A Return to France, by Rich Paschall
When you have been to Paris, you will likely hope that you can return someday. It is just a little sprinkle of magic that the city puts upon tourists and part-timers. There are no cities in America with old neighborhoods that somehow retain their special ambiance like the ones in the City of Lights. I had been to Paris before. Recently we returned again.
Now for a little moment of truth. Since my ultimate destination was Strasbourg, I would have been tempted to go via Frankfurt as I had done the year before. However, my young friends wished to go to Paris. One had been there with me before. For the other, it was a new adventure. How could I say no?
When traveling there are a number of sites you can use to book your airline tickets. It is wise to shop around. The old rules about when to buy just do not apply anymore. Airlines are using sophisticated algorithms to price tickets. Prices are not changing every Tuesday as the old advice believed. Now they can change daily, even more often in some cases.
We were going to use low-cost passes for the trip, but with two weeks to go, I decided it was too risky. I purchased round trip tickets for a direct flight from Chicago to Paris. I used Skybooker.com. I also had a comparable offer from ASAP Tickets. Airlines are willing to discount if they feel they can not sell 80 percent of the seats. Empty seats are lost revenue. The plane is going anyway so they want to get what they can. Our flight had a few empty seats.
When we arrived at Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris we took the train from the airport station to Gare du Nord in the city. The train does leave from the airport, but trust me. It is a LONG walk to the train once you get your luggage.
For the convenience of our brief stop in Paris, we took a hotel near the train station. This meant we could walk to the hotel once we arrived. If you plan it well, you can also be near another major station, Gare de l’Est. This is important for the next part of the adventure.
If your stay in Paris is brief, where would you go? My friends felt there was only one stop for a night in Paris. We headed to a nearby Metro station and took the train to the Eifel Tower. We found a nearby plaza and the view that many picture takers had located before. You have certainly seen such pictures, but it is a much grander site when you take it in with your own eyes.
We were present for one of the sparkling light displays that you can see at night. That was something they did not have the first time I was in Paris. In fact, many things had changed. Now the streets are filled with sidewalk vendors trying to sell a variety of trinkets. Most of them have miniature (and cheap) Eifel Towers. Some even light up. They must be selling well for so many vendors to be lining the streets on a rather cool evening.
The other surprise was the plaza where the Tower is located. When I was there about 15 years earlier, the plaza was open. Now it is closed off by what I would take to be bulletproof glass. There are limited entrances where you will go through metal detectors to go in. I guess that is a sign of the times.
We Also Have Strasbourg
After a night in Paris, it was a short walk to Gare de l’Est for a trip to Strasbourg. I purchased and printed our Rail Europe tickets before we left Chicago. The nonstop train is popular and we did not want to get shut out. If you avoid going in the height of Rush Hour, you can get your tickets for a few euros less.
In front of the train station is the tram stop. From there you can go just about anywhere in the city. Our next stop was actually the suburb of Illkirch right alongside the city to the southwest. In Illkirch we made our first ever arrangements at an Airbnb. Our host met us at the train station so we would not get lost on a very short trip to the apartment. The large apartment had two nice bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a modern kitchen and a large living room. Apartment City in Strasbourg would have been more expensive for a small place and for a hotel… Well, let’s just say this was the best choice. We bought provisions at the nearby supermarket and hosted our own wine and cheese party. My friend from Selestat, France joined use for a mini-vacation in the city.
If the Eiffel Tower is the must-see stop in Paris, the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg is the place in Alsace. We took the tram back to the closest stop at Place Kleber and wandered over to the magnificent Cathedral.
When you have reached the plaza, you just have to look up and around to find the cathedral. Then you head off in that direction. If you look behind me to the left, you may spot the statue of French Revolutionary war hero Jean-Baptiste Kléber. Few may realize that he is actually buried below the statue. Well not all of him, his heart is in an urn in a chapel in Paris. Seriously.
We also visited the neighborhood known as Petite France. Here you will find buildings preserved from the 16th and 17th centuries. Previously it was a neighborhood filled with tanners and millers and other trades of the era. Now it is home to restaurants, shops, and well-restored homes. This historic area of the city has been designated a World Heritage Site.
As I have explained before, the reason for travel is to enjoy adventures with friends. It is also to visit with friends. In this case, it was both. For the tenth year in a row, I visited my friend in France. We have been on many adventures together here, in France and other countries. We always believe there will be another adventure soon.
In case you missed the reference at the beginning:
See also: “A France Vacation,” Sunday Night Blog, rjptalk.wordpress.com, March 8, 2020.
“The Grand Est Region“, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, October 20,2019.
“Alsace Adventure,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, January 6, 2019.
“April Love or April Fool?” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, April 7, 2019.