Paris France…..Travel is as much about people as places. Though I failed to recruit anyone to join me in running the Reunion ultra-marathon, I was blessed that Jeff, my brother-in-law, would accompany me. Jeff is not a runner, but he is an avid hiker and we had previously completed a few stunning treks together, including Kalalau and the Knife Edge (ooh, there’s a splendid hike I need to write up some day). We planned on hooking up at Charles De Gaulle airport and due to an overnight layover, gather more people to explore Paris.
Rudolph and Jacomien, friends from The Hague and serious Paris devotees, had arrived the night before and expanded our party shortly after Jeff and I found each other. I was overjoyed at this reunion before Reunion, and introduced Jeff after exchanging hearty hugs with my Netherland friends. Keeping with Dutch sensibilities, Rudolph quickly steered us to the train station where we purchased all-day train passes. This was a brilliant suggestion, enabling us to scoot about Paris on a rainy day without drowning.
Though we remained dry rumbling under the city, there was no dodging precipitation if we wanted to glimpse the City of Light. But it was a grand time splashing about once we emerged from a terminal in the heart of downtown. A favorite memory was arriving at the Arc de Triomphe. Rudolph is a gifted photographer and I got a snap of him offering composition tips to Jeff’ while simultaneously sheltering both from the rain. What a tour guide
As for me, I earned Rudolph’s scorn by walking across the field of vision of a gaggle of photographers at the Arc – your typical ugly American. I was careful to avoid repeating my faux pas, but later it came in handy when Rudolph was trying to get me in a picture. “I see you are avoiding my camera,” Rudolph remarked, setting me up to reply I had recently been scolded for being in front of the lens!
We sat down to lunch after a short walk from the Arc and I had to laugh at the selections. I was the only person in our party who did not order French fries, lol. My amusement turned to regret, however, when Rudolph asked the waiter to bring mayo. This resurrected fond memories of tasty frites with mayonnaise my wife and I had relished during our visit to the Netherlands. I was left wishing I had joined the crowd…
Next up (and up and up) was the Eiffel Tower. We commuted towards the tower on the metro, though if you had the time and a sunny day, heading there on foot from the Arc is easily doable. Time constraints would also prevent us from getting to the top, with long lines telegraphing an excessive wait time. Regardless, getting to walk around the base of the artistic icon was fascinating, and the rain had even stopped.
We had a final destination on the tour, and thanks to Rudolph’s forethought there would be no fretting over long lines. My friend had scored advance reservation tickets for Musee d’Orsay. Here we would abandon Jeff, who bounded down the Seine to take in Notre Dame. The balance of our crew waltzed past an incredible queue to absorb as much beauty as possible in the few hours available. Clearly not enough to truly appreciate the cavernous quantity of wonders here, but I can assure you a little is way better than none.
While Musee d’Orsay is chock full of amazing paintings and sculptures, the structure housing this beauty is a treasure itself. A former train station, I loved the huge dial clock adorning the exterior. The guts of this huge machine are on display inside and the nuances of its construction would often catch my attention. No photography is permitted inside, but I have included a snap from across the Seine (and yes, Musee d’Orsay is on the Left Bank) so you may gauge the enormity of this venue. This is a marvel not be missed during you Pairs visit.
We rejoined Jeff outside the museum and concluded our day by attempting to address logistical concerns. For our first night on the island, Jeff and I had reservations at a “gite” on the slopes of the active volcano. On Reunion, gites are remote hostels typically hiked to over a multiple day trek. Our flight to Reunion had been delayed and we would not make the front door until very late tomorrow night. Concerned nobody would be available to let us in, we thought it best to advise our gite while able to enlist French speaking friends.
Rudolph made the first attempt, but found himself hampered by Reunion’s Creole dialect. Jacomien speaks French more fluently, but she also ran into the Creole road block after taking command of my cell phone. Then Rudolph got in touch with a buddy living in Paris for the last sixteen years, who graciously contacted the gite on his own dime. The final attempt similarly failed to crack the Creole barrier, but left an impression that it might be best to abandon the gite. I remained excited and refused to sweat uncertain lodging tomorrow night. Rather, I found relief in not stressing over how proper my pronunciations had been while struggling to learn some French!
Concluded the painful phone sessions with goodbyes to Jacomien, then Rudolph accompanied us back to the train station. He even rode along to ensure we made our final connection back to the airport (we were staying at a hotel there). A fond reunion and a brilliant introduction to the city Rudolph and Jacomien love. Familiar old friends had complemented a forthcoming adventure of strange new places.