April in Paris – A First Visit

Carrieanna’s Aunt Becky speaks French and loves Paris – she has been there many times.

In April of 2009, we three — Rich, Carrieanna and I — spent three days in Paris.

This was Rich’s first visit; he wrote the following letter to Becky:

“Dear Becky,

“Thought you might enjoy a Paris report from a first-timer.

“Our trip to Paris began aboard Thalys from Amsterdam Central Station to Gare du Nord. Rental wheelchair folded next to one seat – first class, yet! From Amsterdam to Brussels train runs regular speed;

“Brussels to Paris … warp speed!

“Was it Antwerp where we changed crew … new conductors, stewards, stewardesses?

“And there he was, our new steward … Ashken, tall, slender, young, devilishly handsome, charming, with a smile to light up any lady’s heart. When he learned that Carrieanna was traveling to Paris on her birthday … free extra small bottles of French wine … even sang Happy Birthday to her. Whoa! What an introduction to Paris!

   

     

   (Vegan meal; a little birthday dessert and wine!)

“My first impression of Paris was how LARGE it was, in terms of space, population, and most of all – architecture. Everything is huge … Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, d’Orsay, even the hotels.”

“I loved the colonnades along rue de Rivoli. Easy wheelchair entrance into Hotel Brighton, and very cordial, welcoming staff … fellow even remembered Jeri from her stop there last November gathering information for this trip.

“Carrieanna’s room is designated “Disabled Accessible” and overlooks (4 stories down) a small courtyard. The room is spacious and well-appointed; good light from tall windows. And, I go no further before mentioning that our entire time in Paris (save for the last late night) we had warm weather and bright sunshine!

“The room Jeri and I had, down the hall and around a corner, just a short walk from Carrieanna, was larger and overlooked rue de Rivoli. The tall windows opened inward and allowed access to a narrow balcony, where the three of us could comfortably stand.

”The view, as I remember it, from left to right: Towers of Notre Dame, Louvre, including pyramid, Tuileries Gardens, d’Orsay, the obelisk [in Place de la Concorde], the Invalides, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, [Pont Alexandre III], and the Eiffel Tower. Magnificent. That will be my most lasting image of Paris!

“The trip was Carrieanna’s 27th birthday gift. We dreamed of it for a long time and discussed it for an even longer time … what to see, what to do … We left each day fairly open in terms of scheduling, although we knew that in our three days and nights there we would want to visit our “Top Ten” places.

“So, we pretty much followed Carrieanna’s lead. And, no sooner did we get over “ooohing and aaahing” at the view, then she had us in a taxi on our way to Eiffel Tower … about 3:00 p.m. The taxi stand closest to Hotel Brighton, which we used often, was almost in front of the Westin. Well, out of the taxi and into the masses … “No, I don’t speak English … No, I don’t want any trinkets ….”

“We three were amazed at the size and the beauty of the tower.

“We spent a couple of hours there, taking photos and being amazed. Then we roll to the nearby Seine River boats.

“Wheelchairs on first, Thank You Very Much (rendered, of course, in French).

“Great seats, clear views, warm weather … and we cruise past the gorgeous monuments, buildings and bridges.

(Seine River Cruise, via Bateaux Parisiens)

“Taxi back to Tuileries Garden for our final meal of the day (about 7:00 p.m.). Surprisingly good food. Jeri finds baguettes, fruits, juice and French wine nearby.

“Back to the view until about 9 p.m. …

“The tower is sparkling like a Christmas tree, on the hour, and we “just have to” go back to the tower. She is drawn as if by magnetism.

“A couple of hours again, before finally getting back to Hotel Brighton about midnight.

“Jeri had earlier worked out with Carrieanna that her birthday present to her would be to take her up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. They were clear, from every source, that wheelchairs were not allowed beyond the second level. They decided this day, Saturday, was too crowded, so they would wait for another night.

[And that’s a story to be told in another post!]

“Trees budding and blooming everywhere. All sorts of flowers blooming. And military personnel with automatic weapons at the Eiffel Tower. What a great first day.”

(To be continued ….)

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