There is a little ritual among air travellers whereby you arrive very early at the airport in an attempt to snare those elusive “good seats”. Our flight from Bangkok to Paris is only twelve hours but it’s overnight, so “good seats” are pretty handy. The nice lady at check in tells us that, by some miracle, there will only be about a hundred people on the plane tonight. It’s one of the new mega-planes so that means about six seats available per person. The extra bonus is the plane still has the full crew, all competing to serve the sweet older couple from Oz.
After an amazingly relaxed flight we finally descend over some of the most beautiful farmland I’ve seen towards a rather hazy Paris. From the plane windows we have a long distance view of the famous Tower standing isolated beside the river. It’s around 7:00am when we land but we suddenly realize we’re late. We’re not quite sure what we’re late for, but everyone around us is rushing somewhere. The feeling of urgency is everywhere – in the airport terminal, on the trains, in the streets. We learn pretty quickly to walk on the right to avoid jostling and stand to the right on escalators so others can sprint past to their unknown destinies.
The train from the airport drops us at Gare du Nord. This is the busiest train station in Europe, handling 190 million visitors per year. We’re a bit confused but finally manage to track down the ticket office, secure some metro passes, and get advice on the best route to our hotel. We then plunge back into the throng of rushing locals flowing down passages and up and down the many staircases between platforms to reach our first train. This is to be repeated at the halfway point, however we find that there is trouble at the station we are heading for and the train won’t stop there. A helpful local suggests we walk – “it is not far”. Ha! It does only take us about twenty minutes or so to walk to our hotel, but the well-meaning local has obviously never done this trip on a hot morning – with luggage.
Our internet selected hotel is quirky and the room is filled with really cute “character features”. After a short break we head out to explore the local area. We’re staying right in the centre of town so we are immersed in the atmosphere as soon as we step out the front door.
The Opera Garnier is very close so we add a tick to the bucket list and do the tour. What an amazing building! We spend what feels like hours marvelling at the marble staircase, the chandelier, an incredible reception hall and some of the most ornate décor anywhere. I break into an Aria winning rendition of Masquerade at one point and Nanette suddenly “remembers she is tired”. She says that all the travel and time change must be taking their toll so I apologise to the little crowd that was gathering in appreciation of my golden tones, swirl my imaginary cape, and exit stage droit (that’s French speak for right). Ah well, back to the hotel for an early meal and bed.