Arriving at Charles de Gaulle: Bienvenue en France!
CDG is as always, CDG:
the Friday morning sun and crisp December air only point out, at least to me, the incredible ugliness of the building. A grunting security guard, stamping our passports as we quickly glide through customs, is the only deterring factor to our arrival. Bienvenue en France?!
Our priority bags come up quickly and we walk a bit to grab the RER into Paris. Easy. No crowds, no hustle bustle. What gives? The only annoyances are the travelling bands of accordian players pumping out ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘La Vie en Rose’ for ready-money and the not paying or not paying attention tourists and hard-core locals alike. Only in France, we say to ourselves. We schlep easily through the metro and continue on towards the Hotel Delambre in Montparnasse, check in (our room is not ready yet), leave our bags and stroll the neighbourhood in search of direction and some lunch. A disappointing and very quick walk-through the Marche de Noel de Montparnasse leaves us even hungrier and unfortunately feeling a little jeg-lagged. We settle for a somewhat pedestrian lunch special at a local brasserie called A Saint Malo, wander the block and a half back to the hotel, check in and do a quick unpack and have a lovely snooze for an hour or so.
We learn that all of the museums in Paris are closed because the workers are on strike for higher wages. Again, only in France, we re-think to ourselves. At least the metro isn’t en greve.
After lunch, we amble through streets redolent of artists (think Picasso and Rodin) into les quartiers bourgeois (think the Eiffel Tower and Le Bon Marche). We buy new bow ties for our tuxes, and after gazing in astonishment at the wondrous Christmas windows of Le Bon Marche, which make anything we’ve seen back home look distinctly 3rd-rate, we take the metro to Le Marais to see the Christmas lights at Hotel de Ville (disappointing). After a late afternoon beer in a bar that we always seem to end up in whenever we are in Paris, we head to the Champs Elysee to see the Christmas lights – and are not disappointed at all. They are magnificent: the whole street is done up to the 9s, with shooting stars to boot. We stroll all the way to the Arch de Triomphe, then take the metro back to our hotel and grab some dinner before crashing and burning at about 9 p.m.
Bienvenue en France!