We needed to pick up Adam and Liz from Aéroport Paris–Charles de Gaulle (Charles de Gaulle – Paris Airport – CDG). We were off on the Métro de Paris (subway) to the RER (Réseau Express Régional – Regional Express Network) “B” line to its final stop at the International Terminal at CDG. The airport is a city unto itself, it is the seventh busiest airport in the world, the second busiest in Europe, and handles in excess of 61 million passengers annually. Our fear was that we had never met anyone arriving at CDG before and had visions of Adam and Liz wandering in “airport limbo” for hours until we could locate them. However the airport staff was very helpful and we simply waited at the arrival gate for Delta for Adam and Liz to clear Customs and Passport control. Thirty minutes after their plane set down we saw their happy, jet-lagged faces.
There are many approaches to dealing with jet-lag. Adam and Liz wanted to power through the day. So back on the RER and Métro to the hotel to drop off bags and then back on the Métro to Île de la Cité, the island the River Seine, to explore Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Notre-Dame Cathedral).
Notre-Dame is celebrating its 850 year anniversary. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (French for “Our Lady of Paris” – Notre-Dame Cathedral) is a historic Roman Catholic Marian cathedral located on the Île de la Cité. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is among the largest and well-known churches in the world. The cathedral’s treasury is notable for its reliquary which houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.
The Cathedral’s stained glass windows were amazing and the quality of the colors has to be experienced to be believed. The Flying Buttresses on the exterior walls were graceful and added to the beauty of the exterior. We could have spent days exploring the architecture and art inside Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.
After a quick lunch and several glasses of wine to fortify ourselves, we started walking along the Left Bank of the Seine heading toward Les Invalides. In retrospect the Métro would have been faster and easier on our feet, but every block held amazing architecture or public art.
Finally reaching L’Hôtel National des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids), informally known simply as Les Invalides, we find a large park and series of buildings dedicated to French Military history and veteran. The complex’s name comes from its original purpose as a hospital and retirement home for war veterans. There are three museums on the grounds, the Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum), Musée des Plans-Reliefs (museum with three-dimensional models of battles), and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine (Museum of Contemporary History which started as the Library-Museum of the War.) Located on the site are the graves for many of France’s war heroes, including Napoleon Bonaparte.
From Les Invalides we could see La Tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower) through the surrounding buildings, our next stop. We had made reservations to go up into the tower for this evening as it was the only time available. Reservations fill very quickly to go to up to the observation areas.
The wrought iron Eiffel Tower is named for engineer Gustave Eiffel who built the tower as an attraction to the 1889 World’s Fair. Originally intended to be a temporary attraction, but it quickly became the iconic symbol of France and Paris that remains today. The Tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the second tallest in France. At 1,063 feet it is taller that the Washington Monument (555 feet) and Space Needle (605 feet) and was the tallest structure in the world for 41 years until the Chrysler Building was completed in New York in 1930. (With its current communication antenna the Eiffel Tower is currently 17 feet taller than the Chrysler Building.) “Impressive” and “awe-inspiring” are perfect descriptions as the tower is much larger than we expected. We arrived at twilight to be able to watch night fall over the “City of Light” from the observation platform. At 11 pm we were also treated with light show of lights sparkling all over the Eiffel Tower.
Adam and Liz had by now been awake about 48 hours straight, so it was now time to head to the Métro to get them some well deserved rest. Passing dozens of unlicensed souvenir hawkers, each offering the same wonderfully cheesy, glowing, blinking Eiffel Tower models, we finally made it back to our hotel in the Montmartre district. The “last chance to get a blinking Eiffel Tower” had already become the humorous theme to the kids’ trip. It would continue until they left, with a comment about maybe being able to get one of the most desired souvenirs in Paris before they got on the plane to return home.