2005-02-02 - 8:15 p.m.
Minutes before I boarded the first plane to Detroit, I heard my name called, and I went over to be presented with a new boarding class upgrading me to first class. I'd strongly suspected that this might happen, so I hadn't eaten any breakfast. A good thing too, as the omelet, crumb cake, and fruit salad were more than filling enough to keep me going.
In Detroit I signed up for a temporary club membership just to see. I'm still not sure if it's worth it unless you fly every week, or unless you're a real drinker and/or smoker. Some people could do some real damage with that open bar complete with Bailey's. And obviously the smokers need a place to go that doesn't involve passing out of the secure region just to indulge in their habit. But the real attraction of the club room seemed to be the bottomless bowl of Atkin's low carb candy bars. I saw plenty of people loading up on those guys, and I have to admit that I helped myself to my share. If lunch was to be an apple, cheese and crackers, machine-made cappuccino, and a glass of Blackstone Merlot, then I saw the logic in acquiring a few of the magical Atkins power bars in case I got hungry later. I don't know what more I expected -- maybe a buffet table with some sandwiches and shrimp like in the casino club rooms, who knows.
The flight to Paris was almost empty. After a Bloody Mary and a pretty bad chicken-based dish, I got a couple of seats together and tried to sleep. I'm not sure if I really did sleep, but I must have gotten at least a little rest, because my muscles didn't feel tired and achey as they sometimes do when I don't sleep at all. However, I wasn't exactly at my peak of alertness either, as my next experience would prove.
I was excited when I saw snow from the airplane over Europe, because I was hoping to get snow pictures in Paris. However, there was no accumulation when we reached the city, just snow flurries that started while we were waiting to get a gate and which ended before I got out of the airport.
Sacred Heart Basilica
And it would have even worked except...I think I didn't fully understand the name of the stop where I was supposed to get off and transfer to the next bus. So I got off pretty much at random and sort of walked around and finally just asked a taxi to take me to my hotel. So that was 8 euro I didn't need to spend. But, on the other hand, if I had taken the taxi all the way from the airport, I would have spent 50 euro, so at least in my bumbling around I did save a pretty good sum of money. 21.4 euro is still way less than 50 euro, any way you cut it. And I would have done even better if I'd been a bit less jet-lagged and a bit more alert.
After I got checked into my hotel in the Montmartre area, I was ready to do some exploring. I headed up the many, many stone steps of the neighborhood on my way to the Sacred Heart Basilica. You know, I really don't believe that Jason Bourne could have driven that car up those stairs. Or even down them. Not sure I remember which way he went now. Be that as it may, I soon spotted a corvid that was to cause me all sorts of grief, although I think I've finally ascertained through the help of a good photograph and some kind people on birdforum that it was a Rook. At the time, I was completely flabbergasted. Back home, the choice is Fish Crow or American Crow, and if you aren't sure, you just wait until the bird speaks up and tells you. And the thing is, this bird did speak, but I had no idea what it was supposed to sound like. It just sounded like a pretty cranky caw of the generic crow sort.
View from Basilique du Sacre Coeur in Paris
It's a shame because it was Paris, but the changes in cabin pressure from a long flight always leave me feeling too full to eat, so I just nibbled one of those evil Atkin's low carb bars and turned in early. I wanted to be well-rested for my first full day in Paris.
Jan. 26, 2005
In the morning I got up and found the Metro station, which was steps away from my hotel. I expected to be confused, but I wasn't. A full night's sleep will do that to you.
I got off at the Tuileries, which were, for me, a real let-down. They are a garden of statues, emphasis on the statues, which is great from the standpoint of art but pretty pee-poor from the standpoint of birding or greenery. That's OK. My binoculars would not go to waste, because I then went inside and spent the whole day and on into the evening at the Louvre. Some of the pictures are hung too high, so the binoculars really help out in giving you a look at the details. Anyway, it was the late day at the Louvre, so I didn't have to be rushed in my explorations. We all know what the Louvre is and what the Mona Lisa is, so I had to repress a laugh at the huge numbers of people I saw photographing the Mona Lisa. It's like, dudes, your friends already know what she looks like.
I won't inflict all of my dozens of images on the internet, but I'll post a few, just to give you a taste.
Because I'm all about the gold death masks and gold-plated mummy cases...
A fig tart from a Paris boulangerie (bakery) rounded out the day.
You have just read part one of my Paris trip report. Continue to Part 2 by clicking right here.
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