Day 1 - Monday, April 22, 2013 - Train to Paris; Transfer to the Hotel; Optional Evening in Paris
We had a very leisurely morning. Most of the group left at 6:00 to catch early flights back to the States. We had breakfast in the main dining room; much better selections than we have had for the past two days in the GAT group room.
The skies were gray and a heavy fog filled the lower town. The temperature was 50° and the humidity was 75%.
Thomas and his Paris Eleven left the hotel at 9:15 for the Gare du Midi, a huge train station in Brussels, serving Northern Europe. We thanked Michael for his safe driving and followed Thomas as he meandered through the crowds.
There was plenty of time before our train arrived on the platform giving us an opportunity to watch the world travelers come and go. At 10:45 Thomas gave us our tickets and we rode the moving walkway up to our platform and track.
Vic took several photos while we waited for the train to depart. Our train left Bruxelles Midi at 11:20. The seats were very comfortable and we had plenty of room to stretch our legs.
As we sped through the countryside at 196mph, it was impossible to take photos out of the train windows. At that speed everything was a blur, so we just sat back and enjoyed the ride!
Picture emerald green pastures, flowering trees, small towns always with a tall church spire, and farmers working the fields for spring planting. It was just as beautiful as we thought France would look in the spring!
We arrived at Gare du Nord at 12:40. Thomas called for the Go Ahead bus driver and by 1:00 we were making our way through the streets of Paris.
After settling in to our room we walked around the new neighborhood where we found many little cafés and a small but well stocked grocery store. We bought a picnic lunch to enjoy as we knew we would be eating late tonight.
Thomas met us all in the lobby of the hotel at 4:30 for an orientation tour of the Paris Metro System. The last time we were in Paris we used the subways for almost a week, but it was great to have a review.
There are only 11 of us on this post-trip extension. Go Ahead Tours has a policy that optional excursions must have 10 people signed up to go so Thomas had to make special arrangements for those of us who had paid for the optional tours.
We walked to the Gare Montparnasse one of the major rail terminals of the city. From there we took the #4 Metro line four stops to Saint Michel and walked to the Roman Ruins, Latin Quarter, Sorbonne, Museum of Medieval Times, and then visited the Notre Dame de Paris.
This is the 850th anniversary of the building of the cathedral; an example of Gothic architecture. Construction began in 1163 and the large stain glass windows, the Rose Windows, date from the 1250’s.
From the church we walked to our restaurant, Café Le Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris, founded in 1686. We had a chance to taste French cuisine and enjoy the ambiance of this establishment frequented by Dali, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and many others!
As soon as the sun began to set, we walked to the point of the Île de la Cité to watch the sunset. We boarded the Vedettes du Pont-Neuf river boats for an hour cruise on the Seine. Seeing the Eiffel Tower, the buildings and famous monuments at nights helps one to understand why Paris is called the City of Lights.
We did not get back home until almost 11:00 and then sorted photos and wrote to journal. We had a very long day, but it was worth every minute and every mile we walked.
Accommodations: Hotel Mercure Montparnasse - - - Meal: B - - Rating: B
What a day! Repeat...again pictures are fabulous.
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Ahh, Paris! What a merveilleux city! Wish I were there! Wait a minute, I just was! Wish I were with YOU!!