Arrival in Paris

31 10 2011

Hotel des Invalides - tomb of Napoleon and Military Museum

We arrived in Paris at about 7am on a Sunday. Our first view of Paris was the rather depressing arrivals lounge and baggage collection area at Charles de Gaulle airport. The decorating motif is “concrete”. And distressed 1970s era concrete at that.

We had organised for someone to meet us at the airport and drive us into Paris – a quiet drive with few companions on the road. The drive from the airport to the Periphique (ring road around Paris which divides the old Paris of the arondissements from the sprawling suburbs) was on a highway surrounded by industrial areas and lined with graffiti. Still not the most auspicious start to the holiday. However, the driver / guide was lovely and pointed out various features as we drove in, engaged our jet-lagged minds in conversation and was generally very helpful.

Once in the older part of Paris the landmarks come think and fast. Hotel des Invalides, its gleaming dome shining in the early morning sun. The Seine. Tour d’Eiffel. Arc de Triomph. Famous famous visages renowned the world over.

view from our hotel in Paris, away from McDonalds and the Montparnasse Tower

The roads of Paris this early Sunday morning were still quiet, but given that we had no idea where we were or where our hotel was, we were very thankful for the driver. We arrived at the hotel – conveniently near the Tour de Montparnasse – at around 8am, to find that our room would be ready at 3pm. We deposited our luggage at the hotel and set off to drag our weary bodies around Paris.

Our first meal in Paris – lunch – was at a Pizza restaurant. I kid you not. We were tired and the restaurant was just there, the kids were keen to eat something familiar. And it was very nice. (Note for new players: Pschitt is a brand of lemonade.)

Lemonade...I was really jetlagged when I took this photo!

We visited the Eiffel Tower, wandered around the streets, worked out where the Louvre was, and then headed back to the hotel.

The convenience about being in a hotel near the Montparnasse Tower was that no matter where you were in the city, you could look up and find the tower and navigate your way back there. We also had help from a kind man who saw us reading the map in the street and asked (in English) if he could help. So much for Parisians not being helpful.

The second great thing about Montparnasse Tower is that Galleries Lafayette, Paris’ fabulous department store, has its second store there. Not as impressive as the main store which is set in an old Opera House with an amazing domed glass ceiling and ornate gilded fittings throughout – but I ended up finding more of the things I wanted in the second store.

However, back to the first day. At 3pm we got into our hotel room and being as jetlagged as we were, went immediately to bed. The children, despite expressing disgust for going to bed at 3 in the afternoon, went rapidly to sleep, as did we all. Jetlag and the walk to and from the Eiffel Tower had exhausted us all.

Eiffel Tower on our first morning in Paris

We woke at 9pm and realised that we had no idea how to find food in the city, particularly in the middle of the night. The hotel did not have a restaurant or room service. While there were a number of cafes and restaurants open now, if we went back to sleep (as we wanted to) and woke hungry at 3am (as we were bound to), we would be unable to find any food and had none with us.

However we did remember that there was a “restaurant” just near the hotel – one that did take-away.

Yes, our second meal in Paris was from McDonalds. Important things to know about ordering from McDonalds in France.

1. The burgers are referred to as Sandwiches.

2. A porter means “to go” or takeaway.

3. Pretty much anything else can be achieved through pointing at the menu board.

4. The McDonalds assistants are very helpful. At this stage I was so tired I was having difficulty communicating in English, my native language, let alone French. While the guy behind the counter did not speak much English, we managed to communicate through his high-school English and my high-school French, and a lot of pointing.

5. They don’t have Fanta – try Orangina, less sweet, more orange-y. And Coke is Coca, Diet Coke is Coca-light.

I stress that the quality of our food consumption improved significantly after this. We became adept at reading menus and ordering in French. The children also became quite fluent in restaurant French. We ate saumon, steak hache, pate de frois gras, grenouilles, escargot, magret de canard (my favourite – breast of duck) and much more.

Once we were over our jetlag!

If you liked this post you might also like some more posts from France…..
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Napoleon’s Tomb
Galeries Lafayette