Bullet Train and intro to Paris

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Europe » France
June 18th 2011
Published: October 22nd 2017
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Geo: 48.8566, 2.35097

(Sean here.)

This morning greeted us with a new form of transportation we had not experienced to this point in our trip – the bullet train. We were set to travel from Heidelberg, Germany to Paris, France which was expected to take between 2 – 3 hours. I was excited for a change from the bus just for something different, and was not entirely disappointed. We shuffled through our usual tour breakfast of cold cuts and cheeses mixed with oddities of unflavored yogurt and warm milk for cereal, and then were off to the train station. Manuel staged our stops through the station as he raced about getting tickets and researching the appropriate location for our group to line up for the train. Ultimately, a sleek magnetic train hummed into the station and our group of 30 obnoxious (at least that is how the Europeans looked at usJ) American tourist piled into the train, luggage and all.

Overall, the train was comfortable, but proved to be just another massive people mover. We did reach speeds up to 315 kmh (which I believe is nearly 200 mph) as we reached the rural area of France east of Paris. It was pretty exhilarating watching the landscape race by the window at these speeds! At approximately 12:30pm, we pulled into the eastern train station in Paris and headed towards our hotel. It is important to note we pulled into the eastern station – Paris is so large, it has a train station in each cardinal direction (North, South, East, and West) just to manage all of the incoming traffic.

The hotel was quite nice with free WiFi access and even a slight view of the Eiffel tower from our room if we craned our necks a little towards the left hand side of the window. From here, our bus driver from the train station drove us to La Defense metro station where our group experienced the RER system of Paris. The experience was rather surreal for Erin and I having been in the city nearly six years ago and felt oddly familiar. The Idaho contingent of the group jumped off near the Louvre as we did not have the extra one day extension that the South Carolina group had and would not have been able to do both Versailles and the Louvre if we did not squeeze it into that afternoon. That meant Erin
and I got to play tour guides for the afternoon.

After stepping out of the metro station, food was designated as the first order of business for the group and we set out for a lunch location. We found a little café near the Louvre entrance and enjoyed the likes of French Onion soup, Quiche, sausages, and a Duck patte that was not entirely expected (Carolyn thought she was ordering soup). Once the bellies were filled, we entered the Louvre with only about 1 ½ hours to spend before closing. We raced through the Denon wing to view the likes of the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, the Dying Slave, and the Venus Di Milo. Everyone stood awed as we rounded corners to great spanning hallways filled with larger than life, iconic pieces of art. Of course we wished we had more time to spend, but settle for the time we had and then departed to meet the rest of our group for dinner.

Dining this evening consisted of braised beef and potatoes in a modern restaurant called Le Boucherie in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Erin and I greatly enjoyed the meal as the beef was extremely tender with a commanding flavor.
Shakespeare and Company BookshopShakespeare and Company BookshopShakespeare and Company Bookshop

James Joyce filled some pages here!
We also requested a cocktail menu, but quickly changed our mind when we saw the prices – at least 11 euro (nearly $16) for one mixed drink! I settled for a 5 euro beer which was quite delicious and proved a good complement to the beef and potatoes. While dining, Erin was excited to discover the Shakespeare and Company bookstore next door and stepped over for a couple pictures and a quick purchase. James Joyce was obviously a prominent fixture of this bookstore as his books graced the front window and signs touted the time he had spent at that location pouring over books and producing pages of his own.

Manuel surprised us after dinner by taking us to Montemarte to watch sunset settle over the grand city of Paris. The hill to Sacre Coure and Montemarte was abuzz with life as peddlers tried to sell their wares to tourists, hippies drummed and sang in peaceful circles, lovers kissed and gazed out at the city, and throngs of tourists (including us) snapped pictures of the one of a kind setting. One new addition that we did not see when we were here last was the bike ramps that covered the steps from the top to the bottom of the hill – it was obviously set up for some event, but we had either missed it this day, or it would be happening the next.

Erin, Carolyn, Jared, Hannah, Kayla, and I left the group at the steps of Sacre Coure and walked over to Montemarte in search of an ATM. We took in the bustle of the crowd and the restaurants and ultimately found the cash machine we were looking for. The smell of fresh crepes hung heavy in the air and we found it impossible to resist despite telling Manuel we would be back in about 20 minutes. We stayed and treated ourselves to delicious chocolat and nutella filled crepes and then hurried back to the group about 20 minutes later than expected. Lo and behold, Manuel had already planned that for the evening so, following our return, the entire group of 30 walked literally to the restaurant next to the one we had just purchased crepes at and Manuel bought crepes for everyone. He looked at Erin and I with a half-grin, half-smirk and whispered "You naughty people ruining my surprises". There was a hint of respect in doing so as he found out the first day he met us that we are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to traveling.

We ended the day by walking down the hill to see the famous (or more likely infamous) exterior of the Moulin Rouge, and then boarded the RER back to our hotel.

Additional photos below
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21st June 2011

So jealous! Enjoy that deliciousness, boys!
23rd June 2011

Yahoo for Europe, sounded like a great trip. Welcome back.

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