From my lovely wife Kelly’s blog:
Paris was… delicious. 😉 The definite highlight for me was trying new and interesting and even international foods! Surprisingly, we ate at a Brazilian restaurant, Indian restaurant, a North African restaurant, Japanese sushi place, and an Italian restaurant while we were there, in addition to various cafes and such! There’s also a famous ice cream shop on the central island that I got to try. Hopefully you can see the pics that we posted on Facebook from the trip; much of the food is chronicled there, such as the AMAZING desserts and yummy baguette sandwiches that we got from the bakery on the corner, the awesome cheese plate we had for dinner our last night there, and the escargot and steak tartare (which were the “new and interesting” foods of the trip, and both surprisingly delicious!)
We saw lots of things too… Luke dragged me through the Louvre while I was still mostly-asleep and exhausted from jet lag, but hey, he wanted to see it… We got an awesome tour of the Eiffel Tower! We had a great tour guide, and we got to go underground to an old radio station and tunnel that goes under the tower and nearby area, and we also got to go up on a platform in the tower that isn’t actually open to the public, so that was nice to get a non-crowded view of the city… and of course great views from all sides. We also had a guided tour of the Marais, which is a very old part of town where they were surprised to find walls that were thousands of years old when renovating that part of the city in recent decades. That was also where we had the escargot, and some of the best steak I’ve ever had… did I tell you the food was the highlight for me? 😉
We also saw a couple of the famous old churches: Notre Dame, of course, located in the very oldest part of the city, and Sacred Heart, which is on pretty much the only hill in the city. You can get a very nice view of the city from the steps of the church, and we were there near sunset, which was nice. However, it’s also a place where beggars/pickpockets/etc. congregate and try to get tourists to buy their (whatever junk they happen to be selling) or just try to get money from tourists. In some cases they are very aggressive… one guy tried to follow us and kept asking us something (I don’t even remember what) but we were able to shake him. It’s definitely a conflict: how do you be kind to people who are chasing after you in order to cheat you out of your money? The Eiffel Tower was another place we encountered this… people everywhere, all selling the same cheap plastic copies of the tower, and all kinds of trinkets. Near Sacred Heart, though, was where we had French onion soup and cheese fondue… mmm 🙂
One cool thing we did at the end of the trip was go on a cruise of the Seine across the city. It’s just a recording, but they do tell you about the various buildings and bridges and their history.
From our experience, stuff we have read, and people we have talked to, it seems that we really did avoid the “rude French” stereotype by just trying to speak a little bit of their language. The more touristy places had signs and staff who spoke English, of course, but in bakeries and shops and restaurants (we tried our best to go to not-so-touristy places to eat) it was useful to just know a few words, and we were definitely carrying phrasebooks everywhere to look things up (like menu items).
It was nice being connected to the conference too. Although I did not get to go, Luke got to hear the President of France (Nicolas Sarkozy) in person as he gave the opening address for the conference. We also got to go to the natural history museum and their “Grand Gallery of Evolution”, which has models and skeletons of oh so many animals, birds, butterflies, etc… We were supposed to have a banquet there, but in the words of Luke’s colleague, it was an “unmitigated disaster” as they were only serving (very few, at that) snacks to a huge group of people who were expecting dinner… we ended up leaving and finding the Brazilian restaurant, lol. And the best event (well, tied with the Eiffel Tower tour, perhaps) in my book was visiting the Paris City Hall, which is more like a historic palace than an office building, and getting to see and hear a wonderful string quartet performance there. It was extremely hot (there are very few air conditioned places in such old cities with old buildings!) and at intermission we ended up getting up and opening these huge old windows.
I was so thankful for the hotel we found. Since Luke’s notice of acceptance to the conference came rather late, all of the reserved rooms were taken, and we had to find our own… no small task to find a room overseas in a country that speaks another language! But we found a place, and it had a teeny elevator so we didn’t have to lug suitcases up and down the small curved staircases, and– it even had an air conditioner, which was so very welcome after walking up those four flights of stairs to get back to our room. 🙂 It had a tv, but of course everything was in French, so we really didn’t watch anything.
I am thankful to Annette who motivated me to write something about the trip (finally)!