After 12 hours in the air, we arrived in Paris at about 6:30am this morning (Paris time). None of us slept very much on the flights, so we were quite tired when we got off the airplane. That all changed when we stepped out of the airport and began to flag a taxi. The temperature was in the teens and the wind was cold. We were wide awake now and ready to take on the city. That was a good thing since we could not check in to our hotel until 2pm and Laura (our exchange student/ tour guide) did not get out of school until about 5pm. So we left our luggage at the hotel and did went to the first place any tourist in Paris would want to go........ McDonalds! Sorry, but we were cold, it was close and we really just wanted a cup of coffee before spending several hours on our feet. BTW, McDonalds in France is NOTHING like McDonalds in America. The menu is different, the decor is different, and the food is very different.
So at about 9:30 we worked up the courage to venture out into the cold and tour the city. The area we are staying in is a small but wealthy neighborhood on the edge of downtown Paris. The area is full of open markets, shops and restaurants. Knowing we would tour the major landmarks with Laura over the weekend, we were just looking for the closest thing we could find to help kill time. The closest monument was Champes Elysee so we pointed ourselves in that direction. On our way, we stumbled upon a beautiful Catholic church. Partially out of curiosity and partially because we were freezing, we walked over to the doors to see if they would open. With one tug, the doors opened up to reveal a beautiful domed sanctuary with massive stained glass windows along an entire wall. We spent a few minutes touring the church and were greeted with only smiles and polite comments from the few people we ran into within the building.
Now back in the cold to find our monument. After much effort weaving in and out of the streets we found the Champes Elysee or Arc de Triomphe and it was beautiful. It rested in a central area where no fewer than 10 streets intersected at one of those confusing "roundabouts" like the one in European Vacation. Thank God we don't have to drive while here. As we arrived, we discovered that we could not possibly cross all of the traffic to get to the monument. The only way to get there was through an elaborate underground tunnel system that also serves the downtown subway system. It was definitely worth the hour long walk and the numb fingers and toes.
So we headed back towards our hotel with a plan to stop and eat lunch to kill the final few hours before checking in to our hotel. For lunch we found a quaint little local cafe where we met a nice english-speaking waiter who translated the entire menu for us. Faith and I played it safe, but Brittany decided she wanted something authentically French. Despite several warnings from the waiter she ordered something he described as a French delicacy. As it turns out, it was stomach wrapped like a sausage. The smell was horrible and although I did not taste it, the flavor didn't appear to be much better. But like a trooper, Brittany ate most of it and did so with a smile..... The creme brulle we had for desert would help redeem the term "French delicacy" in our mind.
After lunch, we checked in, took a nap, and waited for Laura to get out of school. When she arrived, it was so good to see her. She truly is like part of our family. After a little discussion, she walked us to her flat (apartment) which was only about 10 minutes away. Oh and as we were leaving, Marie (the German exchange student who had lived with Brittany) arrived. We checked out Laura's apartment and then road with her father downtown for dinner. He took us on the scenic route which allowed us to see the Champes Elysee (now at night) and the Eiffel Tower. We got out for a few minutes to take pics of the tower, but only lasted about 15 minutes due to the weather. We got some beautiful pictures though.
Dinner was at a fancy restaurant in Downtown Paris. The food was wonderful and the company even better. We spent our entire dinner remanicing and laughing about the times when Laura was staying with us and Maria was staying with Brittany's family. It was a great evening with great people in a beautiful city while on our way to pick up our beautiful new babies from the Ukraine. The only thing more I could ask for would be to have the rest of my family here with me, but I know they are all back home preparing for our families growth. As I go to sleep tonight, I can't help but think that we are truly blessed. WE ARE TRULY BLESSED!!