one of a group of French policemen on the corner when we came up to the street level. Basically, we were trying to get our bearings on how best to walk to Notre Dame (which, from the map) I knew was only a few blocks. But - we didn't speak French so he "didn't know". (I'm certain he "didn't know" because we didn't speak French!!) We found our way anyway - no thanks to the French Police.
Crossed over the Seine on the Boulevard St. Michel (Lin & Barb went down and dipped their hands in the Seine - PHEW), walked a block East (turn right after crossing the bridge) past the Pref. De Police (don't tell me he didn't know how to get to Notre Dame) and arrived in front of it on the West side. Unfortunately, for us, it was getting a facelift / cleaning and was largely enclosed in scaffold. Continued our walk North, crossing the Seine again on Rue Notre Dame to Rue De Rivoli, and the Tour St. Jacquies (past an "on street" pay toilet that either leaked - or people didn't bother to pay, just "leaked" on it) back west along the North side of the Seine, crossed the bridge Pont Neuf and south on Rue Dauphine to the Metro at the Odeon Station. On this walk, we went thru a flea market near the Cite Station and past a lot of open air flower marketers along the North side of the Seine. Our general impression of Paris thus far is massive, but not particularily beautiful or impressive, it's dirty (trash cans on the streets are sealed closed), and it stinks.
At the Odeon Metro station we had one of the first experiences of our trip confirming what a truly small world we really live in. As we were checking thru the station, pausing to confirm the direction toward the Eiffel tower, a young lady asked if she could help us. It turned out that she was an American, had been living in Paris for a few years, spent her honeymoon in Brugge, and had a sister living in LaBelle, Florida (near where Bo & Barbara live).
Took the Metro to the Bir-Hakeim RER Station, walked about 3/4 mile North to the Eiffel Tower, and went to the top. From here, we could really see HOW BIG a city Paris is. Enjoyed the view - made the trip worthwhile, good view of the Arc De Triomphe to the North, the Palais De Chaillot below to the Northwest with the huge ParcDe Bagatelle and La Defense beyond and generally a teriffic vantage point over the city.
Determined that the Paris Hard Rock Cafe was "not far" out of our way back to the Paris Nord station via the Metro. Took it (Ch de Mars.-Tour Eiffel to Saint Michel RER / Saint Michel RER to Strasbourg-Saint Denis) and walked about a mile west on Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, Boulevard Poissonniere, and Boulevard Montmartre to the Hard Rock. This is part of what makes Paris difficult to navigate - all of this walk was on one street even though the name changed three times.
Stopped in for a brief refresher and had dinner at a McDonalds (of all places). But, none of us had any desire to experience any more of Paris's eliteist, snotty, snobby, unfriendly, unhelpful attitude. It may be unfair (but it is our opinion) that we've been to France (Paris particularly) twice - the first and the last.
On the way back to, and at, the station prior to leaving, we saw more of the Paris Police and Police/Military Troop Patrols - they seem to travel in packs like wolves. This is the only place on our visit to Europe where we felt even remotely uncomfortable or unwelcome.
Arrived back in Brussels at 22:05, at The Chelton about 22:30 and turned in about 23:00. We're off to Brugge (Bruges) in the morning. Looking forward to meeting Paul and his students and seeing for ourselves if Brugge is as beautiful as it's pictures, and what everyone we've talked to who knows, or has been there, has said.
----PHOTO ALBUM - DAY 4 (6 Photos - 270Kb)
BACK TO DIARY INDEX | HOME
This page created with Netscape Navigator Gold
This page has been visited times since adding a counter 1 July 97.