We arrive at Paris’ Gare du Nord Station just as the city is starting its day. I plan on us taking a taxi to our hotel which is located in the 7th Arrondissement, as roller suitcases are not designed for the labyrinth-like underground metro stations.
The queue for a taxi is dreadfully long, everyone else having the same idea as we did, as they too were loaded down by bulky pieces of luggage. Although the wait is frustrating, knowing that outside of the station lies the City of Light but we’re still stuck here, inside, I amuse myself by looking around, observing the many different people coming and going. I attempt to make out a word or two of French, but with it being spoken like rapid gun fire, I catch very little. I am shocked by the sight of soldiers of the French Army patrolling the station, armed with large and powerful looking weapons. I expect a sight like this on the streets of Kabul or Baghdad, not in Paris, the home of Edith Piaf, the Impressionists, Hemingway. The two girls in front of us appear to be of North African or Middle Eastern descent but are speaking fluent French, their eyes covered by the chic lenses of their tinted Chanel frames.
Our wait for a taxi is finally over and we get into one driven by a man who also appears to be Middle Eastern. I say “Rue du Champ de Mars” to which I am greeted with a blank look. When I hand him the sheet that contains the name and address of our hotel, he quickly repeats the name of the street I had just said, making me feel as if I had butchered its pronunciation.
We jet off through the streets of Paris even though we’re driving right into the midst of Paris’ rush hour. This doesn’t stop the small European automobile from playing a game of cat and mouse with the traffic lights at every intersection. I point out quietly to D when I catch sight of the Palas Garnier, home of the fictional Phantom of the Opera. I see the driver look back at us, wondering if he knows any English.
When we pass by the Louvre, driving right by the controversial pyramid, I excitedly say to D to look out his window. It is his first time in the City of Light and as a major fan of Dan Brown’s famed novel The Da Vinci Code, I know he will be excited to see the landmark and building that played such a pivotal part in the book.
Upon spotting the Eiffel Tower, I know that now we indeed are officially in Paris. The city has welcomed us by showing us its most iconic landmark. Our hotel is not far from the tower and before we know it we have been deposited on the Rue du Champs de Mars. I pay the driver saying merci and wishing him au revoir.
As it is still before 11 in the morning, our room is not ready and our continental breakfast of rolls and coffee at the train station in Brugge, Belgium was hours ago, so we set off to explore the Rue Cler neighborhood, aimed with the hope of finding some food. This is not hard, as the area is known for its foodie atmosphere, and we stop a cafe that is decidedly Parisien.
Although it is the late morning, the cafe is populated with a mixture of both tourists and locals, some reading copies of Le Fiagro, others quietly sipping their cafes. We order the petit dejuner francais for two which includes croissants, half a baguette, marmalade and butter, a cafe au lait for D, and a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) for me.
We are both exhausted from our early start that morning and yet dining on our petit dejeuner, on a perfectly gorgeous Parisien morning, gave us a fresh burst of energy. Although the rest of our time in Paris was constantly on the go and fast paced, with never a morning as relaxed and laissez-faire as our first, I will always remember our perfect introduction together to the City of Light.
|Image courtesy of newyorkinparis.wordpress.com|