We had to wake up early to catch our 9:00 am train to Paris but we were packed and in the car by 7:45. The anticipated traffic jam never materialized so we arrived at the train station in Narbonne a little after 8:00…..there’s was plenty of time for a cafe creme and croissant.
Our train arrived and we boarded. The first part of our journey, in an older car that clanked and swayed rhythmically, took us along the coastline and into Nimes, where we changed to a sleeker, high-speed train. With only one stop between before Paris, we’d arrive before 2:00 pm.
We were on the upper level. The seats were comfortable and the windows were large. We settled in for the journey through the French countryside, passing through farms, fields and pastures. Last week, from Loire to Dordogne to Languedoc and now, through Rhone and Bourgogne….it seems that the whole of France is agarian.
We arrived at the Gare du Nord right on time, walked downstairs to the Metro and two trains later, were walking down Rue Cler to our hotel, Hotel du Champs de Mars. We checked-in to our rooms on the 5th floor (actually on the 6th floor….Europeans don’t count the street level as the 1st floor….it’s the Reception or “0” floor). Its small elevator can hold two people, two suitcases or one person and one suitcase. Bev had already gone up so I told Craig to take the elevator and I’d take the stairs.
What was I thinking? On previous trips, we’d stayed on the 2nd and 3rd floors….never as high as the 5th. I started up the circular staircase….easily getting to the first floor, then the second. The third was a little more challenging. By the fourth, I was ready to call the elevator but, not wanting to capitulate, I pressed on. Finally the fifth floor! I was sweating and out of breath….but I felt like Rocky at the top of the steps….and then again when I looked back at the stairs and said, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
Bev’s friend, Pam, was waiting for us so, after off-loading our suitcases, we headed to the Eiffel Tower….a few short blocks away. We entered the slow-moving but relatively short queue and were waiting for our tickets when a man in the row behind us caught my attention. He was American….you could tell by the New York accent and the baseball cap. And he was well-off….you could tell by his Italian shoes, the cut of his jacket and the young blonde with him. I looked up…..he looked familiar. Bev sidled over to me and whispered, “Is that Billy Joel?” That’s it! That’s who he looked like! I sidled over to Craig, “Is that Billy Joel?” “I was just wondering the same thing,” he replied.
The four of us continued to take side-long glances at him…..trying to decide if it really was Billy Joel, but unwilling to ask him. Finally, when they were side by side in the queue, Craig spoke up…… “Excuse me, but are you Billy Joel?” His blonde companion seemed unhappy with this recognition so he replied, “Sometimes” which we took to mean “Not today.” Some days are public and some days are private….this was meant to be a private day. Craig told him how much we’ve enjoyed his songs over the years and then we turned our attention to our time in Paris to give him the privacy he wanted.
We had our tickets and were walking toward the elevator when I turned around to take a picture of a sign that didn’t translate into English very well.
Billy Joel and his date were at the ticket booth….with their backs to us. I couldn’t resist…..I took a picture…..wondering if he, like Rod Stewart and Tom Cruise, was getting ready to propose on the Eiffel Tower.
Bev and Pam decided to take the elevator to the top of the tower while Craig and I, having done that in years past, opted to stop at the 2nd level to write and mail postcards.
The day was clear and the views were great….but there was no post office.
We took the elevator down to the first floor and found that the post office had been replaced by a showcase of Eiffel Tower memorabilia. With our designated meeting place no longer in existence, we left phone messages for Bev and Pam…..finally finding them back at the hotel.
The sun was still shining so we met up again and took a hop-on/hop-off bus tour….to a get a good overview of the City of Light. Our bus driver informed us that this would be the last run of the day and would end across the river in Trocadero…..not a far walk, so we bought our tickets and climbed up to the top of the double-decker bus.
I love Paris!
Cruising through its neighborhoods, past its sights, brought back so many happy memories.
I smiled knowing that this trip will add its own pictures to the tapestry being woven in my mind’s eye.
Hours later, our bus completed its journey, as promised, in Trocadero. We stopped at a neighborhood cafe for dinner. After nightfall, with the illuminated Tower as our guide, we walked over the river on the Pont d’Iéna and, as we headed back to the hotel, were delighted when the tower came to life with lights that sparkled and twinkled in merriment.
“Well it’s a rainy night in Paris
And I’m sitting by the Seine
It’s a pleasure to be soaking
In the European rain”……..Billy Joel