Our first full day in France, and the weather was perfect. We understand that the spring has been wet and cold and this was the first nice day they have seen this year. Unfortunately, the weather forcast doesn't look very good going forward, but we had this day and it could not have been better. We started out with a wonderful breakfast. French bread and pastries are actually worth the trip over if all you ever do is eat. We ate breakfast at our hotel, which generally seems like a poor choice, but here the simple continental breakfast of bread, pastries, some fruit and cheese, and possibly some yogurt is very satisfying, and they serve a wondeful pot of tea. It's a great way to start a day.
Our hotel is a quick walk to most of the big museums. It is less than ten minutes to to Louvre. We hadn't planned to visit there yet - most museums in Paris are closed on Monday - except, it turns out, the Louvre. We have a Sunday and Monday at the end of the trip and they waive the ticket price if you visit on the first Monday of the month. I think we will go there next weekend.
Dana wanted to visit the Orangerie. The building was built especially to house an exhibit by Monet. He painted the whole thing, yards and yards of paint, just for the two main rooms. The museum also has an extensive collection of other Impressionist painters including, Cezanne, Monnet, and Renoir.
To get there, we walked through the Tulleries gardens. The iris are in bloom and the whole place is simply beautiful. Just like anywhere else they have a fountain in Paris, we saw crowds of people grabbing chairs to simply sit and watch the water. It's a funny sight, though it seems very restful
After the museum, we sought out Sacre Coeur, the big cathedral at the top of Paris. We didn't really think about what would be required to get to the highest point in the city. It turns out, you have to climb a lot of stairs. Lots and lots of them. But once you make it to the top and get your breath back, the view of the city is amazing. The cathedral itself is quite impressive, but much like other opulent cathedrals in Europe.
We found a subway entrance and went to Gard du Nord. We had made arrangements to travel to Arras to meet Maud Pischon, an exchange student from several years ago, for dinner. Train service in France is absolutely wonderful. The TGV is quick and quiet. What normally would take several hours to drive took only about 50 minutes by train.
Arras is a wonderful little destination city. It was decimated during the war, but was rebuilt by the Spanish community. Today it is a very clean city with tons of shopping and charming squares. We sat and had a drink in one of their cafés while we waited to meet Maud.
Maud arrived at the restaurant with her boyfriend, Olivier, in tow. He seems very nice, and he was pretty game for dinner with the Americans, even though he is not comfortable in English. I really wish my French were better. Well, I wish I could speak French at all. But the evening went well. The restaurant was very nice and Maud is always a pleaure.