Day 25 (Monday, September 29th)
As we had booked both of our flights to Europe through our frequent flier program, we did not have the most desirable flight options to chose from. When I attempted to reserve our return flight, they had no flights available out of Prague. I had to become creative, so we decided to book the return flight out of Paris as they had a direct one available to Seattle. However, this entailed having to get from Prague to Paris. As a result, I ended up booking two cheap flights on Sky Europe airlines from Prague to Paris, which left Prague at the unfriendly time of 6:40 in the morning.
We begrudgingly woke up on Monday morning at 4:00. At 4:45, our taxi arrived that Pasquale had arranged for us in order to reach the airport. Although it was very early in the morning, we were both surprised to see the large number of people at the airport; we figured though that many were traveling for business.
We reached Orly Airport in Paris about 1 hour and 15 minutes after departure. I was completely exhausted and had attempted to sleep on the flight,
but had no success.
From the airport, we took a train into the central part of Paris, where we had to transfer a few times until we reached the Ecole Militaire metro stop. From here, Hotel Royal Phare
was literally right across the street from us. As it was only around 10:00 in the morning, our room wasn't available, so we left our luggage and headed out into Paris.
Hotel Royal Phare was located in our favorite neighborhood of Paris, called Rue Cler. We have stayed in this part of the city on a prior trip, but at a more expensive hotel called Hotel Muguet,
which I highly recommend if you are not on a tight budget.
Our first mission of the day was to obtain some croissants at our favorite boulangerie and also to buy some breakfast crepes at the creperie. The croissants were heavenly and exactly as I had remembered; the texture was flaky and dense, but also soft, and the flavor was rich and buttery, exactly how all croissants should taste. At the crepe stand, I ordered a crepe with eggs, Swiss cheese, and ham while Mike opted for his personal favorite of bananas and nutella. After
devouring all of our food, we were both stuffed and uncomfortably full.
As we had already visited Paris for one week on a prior trip, we had seen most of the major sights so I just had a few things planned for the day.
The first was viewing the Eiffel Tower from a distance at the Palais de Chaillot. We had to use the Metro to get to this area, and as we traveled on the train, my exhaustion hit a brick wall. I'm not sure if the food we had just eaten assisted in making me more sleepy, but all I knew was that I needed to sleep ASAP.
From the Metro stop, we walked up the stairs and instantly saw the beautiful Eiffel Tower. We had never viewed the tower from this angle or perspective and it was quite different than from up-close in the Parc du Champs, which was on the other side of the Seine River. I took a few photos, but just couldn't keep up anymore, so we decided to head back to the hotel in hopes that our room would be ready.
Lucky for me, our room was ready. The
room was very basic and tiny, but fit our requirements of a decent sized bed with a bathroom and shower. The best part of the room was the view of the Eiffel Tower from our window. However, all I cared about in that moment was sleeping; I've been jet lagged in my life several times, but it was nothing like what I felt this day. Mike told me I feel asleep just as soon as my head hit the pillow.
After sleeping for two hours, Mike woke me up. I had lots of difficulty waking up, but knew I would have to fight through my grogginess as we were in my favorite city for only a short time!
We left the hotel and headed for the Musee d l’Orangerie.
We were unable to tour this museum on our first visit to Paris two years prior because it was undergoing a complete renovation. The Musee d l’Orangerie houses Claude Monet's famous water lilies, which were displayed in massive oval-shaped rooms, exactly as Monet had intended his paintings to be viewed. The gorgeous scenes were painted at the gardens of Giverny, which are located about one hour from Paris. Aside from Monet's paintings,
there were also several dozen Impressionist paintings displayed on the second level below the oval rooms.
After spending about one hour at the museum, we decided to head back to the Eiffel Tower so that I could fully appreciate the views from the Palais de Chaillot in a more coherent state. Fortunately, the sun was shining on our second visit, so I was able to get several great photos of the tower.
From here, we took the metro back to Rue Cler, where we began the search for a restaurant to eat lunch at. We found a small cafe near our hotel (can't remember the name!). At first, we thought the cafe was closed as there were no patrons inside, but once we walked in, we saw that they were open. We each ordered croque monsieurs (grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwich), salad, and delicious French onion soup. We did not want to spend too much money on lunch as it was more important for us to have an amazing (and thus more costly) dinner instead.
After lunch, we intended to find an internet café in the neighborhood so that we could check in for our flight.
It took us nearly 20 minutes to finally find an internet cafe. Once we were there, we were unable to check in for our flight as we did not have the Air France confirmation number (only Delta's which was different). We called Air France, and after 15 minutes of waiting on the phone, I was finally able to retrieve the number, only to discover that their website was down. We were both quite irritated as we knew that this meant that we would need to arrive even earlier for our flight the next day in order to have enough time to check in.
Next, we planned to take the Metro to the Jardin du Luxembourg. However, because the park was so far away in comparison to where Rue Cler was located, by the time we arrived, it was dark out and the gates to the park were closed. Feeling very frustrated and irritated, we decided to head back to Rue Cler and find a place for dinner.
We decided on a favorite of ours called Café du Marche. It's a small restaurant in the Rue Cler neighborhood that is frequented by locals due to their decently priced menu
options. We both ordered the chicken dish that came with mashed potatoes. The chicken and it's accompanied sauce was absolutely incredible; the French really have perfected the art of making amazing sauces. For dessert, I chose the profiteroles (pastry stuffed with vanilla ice cream and pastry cream with chocolate sauce on top) while Mike selected rice pudding (one of his favorites). My profiteroles were utterly delicious, and I made sure to slowly savor every single bite. Mike stated that his rice pudding was also quite tasty.
Afterward, we walked back to our hotel, both feeling stuffed but very happy for being able to experience a day in our favorite city of the world, Paris. Although we had not been able to see as much of the city as I had hoped for, I was not too upset as I knew we would be back again one year later in September 2009 during our month-long trip to France.
To try and provide a brief summary of our 3.5 week trip to Eastern and Central Europe is quite difficult. However, it was an incredible and amazing trip neither of us will ever forget. Things that stand out for us the
most are the beautiful town of Prague with it's horrid crowds, the ridiculously cheap food found in Krakow, the devastating but moving experience at Auschwitz, the solitude we felt in Eger as we were the only English-speaking tourists we encountered, the vibrancy and energy of Budapest, the natural and astounding beauty we found in Slovenia, the efficiency of Vienna, the incredibly quaint town of Cesky Krumlov, and our visit to Paris, which was comfortable, relaxing, and very familiar. Having the opportunity to visit so many countries that were once formally part of the Communist regime provided a huge learning experience for both of us. We were able to see first-hand that long gone are the days of the dreary and gray Communist cities; these places are now full of life and much has been done to clean up their cities, all of which are beautiful in their own unique ways. The architecture varies vastly from country to country,and sometimes even from town to town. We also learned that there really is no language barrier in this part of the world. Prior to our trip, we were concerned that we would have difficulty interacting with the native speakers in each country.
However, we quickly realized that people in Eastern European countries, especially Poland, speak English so much better than those in the Western European countries. You are so much more likely to encounter an employee at a train station in Hungary who speaks English, versus one in Italy or France who may speak none. In addition to the ease of traveling in these countries, another added benefit is the fact that most of the countries are still using their own currency, which allows for a more cost-efficient trip than what you would pay for one of a similar time frame in Western Europe. All in all, I can whole-heartily recommend a visit to any one of the countries we experienced and I know that we will someday return to each of the places and also make sure to add new cities and regions to our list.
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