Wrong Addresses, Sparkling Lights, and Rats: Paris Part 1

Paris! Oh la la! (Pronounced “oh,” not “ooooh.”) Our final three days of the Family trip to Spain and France concludes in Paris. There are so many iconic sights that I saved this city for last. The grand finale, if you will.

We visit the Arc de Triomphe, our first sight. I lead my family of husband and two teenagers out of the metro and there it is. From our spot on the Champs Elysées, Paris’s wide Fifth Avenue equivalent, it’s a stunning sight. It’s my family’s first taste of Paris. Fancy storefronts line the street, cars zoom past us, and tons of tourists and Parisians alike fill the sidewalks.

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Family #selfie in front of the Arc de Triomphe
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#Selfie plus Arc de Triomphe construction equipment

We wait in a short queue to buy tickets beneath the Arc de Triomphe and then we climb to the top for our first view of the city of lights.

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Me, atop the Arc, Eiffel Tower in the background.
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Me & hubby under the Arc!

After the climb, it is lunchtime and we are hungry. The environs of the Arc de Triomphe are very touristy so food is likely to be unappealing and quite costly. My son spots a fast food burger joint right on the Champs Elysées called “Quick” and my daughter begs for anything other than a French fast food hamburger. We stroll in our indecision away from the grand Arc and as we pass a side street, my daughter spots a sushi restaurant. I know she’s dying to “eat sushi in Paris,” so we split up. My son and husband go to the fast food hamburger place and my daughter and I delight in a sushi lunch.

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This is where I taught my daughter how to use chopsticks! Ah, Paris!

After lunch, we navigate to our flat. I reserved it through vacation rental by owner (VRBO). There was no way to know that selecting a place without air conditioning would become a huge issue. I reserved this place way before anyone knew Paris was going to experience a dramatic heat wave during our visit.

We head to the flat for the first time. I’ve basically memorized the address: 17, rue de Baci. Google maps directs us through Paris’ historic 6th arrondissement. We are near the river Seine. Not far from Notre Dame cathedral. We wind through charmingly classic Parisian streets. Tables and chairs from cafes spill onto sidewalks from the bars and restaurants. The four of us look at each other as our anticipation builds. I am exchanging texts with the contact person who is scheduled to meet us at our home away from home in Paris for the next three days.

“We are nearly there!” I text.

“Great!” She texts back.

We stop at the door marked 17. There are various brass signs advertising legal offices on the side of the building next to the door. The panel’s buttons are all labeled with numbers.

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Won’t someone let us in?

“Which number?” I text. It seems odd that she didn’t mention which number I would need to push.

“15.”

There is no number 15 on this panel. I am not sure what to do.

I turn to my husband, “She said it’s number 15 but there’s no 15 on this panel.”

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“Just let me text her and get this sorted.” Directionally challenged people are still people.

Hubs looks around and notices that there is another door to our left, with the address of 15 Rue de Baci.

“Where are you?” A text chimes on my phone.

“Is the street address 15?” My husband asks. “It’s the next one down.” He points to our left. I open my VRBO app and confirm that I have indeed been ringing the bell at the wrong street address. (Why I hadn’t opened the app five minutes ago, before we arrived makes no sense.) I guess I didn’t “basically” have the address memorized, after all. Flustered, we move over to the correct door at 15 (not 17) and she buzzes us in. Bonus, also adjacent to our building is a grocery store, Carrefour. Already over the address mix-up, we are thrilled at this convenience.

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From far left: Souvenirs, Nicolas Wine, our place, food store, NOT our place. Love our street!
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Dinner at cleverly named Cafe de Paris directly across the street from our flat. We were all smiles!
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This bike creates amazing “Paris sidewalk atmosphere” next to my chair at the restaurant. (Our flat is 15, just beyond the bike.)

Normal temperatures for Paris–even in July–run around 75°F. Unfortunately, Paris is experiencing a heatwave and every bright, sunny day the temperature hovers around 95°. We sweat and walk and sweat and ride the metro and sweat and fan ourselves. We also see sights. Paris in a nutshell!

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Paris Metro, awesome

I am not complaining about how hot Paris is. No. I am complaining instead about how our vacation rental by owner (VRBO) flat does not have air conditioning. (To be clear, I am the one who rented it, knowing this fact.) We learned nearly all of Paris is virtually devoid of air conditioning. The reason for this? Because normal temperatures for Paris–even in July–run about 75°F. The VRBO property provides two-foot tall fans that swivel, blowing a gentle breeze akin to a person blowing an extended breath. Every time we return to the flat, we race into the shower one at a time, then sit a few inches from the fans to cool off. Never mind our discomfort. The show of sightseeing in Paris must go on!

During the first night in Paris, we take the Bateaux Mouche, a well-known boat tour along Paris’ River Seine. Our goal is to take the 10:00 pm boat, but the yellow RER underground commuter train line in downtown Paris is closed for construction from the flooding in Paris in January 2018. We must reroute via less efficient metro lines with multiple stops. We end up running, yes, running to catch not the 10:00 pm boat, but the last boat of the night with a 10:30 pm departure.

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Our Lady, Notre Dame at night
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Musée d’Orsay. The clock says some strange time around midnight but it was actually about 11:45 pm.

We enjoy the boat tour, despite the boat’s bright lights illuminating more rats than I am comfortable with scurrying just above the water line under some sort of net. Even though we are far away and on a boat, I still stifle a shriek. But you know what, rats or no rats, the city is spectacular by night as well as by day.

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Gorgeous at night! Highly recommend the night boat tour.
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The Eiffel Tower, the moon, and you can just barely see the beacon of light coming out of the top of the tower.

Our final highlight of this first Paris day is after our late night Bateaux Mouche tour, the lights covering the entire Eiffel tower begin to illuminate so the whole tower appears to be sparkling. At the top of the Eiffel tower there is a lighthouse light that turns with a bright beam above the City of Lights. It is spectacular and unforgettable.

 

Tune in next week for more highlights of Paris!

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