I wouldn't change a thing. That is what we usually say when we're asked if you can change something in the past but come to think of it, there maybe something I want to change. It's just that I would have wanted affordable and high resolution smart camera be readily available in 2003.
I had my first out of the country trip in 2003 and it was no ordinary first trip as it was in the historic and scenic Paris, France. Leading to the audit assignment in Paris, France I felt jinxed on foreign travels as even my US trip had been aborted due to visa issues prior to this one. It was surreal feeling being stucked in a KLM flight of to the land where the famous Eiffel Tower stands. Even if I had already set foot in Amsterdam, I still had the obscure feeling that something would go wrong like the immigration officer would somehow find a loophole to send me home. All went well and finally boarded my plane off to Charles de Gaulle airport.
It still felt like a dream as the cab was taking us to our Hotel in Champs Elyssee passing through the world famous Eiffel Tower and the historic Arc de Thriompe. The hotel was compact as real estate in this part of the world is quite pricey but it sits near the clients office and just a stone through in one of Paris main boulevard, Champs Elysee. And here begins my adventure in the world's most popular tourist destination and on my first foreign trip. It wasn't a dream and from sleepless nights prior to that catching the tax deadline in Manila, I woke up in Paris.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of Champs Elyssee and was constructed in the 1800 to honor those who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. There are sculptures around the Arc representing impressions of the battles it honors. We went inside the Arc and also on top of it wherein you get to see a view of the famous Eiffel Tower in the night sky. This led to our next crazy idea.
Since the Eiffel Tower was viewable from Arc de Triomphe, we went on to walk towards the Eiffel Tower and the first time was not a charm as we got lost in the process but lucky enough to find our hotel in the process. We did get to see Eiffel Tower the day after being properly briefed on how to go there. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognized structures in the world and was the first structure to go past 300 meters upon its construction in 1889. Since it stands out due to zoning restrictions in Paris, you can see the whole of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower. There's also a view deck in Trocadero nearby wherein you can see the tower dominate the Parisian sky.
Bateaux Mouches takes one to a cruise around Paris via a boat ride in the Seine River. Among the popular structures which can be seen from the cruise is the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and a replica of the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty is a gift from France to the US and in return Americans residing in Paris constructed a replica within the Seine River. You also get to see intricate carvings that says so much about the story of each bridge.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Completed by the 14th Century. Notre Dame is a fine example of French and Gothic infrastructure. It's also the backdrop of the book, the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The good part of this visit was that I was able to see the actual bell that Quasimodo rang and the Gargoyles that guarded the Cathedral. It does add to its allure being located beside the Seine River. Just beside Notre Dame, there are shops wherein you can buy the cheapest souvenirs in Paris.
On one of our weekends in Paris, we were able to have a picnic in Versailles with out audit client. Going back into history, it's the lavish lifestyle of the rulers of Paris that sparked the French Revolution. Lavish is an understatement going through Versailles as every intricate detail is really worth a fortune. There's an audio guide that helps you go over the area. There are also Hamlets located in the area which depicts the countryside alternative in terms of scenery and ambiance.
The world famous museum that houses Mona Lisa and if we get to believe Da Vinci code, also houses the body of Mary Magdalene. Those were the things I didn't know back then but was still lucky enough to visit the Louvre and take see the famous Mona Lisa Paintings. Post Louvre, it did give me a better appreciation of books that have Louvre as the center piece of their story.
Sacre Couer is a Basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is located at Montmarte, which is the highest part of the city. You get a higher view of the city from here and it is also beside the Artist's Village in Paris. I was able to buy 2 sketches worth 1 Euro each of Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral, which to this day is framed at our house in Baguio.
There's also a Disneyland within the outskirts in Paris, which fortunate for us is conveniently accessible via Metro. My trip to the happiest place on Earth in the world's most popular tourist destination. I was able to enjoy some disney shows (though some were in french) and a raiders in the lost ark ride. It was great to be in Disney and even if getting here almost had as taking a train to someplace else but it's just great to know the principles of the Metro as we were able to find our way back.
The best way in going around Paris is by foot. At spring, the weather was not hot nor too cold. The good part is that they have a well developed Metro System that can take you to even in the outskirts of Paris. So walk all you want and when you feel you're lost just go back to the Metro and go back to the line where your hotel is located. This is where I learned the concepts of traveling in a train system which came handy in my next travels.
We were pampered by our client with the best food Paris can offer from steaks, to pizzas, to pastas and to original Paris cuisines and others we were able to have it. Paris is a melting pot of several cultures so there's so much varieties. If we were on our own, we'd stuff ourselves with food on breakfast as this one was the free buffet and have McDonald's once the hunger pangs come in. We had to conserve our minimal per diem on not only on the world's most famous tourist attraction but also the one with the highest cost of living.
And the rest of the tour
We were also able to visit Chapel of the Miraculous Medal where we got to see the undecayed state of St. Catherine Laboure's body even centuries after her death and sainthood. We were also able to visit other Paris attraction like the Esplanade, Place Bastille among others. We were able to go to mass in Paris and it is where you get to see many Filipinos meeting together. Does the moonlight shine in Paris? Well, all I can say is that during spring, there's still sunlight even at midnight.
Almost a perfect tour around Paris but this blogged could have gotten more than a thousand words had I had all those clear photos from powerful cameras. It will be exciting to come back here once again and this time I'll be ready to take those shots of the splendid attractions in Paris. Let the universe conspire and bring me back to the land where the moonlight don't shine.
And here's another bonus
After 17 days in Paris, we decided to take an earlier flight to the land of the windmills - Holland/Amsterdam. It's always cool in Amsterdam as this place is actually below see level with the dam blocking the Amster River (that's how it got its name). Houses here are made of solid structures and in a funny way lean against each other as it's one of the drawback of being under sea level, the land tends to sink. It was nice to see shoe and cheese factory and the famous red light district.