Day 4 – Leaving on a Jet Plane
Today was sadly our last day in Paris, but with a flight that only departed at 11:30pm, we effectively had the entire day to mill around and visit anything which we’d missed and/or felt like revisiting. We prepped for the day and then arranged to leave our luggage in the hotel’s bag store until our return. Rue Cler was on the menu for breakfast, where we sat and ate and watched the Parisian world go by one last time. We also visited L’hôtel des Invalides and lounged on the Esplande des Invalides (aka the big grass patch out the front of des Invalides).
Strolling across the Esplande, we turned and walked along the south bank of the Seine towards Pont de la Concorde, where we crossed the river into the square – Place de la Concorde. We’d visited here on our Day 2 Segway tour, where our guide informed us that the square had been where guillotine executions were hosted during the French revolution, with two of the most famous beheadings being those of King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.
Guillotines long since removed and a gifted Egyptian (Luxor) Obelisk erected in the centre of the square where one particular ‘Louisette’ once stood, Place de la Concorde is a now a tourist hotspot and the finishing point of the Tour de France. It has unrestricted views up the Champs Elysée to the Arc de Triomphe and marks one of the entrances into the Jardin des Tuilleries. It also has two matching maritime themed fountains.
History lesson concluded, we shuffled up the Champs Elysée in desperate search of a public restroom facility. 80 cents later, relieved and a spring returned to our steps, we completed our journey using the metro to La Défense. Emerging from the metro station below, La Grande Arche looms overhead and is a definite focal point in this contrastingly modern business district of Paris. The Arche lines up along the ‘Axe Historique’ with the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysée, the Luxor Obelisk, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (close to the Louvre) and finally the Louvre pyramid – decidedly Da Vinci Code-ish.
With our time drawing to a rapid close, we headed back to Hotel Aiglon for a final and slightly despondent ‘au revoir’, collected our bags before catching the RER to Charles-de-Gaulle airport. It’s quite a journey on the train (take no prisoners when it comes to getting a seat), however I can imagine that it is still a lot faster (and cheaper) than a taxi.
Day 4 (later): The Last Supper
We arrived at the airport with ample time to spare (3 hours) before our flight and stood in the check-in queue whilst several lots of Far Eastern tourists attempted to repack their check-in baggage (something about stray dog meat?) and a French family jumped to the front of the queue after unhooking one of the barriers. The latter wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it hadn’t been for the air of indifference surrounding the situation – they were in no rush and the smug expression on the guy’s face as he looked back toward us ‘plebs’ in the orderly queue made me want to take his handlebar moustache, pass it around his waist and tie it in a secure double-bow around his crown jewels. No whistle required to attract attention. The nerve of some people.
From an architectural and engineering point of view, I’m a big admirer of Charles de Gaulle airport with it airy and ultra-modern terminals buildings. It’s a behemoth of an airport to navigate around, but if you’re not in a rush it is plain sailing.
As we hadn’t stopped for dinner in the city, suspecting that there would be half decent places to eat airside (we were sorely wrong), we wount up at an illy coffee shop, where it cost me €30 (!!) for two microwaveable pasta dishes (you even had to microwave these yourself) and two drinks. The best thing about it was the view out the window of the aircraft aprons.