This week, I'm in Paris with my husband, and our nieces Molly (12) and Caroline (11).
Based on the trip so far, you'd never know there's a global recession on.
For starters, our Air France flight was overbooked. They were offering 400 Euros, plus overnight accommodations, to anyone willing to get on the next day's flight. We weren't. Nor were any of the kabillion Acton-Boxborough High School students on their April break trip.
In the line at passport control on Saturday morning, the American ex-pat behind us said that, in 35 years, he'd never seen such a mob scene of Americans at the airport.
Our first day - Saturday - was cool and showery, and we just walked around for a few hours, managing to avoid tourist areas, and just soaking up the atmosphere. For the girls, who refused to wear uncool rain jackets or hats, or carry an uncool umbrella, this also meant literally soaking up the atmosphere. Ah, to be 11-12! I, meanwhile, with my baseball cap, hooded rain jacket, and umbrella, remained perfectly dry and comfortable.
The high points for the girls on our first jaunt was the ubiquity of pharmacies. (They are everywhere.) And the availability of Haagen Dazs ice cream. (Let's hear it for an American export!)
The area around the Eiffel Tower has been crazily thronged. We haven't gone up yet - the lines have been too long - but as it is about a 5 minute walk from our apartment, we will drift over at some point and make the trip.
We did try to go on a Bateau Mouche tour of the Seine, but - after waiting in line for half and hour - the boat loaded up with about 1/3 of the passengers, said nothing to the rest of us, and took off mostly empty. They happily gave us our money back, but we were left thinking w.t.f.?
So far, our boat trip having been thwarted, our touristic things have been Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs Élysée.
I must say that Notre Dame is magnificent. Whatever the original looked like, nearly 1000 years ago, I'm sure that anyone's first trip in was met with shock and awe. Definitely easy to see how The Church and the royals managed to keep the peasantry in check.
We didn't climb to the top of Notre Dame. 400 steps just sounded like a bit too much, especially for someone like myself that has such a fear of heights, I wouldn't want to be a the top, anyway.
We did do the 284 stairs at the Arc de Triomphe, which was worth it for the panoramic view of the city.
As we walked down Les Champs Élysée, the girls asked to go into the Louis Vuitton store.
Cannily figuring that the one thing they could possibly afford with their supply of Euros was a key chain, we looked at those first.
Alas, the least expensive were in the $350-400 range.
We still poked around, looking at $2,000 pocketbooks, and $4,000 men's high top sneakers with the Vuitton logo on them. (As you can imagine, but husband was sorely tempted...)
Most of the people in Vuitton - which was mobbed - were, like us, Looky-Lous. However, there was plenty of commerce being transacted, and the clerks were all busy selling bags, watches, shoes, etc.
I told the girls that they could probably get knock-off Louis Vuitton anythings on eBay. (Yes, I know that the luxury goods companies are up in arms about trafficking in their brands. But seriously, folks, the consumers in the market for a $19.95 key chain were never going to buy the real thing now, were they? And then there's that bit about imitation and flattery...)
Anyway, we are off to the Louvre. Fortunately, I was able to get tickets at a FNAC (electronics) store, so we won't have to wait in line to join the hordes of American tourists racing through to see the essentials: Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother...
Au revoir for now.