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Paris and Normandy
Versailles
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Many Sights, One Day
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The only picture of us together during our trip.
Holly and Larry at the Eiffel Tower
At the top of the Eiffel Tower. Photo by a friendly fellow tourist.

Our first trip to Paris...

            Last December Larry and I went to Paris for a few days. We left the morning of the 18th, a Wednesday. On our way out we stopped at the Christmas market in Aschaffenburg, which is not far from Frankfurt. The market is in a square across from the Schloss Johannisburg.

            I liked the Christmas market there. It was decently sized and lively. There was a large wooden pyramid I'm guessing was about fifteen feet tall. There was also a small carnival off to one side for kids. The glühwein stall offered a large variety of flavors. The souvenir cup was in the shape of a boot, a style I noticed has gotten popular recently. There were lots of interesting things to eat, but unfortunately Larry and I had breakfast not too long ago and weren't hungry yet.

Aschaffenburg Christmas pyramid

Aschaffenburg Christmas market

We would have liked to stay longer, but we had a long road ahead of us. On the way back to the car we saw an interesting sign on a shop that read, "Head Shop - Official Gang Wear."

We continued on to Ramstein air base to fuel up and grab a bite to eat.

            From there it was a long stretch of driving. Once it got dark there was not much to look at. The countryside was dark and empty until we reached Reims. One thing there was a lot of were tolls. It cost a total of 23,80 euro to get to Paris.

            On the way I needed to stop at a rest stop. This rest stop had the weirdest facilities I'd ever seen. There's nothing but a stall with a hole in the ground and a place to put your feet (at least I think that's what it was for). The stall was clean, but it was very open. It was weird because there wasn't anything to hold on to and I didn't know if you're supposed to stand or squat or what. Also there didn't seem to be any way to flush or rinse in case you missed the relatively small hole. I didn't like it at all. If anyone knows what the deal with those things is, please let me know!

            Once we got to Paris there was a ton of traffic. We had a bit of a time finding the hotel, and then finding a place to park. We managed to do both, then got checked in.

            We stayed at the Hotel France Eiffel. You could actually see a bit of the Eiffel Tower from the hotel. The hotel is located on a side street and is rather small, feeling almost more like a bed and breakfast than a hotel. Our room was small, but clean. Yes, there's a bidet in the bathroom! Unfortunately our bed was made up of two singles pushed together, not exactly comfortable.

            There was a parking garage with spaces for hotel guests (at additional cost, of course). The garage was underground and could only be accessed with a remote control given at the hotel desk. That garage looked like somewhere a horror movie would be filmed. It was dark and dingy and just had that kind of a vibe. We made sure everything in the car was secure, locked it up, and got the hell out of there.

            The clerk in the lobby spoke English and was friendly. For this trip we used the Rick Steves Paris guidebook. In it he suggests saying, "Bonjour" or "Bonsoir" when entering a room and "Au revoir" when leaving. This seemed to work pretty well for us throughout the trip. Most places we went had English speaking staff. My rusty and limited high school French did help a little with understanding signs and menus, though. I have to say that throughout our trip, even though most of the people we interacted with spoke English to one extent or another, they were more than happy to let us try some French. I had no idea how much German I knew until I tried to speak French. Every time I opened my mouth to speak a foreign language, German wanted to come out!

            The night was young, so we decided to go out and do something. The Eiffel Tower was nearby and still open, so off we went.

Eiffel Tower night

The Eiffel Tower looked amazing. It was all lit up. It was a beautiful night, too. It was only partly cloudy and visibility was good. Sometimes the moon came out from behind the clouds, which made the view of the Tower even more spectacular.

            There's a big square that the Tower sits on, with east, west, north, and south pillars. At the ticket booth you can buy tickets to the various levels on the Tower. We got tickets for the top, of course!

            It wasn't crowded, but I was surprised at how many other people were there on a weeknight.

            There's a big glass elevator that takes you up. It's weird because it goes at an angle at first. The ride up was a little intense, watching the world below get farther and farther away pretty quickly. When we got to the top it was very windy. There's an indoor 360-degree observation deck. The view was impressive, to say the least. There was also an outer observation deck. It was incredible! I really felt alive out there. It was amazing and a rush, with the night and the wind and the height and just being there. It was weird to wrap my head around the fact that we actually were on the Eiffel Tower.

            We stayed out there for a while. There of course was a gift shop, so we checked it out. Everything there seemed pretty tacky. However, we wanted a memento so we got a shot glass. I picked up a postcard for my parents. After that, we headed down. There's something the guidebook doesn't warn you about. Larry dubbed them "vultures." There are people in the square who try to sell you trinkets. They are aggressive and obnoxious and won't leave you alone. While navigating through them, Larry and I suddenly could only speak Russian!

            After that we were hungry, so we decided to get some dinner. We ate at a small restaurant next to our hotel. The waitress was friendly and the food was decent. There was a bird in a cage in the corner. I hoped it wasn't bored or lonely.

            We went back to our room after dinner to decide what to do the next day, my birthday!

Holly in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Versailles

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Holly in front of Eiffel Tower at night

Holly at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The photos below are from a return trip to the Eiffel Tower a couple of days later.

Larry in front of the Eiffel Tower.