On our way from Spain to Switzerland, Paul and I spent 23 hours in Paris on June 15. This followed a night train from Barcelona to Paris, which was rickety and less than comfortable, so we weren't running on the best night of sleep. I mention that to preface a little accident I had in Paris, which I'll get to later.
We arrived in Spain before 10am at the Gare d'Austerlitz train station and walked immediately across the river to the Gare Lyon train station where there is a Eurail ticket office. We needed to make reservations for a train from Switzerland to Austria, and apparently all the Eurail aid offices in Spain have been closed. I reported this to the Eurail folks, who had no idea and are still looking into it (Eurail passes are truly a mixed bag, but perhaps that's info for a future post).
Over two hours later, we had our tickets. A large chunk of this time was spent waiting unnecessarily in the long distance train line because the folks at the information desk did not know of the existence of a Eurail ticket office in their own train station. And it's not like we were being confusing, we held up the pass and asked specifically for that office because we knew there was supposed to be one in the Gare Lyon. The long distance ticket lady was able to point us to it, which is good, because there is no way on earth you will find that place without help. It was tucked downstairs away from just about everything else. Then, we waited in line for ages while two British girls tried to get out of Paris that day. At that time, Paris had just completed a 36 hour train strike, so I'm amazed that they managed anything at all.
After that, we caught the metro (man, do I love public transportation in Europe - it's wonderful!) to our hotel, checked in early, and then went for a food hunt. We found a market where we bought falafel, some sort of large pita stuffed with spinach and cheese (it looked like a ginormous pierogi), and fresh strawberries.
Next it was back to Gare d'Austerlitz to join up with the Blue Bike Tour folks for a 4 hour whirlwind tour of Paris. We were turned on to this company by the Canadian folks we met in Carcassonne who couldn't speak highly enough of it. The bikes all had fun names - Paul chose Blaise Pascal. I forget who I had. We saw Notre Dame:
However, I'm not sure I recommend this tour as highly as others do. It involved an insane amount of pedestrian dodging while trying to keep up with the other 10 folks in the tour, look at all the sights around you, AND keep an eye out for all red lights so as not to run them and be smushed by a car. It's a level path but you go over a lot of curbs and around a lot of sharp, blind corners. So, as you can probably guess, this is where my little accident comes in. While rounding a corner and trying to dodge a pedestrian at perhaps too high a speed for little old me, I wiped out. Gracefully, I'm told. Honestly, it even felt graceful and rather slow motion to me. As far as bike accidents go, I am very lucky. Just a bit bruised and scraped - scraped a knee (didn't even tear the pants - woot!), scraped my chin (less than desirable for pictures, wish I had some makeup with me...), and have a few bruises on my right thigh. More embarrassed than anything, really.
|You can see the mark on my chin from my fall. However, the 5 bruises on my legs are much more colorful.|
After the bike tour, we went back to Notre Dame so we could get a view of the famous flying buttresses:
Sagrada Familia, of course).
Then, we went back to the hotel to clean my pants. And me, too, I suppose, although my scrapes weren't very dirty and barely bled. Then, out for a view of the Eiffel Tower at dusk:
We ended the evening with dinner at a Thai restaurant which was absolutely delicious, due in no small part to the fact that the meal included no bread or cheese. We are thoroughly sick of bread and cheese and sandwiches at this point, so curry and spring rolls were a welcome reprieve.