We caught our train to Paris at the TGV (Train Grande Vitesse or Train Great Speed) station and this non-stop train to Paris was pretty fast – it got us there in about 2 1/2 hours. We were in a comfortable first class compartment – I had a window seat so I could watch the blue skies with fluffy clouds of Provence give way to gray skies with dark clouds as we headed north. It was a good predictor of the rainy wet weather that was in store for us once we arrived in Paris. Riding a train like this is such a lovely way to travel. Before the rain really started, it was nice to watch it all go by: the rolling hills, green fields, villages in the distance with red tile roofs, the meadows with sheep and other animals – sometimes with fences, but often with hedgerows to fence the animals in or define property boundaries. The further we got away from Provence, the more the countryside resembled the rolling hills between Munich and Augsburg and brought back all the lovely memories of the five years I lived in that part of Bavaria. The speed of the train made the countryside appear, at times, like an impressionist’s painting.
We arrived at Gare de Lyon – Lyon Train Station – and as we walked through the station, noticed and took pictures of the Le Train Bleu – a famous restaurant overlooking the train platforms, that opened in 1901, with grand arched windows, dazzling chandeliers, and wall to wall paintings and ceilings with scenes of Paris, the south of France and the French Alps. Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, and Salvador Dali were regulars of this restaurant that was also featured in the movie Mr. Bean’s Holiday. Le Train Bleu is on our list of 6 of the best historic restaurants in Paris, so maybe we will get to return this trip.
Taxis and sunshine greeted us as we exited the station. Lots of taxis lined the curb – but we took a chance on a young man who asked if we needed a taxi – knowing he was not an offical taxi driver. He offered us a cheap price and explained he works for a company Le Cab – that is kind of like uber but better. Since it wasn’t rush hour, it was smooth sailing through the Parisian streets and down the Seine River, past Notre Dame, Le Louvre, Museum D’Ordsay and many other landmarks. As soon as we saw the Eiffel Tower, we knew we were almost at our destination – Café du Trocadéro. We were meeting up here with someone coming in from Brussels and with the owner of our rented apartment, to get keys – and to take her up on her gracious offer to take our luggage to the apartment. The cafe, just across the river from the Eiffel Tower, had a magnificent view of it – and a magnificent price for lunch – a salad and 2 glasses of wine was 46 euro. Never again will we order so blindly. At least it was delicious – for me. The café is located on a very famous square, Place du Trocadéro, the site of the 1867 and 1878 World’s Fairs.
Under the clouds of Paris, we headed off…
first to the Grand Palais to check out days and times for a special Gaughin exhibit,
through the Tuilleries Garden past children’s carosels and food booths
then over for lots of window shopping on the Champs-Élysées
and up this grand boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe.
Even though each of us had been to Paris many times, no one had been to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and we were not disappointed. Despite the drizzle, the 360 degree panoramic view of this lovely city was spectacular. I had started to drag and asked to ride up in the elevator, so we didn’t have to climb the 284 steps. While you can’t count on the weather in January, you can count on there not being hordes of tourists- there were only 8 or 10 people ahead of us in line to buy the 12 euro ticket to the top of the Arc.
The walk “home” to our apartment was much longer than we thought it would be, and the rains became harder than a drizzle. We stopped in a shop for wine, a baguette, cheese, fruit, butter, jam, etc. so we a light dinner. We were very pleasantly surprised with the apartment at first sight! It is just as lovely and posh as it was on the VROB site where I arranged for its rental.