For a last-minute work trip, I flew to Paris. Always have your passport at the ready. Before commenting how tough life is for yours truly, please realize international travel can have challenges (but never think seeing the world is a chore, it’s a gift). From wheels down on the runway, I knew I had twenty-four short hours to spend in one of the world’s greatest cities, with a little work sprinkled in for good measure. Despite a short turn, I had a plan. A little prep work is good.
Here, I had a brief client meeting, a connection through Dulles International, and flight across the Atlantic. To make the most of your time, realizing the quick turn, optimizing sleep is paramount. Before sweet dreams, I set my alarm for an early rise. Ran an extra two miles before sunrise. And I refused to drink coffee that morning. When the plane’s wheels flew up for the Paris leg, I bedded down for the night, which is challenging with distractions abound. Marvel movies. Last-minute emails. Gourmet meals. Long conversations with your new best friend in the adjacent seat. Instead of feeding the temptation, I put my hoodie on, wore my sunglasses, leaned back, and closed my eyes. I willed the sandman to come.
And I did for most of the flight. Throughout, I tossed and turned like a colicky baby. Sleeping for hours in coach is no easy feat, at least for me, with passengers coming and going, true colicky babies (not the pretend kind, referencing myself), and a glowing Han Solo flying the Millennium Falcon on one in five seats.
When I landed, I followed the signs and walked to the official taxi stand. Stay away from anyone who advertises a private ride for 100 Euros as the cab ride from the airport into the city ran 55 Euros. I was by myself for the hour ride checking email and taking in the sites and sounds. Just in case your credit card doesn’t realize you are in Paris, I would recommend carrying the equivalent in Euros. Not all cabs have electronic readers (there is an ATM on the way to the taxi stand).
On the way to the hotel, I made a quick stop at Cafe De Flore. The Louvre is great; however, this is the one place I wanted to visit in Paris. I last went in 2006, and I can attest the menu, decor, and service hasn’t changed. If you haven’t tried true Drinking Chocolate, this is a guilty pleasure worth the trans-Atlantic flight. This elixir of the gods cost eight Euros. Technically, I could say it’s true cost is the airlines tickets plus cab ride plus hotel. Yes, this melted Hershey of a drink is that good.
As you take the sites in from the sidewalk cafe, I also highly encourage taking notes on a long form notebook or reading a tattered paperback. Hemingway and Fitzgerald wrote here, and the place maintains the vibe (guessing here). Taking a few glances, there were MacBooks and iPads on the tabletops, but it encouraged me to see readers taking in Tolstoy. I’m glad some places maintain the charm, refusing to bend to a new style. Hemingway could order a drink, jot down a few ideas, and feel at home. Starbucks this is not.
After this quick pick me up, I suited up at the hotel and journeyed to a quarterly business review. This time, I grabbed an Uber. I’ve never been a fan of the service in certain cities, Geo-location struggles in a large metropolis. I find these applications are almost unusable in New York. If you don’t speak French or Arabic, communicating current location can be a challenge. As a transplant Nashvillian, I can attest the English language started across the pond and ends in the hills of Tennessee. Never insurmountable, patience is key, but I felt grabbing a cab proved easier.
With a full day’s agenda finished, I grabbed dinner at a cool spot. The picture alone is worth the stop or a stay. At the picture‘s edge, changing rooms line the Olympic style pool.
Then, I took a midnight tour of the Eiffel Tower. Despite not returning to France in ten plus years, I remembered how to get around fairly easily. The city has one of the best layouts in the world. What has changed is the congestion. Traffic is a beast. This is a city of ten million plus and the strain shows at certain times of the day. I found getting around easier at night. Grab a cab and go monument shopping with ease.
To close out the night, I finished a second drinking chocolate and then made a late night stop at Notre Dame De Paris. For whatever reason, I thought the old cathedral was smaller. This is a feat of engineering from another age, a testament to society’s prowess. They don’t build them like this anymore.
At day’s end, I found my way back to the hotel and shut-eye came with little effort. The next morning I stopped at a corner bakery before making the dash to the airport. Despite being jammed into a duffel bag, my crepes and loaves made the flight without getting crushed. How’s that for French bread on demand?
Oh, Paris. It has been too long. Next time, I plan to stay a little while longer.
Until we meet again.