Paris, France: November 2016

Paris.  Save the best for last, right?

We left Amsterdam early in order to have most of the day to do stuff once arriving in Paris.  We took the high speed train and I was so excited at first thinking it was going to be some cool new French train but it ended up being the exact same train that we have in Korea, which I guess makes sense since Korea bought the trains from the French.

Our AirBnB that we were sharing was just two subway stops away from Paris Nord, so we got our subway cards (well it’s not really a card, more like a small slip of paper) and headed over.  We met our AirBnB host and he let us inside and we then realized that we made the right choice in choosing that over a hotel.  The building we stayed in is apparently over 600 years old and was literally in the middle of everything.  3 blocks from the Louvre, 3 blocks from Notre Dame, right next to a subway stop, a block away from Pompidou, etc.  It was really, really fantastic.

Our host made a wonderful recommendation for a late lunch, we were looking for croissants and wine but he said few places will serve both, so we opted for the wine.  The menu was entirely in French, and we quickly realized that nothing was bilingual in Paris.  Anywho I ordered the only thing I recognized, foi gras, and John and Andy were a bit smarter and pointed to food they saw elsewhere in the restaurant and got steaks but either way I was really happy with my food choice.  It was excellent.  That plus the bottle of wine?  I just chose a random bottle from the menu that I knew how to pronounce and it came out great.

Not every day is clear in Paris, I think sunshine is far more rare than clouds, so we rushed over to catch some pictures before the sun set because there was no guarantee that there would be sun the next two days we were there.

As we were walking to Notre Dame we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel.

Love the architecture.

Notre Dame.  I have only known it from pictures and I was very glad to finally be able to see it in person.  What a stunning piece of art – they let you go inside for free, so we also went inside and looked around.  It’s more or less been under construction off and on for over 800 years – quite amazing.

As light was fading we hurried to the subway and headed to the Eiffel Tower.

Unfortunately they tore up the lawn in front so….

Of course I want to go back to Paris but I don’t know when I’ll make it, so we had to do the tourist thing and go up to the top.  (but 17Euro is really steep I must say)

But we didn’t anticipate the line.

We had wanted to catch sunset but the line was a bit too long, so we had to settle for night – either way it was fine.  The view was still incredible.

I have to say… It was an amazing experience.  Watching the spotlight on top move around and around while looking at the lights below and pointing out landmarks that we recognize – truly special.

Upon descent we found a local place to eat as it started raining, so we ate Italian and had a bottle of wine.  From there we headed back to near our apartment, and caught the subway but got off early to walk the rest of the way.

The next morning we had to get what we had wanted before, which was…

Since we were only 3 blocks from the Louvre, we walked over!

That’s the Eiffel in the background.

While seeing the art in the Louvre was something we definitely wanted to do…. What was really phenomenal was the architecture of the building itself.  This is an elevator.  Well the middle piece is an elevator.

The main reason why I wanted to go to the Louvre was Mona Lisa, so we headed towards the art but ended up in sculptures, Then in something-century Renaissance art, but ultimately I was glad that we ended up that way because we saw some really, really cool stuff with minimal crowds.  When we eventually made it to Mona there were literally a billion people walking through and it wasn’t as special of an experience.  I mean they even have signs that say “this way to Mona” it’s that popular.  You’ll see momentarily.

On the way to see Mona.

Can you guess which one is Mona?

Besides the crowd, it was crazy to see in person mainly because it’s just such a well known piece of art, and to see the real thing in person?  Crazy to think about.

You could spend weeks in the Louvre, but alas we had to get on to other things…

For reference…

Bye Louvre!

Since it was Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is about food, we grabbed some Parisian snacks and had some wine before heading out again.

No visit is complete without the Arc D Triumph.

For pre dinner drinks we stopped at Paris’ oldest champagne bar and bought a bottle of… Champagne, although I don’t know what kind it was because the list was over 70 bottles long.  So we went with a recommendation.

After that we walked to dinner, and passed the Eiffel on the way.

Our first choice had no space because they’re apparently reservations only and are booked through next Tuesday.

Our second choice was also booked but only spoke French.

Our third choice was a random restaurant we passed on the way, which looked snazzy enough for Thanksgiving dinner, but by this point it was passing 9pm and we figured restaurants were going to start closing soon.

So we ordered a bottle of wine and I had the sea bass.  Dessert was good too.

 

The next morning we grabbed our Parisian breakfast and headed over to Pompidou, which was also only 2 blocks from our apartment.

Pompidou is an art gallery but was the first building to have circulation be the main architectural feature, and is also known for using building systems such as water and HVAC be designed in such a manner.

View from the top

The art gallery was a ton of fun to walk through – we only went through one gallery though, due to time.

Moving on, we jumped on the subway to check out Luxembourg Palace.

And then kept going towards the Catacombs.  I didn’t know what we were getting into but….

On the way, streets of Paris

I’ll just leave this one image.  Due to the plague and the lack of space in cemeteries, they literally dug up graves and stored the bones this way.

By this time it was dinner time, so we grabbed the last item on the “must eat” menu.

So here’s where the story takes a turn.

Since I’m into planes, I follow several “aviation” pages on instagram.  Starting on Thursday I was seeing that Lufthansa was on strike, but they were expecting it to resolve on Friday.  On Friday I continued to check my flight status and the status of the strike, and my flight continued to show as scheduled and on time until dinner time when they finally canceled the flight.  I had a good indication that the strike would continue through Saturday, or even if it resolved we may have issues with either our connecting flight or our flight back to Seoul – either way my suspicions were confirmed that night.  The issue however was that Lufthansa never told us that our flight was canceled – in fact I doubt they would have told us at all.  So we decided to be proactive and call Lufthansa.

Well, the SIM I had was data only so I had to call via VOIP, which few apps are free.  I found one that was and called, and after 50 minutes of being on hold I got through.  They were able to rebook me on Asiana direct but they could not tell me how many seats were available; furthermore they could not process the change for Andy or John, instead they would have to call in themselves and wait in line due to “high call volume” I couldn’t hand the phone over to them even though they were waiting along with me.  So not only did we not know if there was space for all of us, they would have to continue to wait for a representative.  We then tried the trick for getting through call waiting lists faster – if you call another country that the airline operates in they can still help you, and usually speak english.  So Andy called Mexico and John called Canada, and while Canada’s waiting period was a bit shorter than for me calling the US, Andy got through within 10 minutes to Mexico and was able to rebook his flight.  But in that time the last seat was taken and John was told that he was confirmed on Asiana, but really he was confirmed for the waitlist and didn’t have a seat, so by the time he called again the other flight option he could have taken via Switzerland was also booked and Air China via Beijing was his only option.

Nobody willingly flies with Air China.

In summary, I really think that Lufthansa seriously botched the strike and didn’t take care of their passengers very well.  Lesson learned is if multiple people are flying together, connect the itineraries.  Second lesson learned, stop flying with Lufthansa.

So that whole ordeal ended up taking over two hours and put a damper on our evening, so we tried to make up for it by grabbing some drinks out on the town but it really was a bummer.  Thanks, Lufthansa.

The next morning John had to leave early to catch his flight, so it was just Andy and I.  We had to check out of our AirBnB, so we did and then were stuck with our bags walking around which wasn’t pleasant so in the end we went to the airport early.  We were also worried that the flight was overbooked, so we wanted to ensure we got a seat and we could only do that at the counter.  So our Saturday in Paris was kind of “blah” because of the whole flight situation…  Another interesting weird thing was they really gave us a hard time about our work visas, when technically you can enter Korea for up to 90 days without a visa so why they couldn’t fathom that is beyond me.

I will say that the Star Alliance Lounge in T1 at the airport is pretty snazzy.

Thanks Asiana for pulling through!

Final thoughts:

I absolutely loved Europe.  I’m also glad we did Chernobyl in the beginning, because it made us appreciate other parts of Europe that much more.  This was my first “real” vacation trip to mainland Europe, and it made for a wonderful experience because it was a bit off the tourist season and I was able to go with good friends.  Will I be back?  Definitely, I wouldn’t miss it.  This trip made for some very good life memories that I’ll remember forever.

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