All Over Paris

August 15th, 2011

It’s already Tuesday here in Paris, and the Aggies are just back at their hotel in the 12th Arrondisement (or district) after a whirlwind day in the French capital.

Things started out with a boat cruise along the River Seine, and the weather could not have been more perfect–70 and clear blue skies. The cruise started out just a bit west of the city center, and carried the group underneath many of the famous “Ponts”, or bridges, and past almost every famous landmark the city has to offer. The boat drove past the city island, on which sits the Cathedrale Notre-Dame, then looped back and went all the way down to the base of the Eiffel Tower.

One of the interesting things was to see all the padlocks on the bridges as the boat went by. They’re put there by lovers who inscribe their names or initials, lock it to symbolize their undying love for each other, than toss the key into the River Seine. But then again, what would you expect from a city with as much “romantic flair” as any in the world?

From there the bus took the group to the world-famous Louvre. Buses are not allowed to park or drop off anywhere close to the museum on ground level, so they are sent down into the underground parking structure to let off passengers. I’ve never seen a parking lot like this–there had to be 100 buses all parked in spaces and any other spots they could make. Our bus driver, Max–he’s from the Bavarian region of Germany–did a heck of a job squeezing in and around other coaches.

Eric, our tour guide, then took whoever wished to visit the Louvre towards the “queue”, or the line, to get in, while everyone else went their way for the remainder of the afternoon. Some spent it strolling the Champs-Elysses, others walked the bank of the River Seine, still others visited Notre Dame. Monday was Assumption Day in Paris, a holiday based on the Catholic feast day celebrated every August 15th, so there were many people out on the streets and at the popular tourist attractions. There are actually “beaches” along the Seine, put in by the city, so many Parisians took advantage of the beautiful weather to get in a little sunbathing.

Dinner was at a beautiful French restaurant, Chez Francoise. It consisted of a delicious pea soup, a tomato and mozzarella salad, and a main course of steak and potatoes. There was a nice moment near the end of dinner, when senior Dash Harris got up and thanked the supporters who came along on the trip for everything they do for Texas A&M and for Aggie basketball.

Finally the team made its way to the world-famous Eiffel Tower. Getting there just at dusk made for some gorgeous pictures at the base–the kids spent a good 15 minutes taking pictures with their cameras, iPhones, iPads, you name it. Then we headed to the line and began the slow journey up.

You have to go up one elevator car to the first level, then another to the second, and then there are four elevators that take everyone to the top. The phrase “mass of humanity” was probably an understatement, people from every corner of the globe speaking every language were tucked in the tower all trying to make it to the top. I’d say it took a good hour and a half to get up to the very top, where we were treated to some marvelous views of Paris. One of the coolest things about the city is that there are really no tall buildings in that part of town, so every monument, or church, or palace stands out.

If there are lines going up, there are lines going down, and once many in the group got back down to the second level–including Coach Kennedy and family–they made a beeline for the stairs. 600 steps later, the Aggies were back on the streets of Paris, then to the hotel and finally to bed.

Tuesday (later today) is the final night in the city and also brings the final game. In the morning the group will head out of town a bit to visit Versailles. Until tomorrow, good night (or good morning) from Paris!

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