UPDATED: Don't miss 'In Our Defense,' in which we really do have a (rather) French meal. And 'Caught Up,' for a view of what might have been.
When you tell people you've been to Paris, you can bet you'll be asked either:
1) Did you go up the Eiffel Tower, and/or
2) What did you eat!?
But yea. We did want to go up the Tower, and I was able to get three tickets to the second level for 5 p.m. (You can stand in line to go up, too, as we discovered, but the wait was like Top Thrill Dragster on a bad day. Also, unfortunately, the tickets to go all the way to the top were taken by the time I ordered.)
Other than that, plans were nebulous. Ride the on-off bus and see the sites. Walk around the public places of the Louvre. Stroll down the Champs d'Elysees and sit in a cafe and enjoy the afternoon. Maybe catch a boat ride on the Seine.
Sometimes even nebulous plans are too many plans.
I'd gotten our Eurostar tickets with on-off bus tickets through Viator.com -- a site I'd highly recommend for tour packages big or little. And our instructions said to get to St. Pancras station in London at (holy cow) 5:45 a.m. So we figured the train left at, maybe 7? And we'd get to Paris by 9 or so?
Not. The train didn't leave until 8:15, and Paris is an hour ahead of London, so we had a lot less time in the city than we'd anticipated -- I think it was 11:30 by the time we hopped on the tour's on-off bus to be dropped off at the Eiffel Tower, the first stop for our group. (We had opted for the non-guided-tour day, which meant we were free to ride any on-off bus we wanted, rather than stick with the tour group.)
Since we had to be back at the Eiffel Tower at 5:00, we didn't spend much time there -- walked around the plaza, took some pictures, crossed the street to look at the Seine, then wandered back to the bus pick-up spot on the Champs de Mars.
Just two stops away was the Louvre, and of course we got off to explore. We knew our time was too short to go in the museum, but there was lots of see in the Cour Carree, around the Pyramid entrance, and then the inside public areas -- probably TMI to tell you I've been to the restroom in the Louvre. And of course we shopped in the gift shop.
By now we're dying of thirst and thinking about lunch and moving on. We're near the food court, and Cokes (diet and otherwise) sounded divine ... and what catches our eye but a ... McDonald's. Or MacDo, as they say. And since we just wanted something to drink, this seemed as good a choice as any.
But while we're in line, insanity happens, and somebody, oh dear God, it might have been me, said, why not get some fries to hold us over?
|Meal of shame.|
This is like True Culinary Confessions, isn't it.
But remember! At the time, we thought we'd be eating a late lunch/early dinner somewhere fun -- like the Champs d'Elysees. But who knew the stupid on-off bus would be so slow!? Would we have spent that time walking around the outside of Notre Dame if we knew the afternoon held no lunch for us? Would we at least have chosen something more interesting in the food court at the Louvre? Should we have bagged the on-off bus and found a faster route to get to the Tower by 5:00, so we could get off and eat? Or should we have forgone our Eiffel tickets and dined in style?
I hate it that we missed eating in Paris. I hate admitting our Meal of Shame. But you know what? We had a blast on the bus, sitting by an American family from Georgia, talking and laughing with their wonderful kids, enjoying Paris from the top of the doubledecker bus with the sun shining on us. They worried with us that we wouldn't make our 5:00 p.m. Eiffel ticket time as our bus stopped and started and let people on and off and sat in traffic.
We waved goodbye to them as we finally arrived back at the Eiffel Tower, and at 5:01 we walked into the elevator with no wait and no crowd. And when we walked out of the elevator on the second level, with all of Paris stretching before us, the last thing I thought about was what I did or didn't eat. Because I wouldn't have missed this for anything:
Remember those questions? Now you know. Yes, we went up the Eiffel Tower. And yes, we had something to eat.
Oh Paris, you had me at Gard du Nord. Next, you owe me a meal. Something that doesn't include Diet Coke and potatoes.