Paris, First Day: Hotel and Walking

This is my first blog post about my adventures in Paris with Curtis around the end of February 2016. I posted in Week Nine about how this was my very first international trip and the very first time I’ve used my passport. Traveling alone didn’t scare me and I was super excited to meet Curtis in Paris. When he first told me he had to go there for business, I nearly cried. Not out of jealousy, but because he would be seeing the Eiffel Tower and other amazing sights for the first time, and I wouldn’t be by his side to share that experience with him.

I took the red eye from DC to Paris on United and slept most of the way. When I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport, I was first struck by how good everything smelled and how friendly the people were. The customs agent asked if I was traveling alone and was quite surprised when I said I was (he didn’t know that I was meeting Curtis later!); he said I should be careful, that some charming Frenchman would snap me up. Made me feel good. 🙂

I got my bag from baggage claim and found a taxi. I nervously gave the driver the hotel name and he didn’t recognize it so I had to pull up the address to show him. I wasn’t sure he actually understood but I put my phone away to enjoy the drive into Paris. I didn’t know it would take so long or be so incredibly congested with traffic. Seriously, reminded me of Austin… stop and go, stop and go. Motorcycles drive on the dotted lines in between lanes, weaving in and out of cars and trucks going very quickly… and wearing no helmets. Having never been in a foreign country before, I was like a country child seeing the big city for the first time. Every building, every street sign, every billboard, even the tiny cars and license plates, caught my attention and increased my sense of wonder and adventure. When we got into the city, my eyes literally filled with tears to see the beautiful architecture and streets. All the buildings have a very similar feel… from the height to the design to the balcony railings… everything was so old and beautiful. We pulled up to the hotel, the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador on Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement, nearly an hour after we left the airport.

Here’s a travel note for anyone considering going to Paris for the first time. I read about 100 blogs and the first thing you learn is that the city is arranged by arrondissements, or districts. Where you stay seemed to be of utmost importance and I stressed way too much looking at hotel options. The Marriott on the Champs-Elysées would have been amazing, but at over $700/night for a suite, it was too expensive. Staying in the opera district was a 35-40 minute walk or a 15-minute (traffic) taxi ride to the Champs-Elysées, and it saved us $400/night. It really doesn’t matter that much where you stay.

View of the Eiffel Tower

Having arrived so early, it was about 8 a.m., our suite was not ready yet. Curtis wasn’t due to arrive from Amsterdam for another few hours, so I was on my own. Because Curtis is a triple platinum (not really but yeah) Marriott rewards member, my luggage was whisked away and I was escorted to the Executive Lounge on the 7th floor. The concierge said it would be about an hour or so before our room was ready, so to help myself to something to eat and drink. I found a table by the front center window, set my bags down, and looked out. This is the first thing I saw. I didn’t even expect to be able to see the Eiffel Tower.

Paris travel tourist street photographer

The Generali Assurances

Then turning forward, this building was directly across from our hotel.

Paris travel tourist street photographer

I sat for a few minutes taking it all in. I was in Paris! OMG!

My tummy began grumbling, so I visited the breakfast area. They had fruit, croissants, cheeses, meats, and a self-serve coffee machine that made 10 different kinds of coffee. I made myself a macchiato and got a croissant and some cheese. And I sat. And sat. And waited. And waited.

Curtis texted at 10:30 and said he was on the ground and asked what I thought of our room… well, honey… it’s not ready yet. He called the front desk and 30 minutes later, the concierge came for me and showed me upstairs to our suite.

Um… wow.

Our Hotel Suite

First walking in, I was in a small vestibule with a coat rack, mirror, shelf, and bathroom. Double doors open into the main living area.

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel

Our Hotel Living Room

Everything was beautiful. Velvet furniture, silk drapes, softly patterned wallpaper. The colors were elegant, the furniture was comfortable, and the suite was spacious.

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel

Flowers From Hubby

On the table, I noticed a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. At first, I thought they were from the hotel, but then I saw a card… they were from my husband. I LOVE tulips and the peonies added a soft, feminine touch. Just exquisite. I am so lucky.

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel

Hotel Bedroom

The bedroom was off to the right and was furnished in the same elegant manner as the rest of the suite. The bathroom was a bit smaller than I expected with a separate shower stall and bath tub, and the shower was tiny tiny tiny. Like if you drop your soap, you have to get out to pick it up. The bed was incredibly comfortable and we slept so well. We heard no sounds from the hotel at all (well except for the first morning, there was a fire alarm at 6 a.m. which meant a long walk down 8 flights of stairs in my jammies).

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel

I walked through the suite, set down my bag, and then took a video to text to mom, Jenny, and the kids. Curtis called me and said he was on his way… and asked if there was anything special waiting for me? Oh yes. The flowers. He said there was one more thing that should have been there… hmm… I couldn’t imagine. Then he said he was pulling up, so I went downstairs to meet him. When we got back upstairs, there was champagne waiting in a bucket of ice with two glasses. <3<3<3

While downstairs waiting on him to get us officially checked in, I took some shots of the hotel.

Hotel Check-In

This is the registration and check-in area when you first walk in. I love the architecture, the light fixtures, and the big  art piece hanging from the ceiling. See Curtis standing over by the doors in the maroon sweater? I love that man.

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel

Hotel Lobby

This area is to the left of the registration. You can have meetings here or simply lounge. The restaurant is just off to the left in the photo.

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel

Hotel Bar

This is the hotel bar located to the right of the registration area. I love the continuity between all of the areas of the hotel. It was a beautiful place to stay.

Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel

Finally, it was time to go explore. I had taken a shower and changed and was ready to see the city. We decided to make our way over the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe, taking our time exploring while on the way.

Here Comes the Bus

So here we are, Curtis and I, on our first foray out into Paris. It’s Friday, early afternoon, the weather is in the mid-50s and it’s sunny. I know I’m going to take way too many pictures and I couldn’t be happier. At the first intersection outside of our hotel, I took this shot of a bus turning onto our street. I love that we can see the narrow side street, the buildings all alike, the reflection in the bus window, and the license plate on the car in the foreground.

Paris travel tourist street photographer

Haussmann Boulevard

Pivoting to the right from the photo before, we look west down Haussman Boulevard. Just past that red awning is a Starbucks. In this image, I love that we can see a local market van, a woman riding a bike (no one wears helmets), and a motorcycle in the foreground.

Haussman Blvd

Galeries Lafayette

Just a few blocks from our hotel is the Galeries Lafayette. Mrs. Monson, Jenny’s French teacher from high school, recommended this as a place to get a great view of the city. (Mrs. Monson was so incredibly sweet and put together a wonderful insider’s tour guide for Paris for us, it was so helpful!) I didn’t realize this was a huge shopping mall and now I regret that we didn’t wander inside.

Galeries Lafayette

Golden Statue Perches Atop

Everywhere you look, there is beautiful architecture. It’s really amazing and hard to put into words just how magnificent some of these buildings are. This is a side view of the Palais Garnier, and the golden statue on the left caught my attention… especially with the golden sun flare just behind it.

Golden Statue Perches Atop

Palais Garnier

This building is a piece of art in of itself! The Palais Garnier, also known as the Académie Nationale de Musique hosts beautiful operas and plays. Notice at the bottom of the image how the people gather on the steps. In the far left bottom, I think they were filming a commercial! Having now seen images on Google of the inside, I soooo wish we had taken the time to go inside and explore. Little did we know.

Academie Nationale de Musique

Crazy Intersection

This intersection is opposite the Académie Nationale de Musique. There were 7 or 8 streets coming into this square and the traffic lights work much differently than they do here in the States. Traffic goes through the intersection and stops just before the next pedestrian walkway, so cars are continually in the middle of intersections. There are no lanes, so drivers just make up lanes as they like. There was a lot of beeping!

Crazy Intersection

Side Street Shopping

As we wandered, we would see some beautiful side streets. Stores on the first floor with residences above. This street didn’t allow any cars and had upscale shops.

Side Street Shopping

Everything is Exotic

Initially, I had stopped to take a photo of the advertising sign located in the upper left. But then this beautiful, exotic woman in pink caught my eye. She looks so French to me… like out of a movie… and I was so pleased that the image turned out well after downloading.

Paris travel tourist street photographer

Swagger

And this gentleman… so well put together! The cap, scarf, bag, shoes… very nice. He walked with a bit of swagger. We saw very few fat people. No one in tennis shoes or sweatpants or t-shirts. Granted, we were not there during the typical tourist season, but I was self-conscious as looking very American.

Swagger

Bikes with Lovers in the Background

Paris invites you to explore by bicycle or motorbike. There were many, many cyclists on the roads, and lots of places to rent bikes by the hour. There were also many, many lovers on the streets… as you can see by the kissing couple just out of focus centered in the background. <3

Bikes with Lovers in the Background

So as to not overwhelm my readers with too many images at once (or slow down your browsers!), I’m going to limit each Paris post to about 20 images… so this is the end of my first post. I hope you have enjoyed our first few hours in Paris!

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