I noticed as we traveled to Paris that my anticipation differed greatly from my last visit. That business trip was straightforward. I had to go and the complications of getting there made the being there a bit "cardboard", average, run-of-the-mill, flat. As J and I waited in Chicago for our flight to Charles De Gaulle, it was quite different - an aura of mystery, fog, and uncertainty shrouded my perspective, my speculation on what we'd encounter. It was an adventure, a bit of renewed innocence...
We arrived and I started kicking myself. The short walk on an afternoon when you're doing nothing else that I envisioned to the hotel turned out to be a supremely annoying haul with luggage after flying all night. We checked in to the hotel and I wavered back and forth, wondering if it would be good enough, wishing I had picked somewhere else simply because it was a little more unknown than expected.
In reality, I did underestimate the walk. The hotel wasn't in a horrible area and the abundance of restaurants nearby was a boon for tired sight-seers who wanted to take the evenings a bit more easy. It was a small but cozy and quiet room and we enjoyed it. Sleep helped to ease the self-doubt.
We found a nice simple place for lunch just up the street from our hotel. J had a bolognese that was lovely and I had a plate of fresh roasted veggies drizzled in balsamic. Perfect. After a nap, we headed out for one spot on our list that I thought would not require a ton of brain power to process, Notre Dame.
First we stopped at the bouquinistes - the booksellers along the Seine - our favorite stop for used books and funky postcards.
Passing through Ile de la Cite, we were herded off of the street as a film crew got ready to shoot.
We approached the cathedral from the rear, alongside the gardens. The bells were tolling. It was incredible. Every atom in the air vibrated with those great peals. It filled your soul, whatever your affiliation might be. As we photographed the gargoyles, I felt cleansed, engergized, and connected to the stories of the past. Turning the corner at the front of the building we decided against touring the interior that day - the line stretched clear across the massive square at the front.
After J tried his first Parisian crepe (not THE crepes, those came later), we swung by the Hotel de Ville to the fountains near the Centre Pompidou. Lifting our eyes to the cathedral at the back of the fountains, we decided to explore.
St Merri's is a miniature Notre Dame in layout and design. Its bells are the oldest in the city, having survived the fire (but a bit tinny and not as powerful as those of the big sister). What I loved about St Merri was the modern art integrated into the super classical atmosphere.
Dinner was at a brasserie near the hotel. Kinda' like an American bar & grill - a bit more attention to drinks than food. But it was Paris so still we smiled and our first day came to a close.