It takes only 2 1/2 hours by HiSpeed train from Rotterdam to Paris. The good thing about taking the train or the bus is that they take you to the city centre, saving you time and money getting there. Plus you get to see the countryside.
Friends who've been to Paris often tell me how beautiful and romantic the city is and they always look dreamy when they say it. Some can't go on, lost for words to describe The City Of Lights, and say "You have to go there yourself". I thought that I would say the same too, once I've been to Paris. But this was Paris, taken from the taxi:
Can be anywhere in Asia but Paris?? I was lost for words.
We set off for Notre Dame the church, not the hunchback. Hub gave me an incredulous look when I asked him where the hunchback was. I wasn't faking, I really thought he'd be up there with the gargoyles. Notre Dame was okay, not as spectacular as I had expected. Why is it that Gothic churches have all those demonic-looking creatures on the external walls, along with the saints?
First thing we ate was a crepe (euro2.50) with nutella spread. Was good especially in the chilly weather but crepes taste good everywhere, not only in Paris. By then, I was praying for Paris not to disappoint. We wanted to do the sewers tour which our daughter highly recommended (she'd done it with an architecture group in her 2nd year) but nobody understood us, some directing us to the public toilets. We finally got there but the place was closed because it was already 6 pm. And that's one thing we learnt. Just because the sun sets late (8:30 pm then) doesn't mean the visiting and shopping hours are extended.
The Arc de Triomphe (Arch Of Triumph) didn't disappoint but I felt Champs Elysee ("shahn zay lee zay") is over-rated especially since most cities now have great boulevards and stores. Tokyo comes to mind. We sat down at Paul, a bakery in the middle of Champs Elysee (right side of the boulevard, if Arch is in front), and had excellent criossants and pastries. And then when we finished, I noticed it: Laduree, the famous tea room for the best macaroons and cakes in Paris (Pierre Herme not withstanding; or at least that's what the guide books say), just across the boulevard from Paul. We crossed over but since we had just sat at Paul, decided to join the queue for take out. Thinking back, we should've sat down for coffee; it was super classy and elegant inside the tearoom, opened since 1862, 150 years ago. But sometimes you have to forgo such pleasures if time's short. We walked around, waiting for the Arch to be lighted and then when it did, we took the customary photos and left. We walked until my feet ached and trembled to get to the Eiffel Tower. In the end, we took the metro or was it the taxi, I can't remember. I don't think we ate dinner even because we snacked on this and that.
Excellent croissant and pastries. Croissants are best in Paris, hands down. In Italy, croissants are called 'cornetto' and are okay but the ones in the Hungary seem to taste of margarine or maybe inferior butter. I think Parisian croissants has spoilt it all for me.
I was told that photo-taking inside the shop was not allowed after I took this. Laduree is a must-visit, just to be awed by the exquisite fineness of the cakes and macarons. The prices are nearly twice as much as regular bakeries and tea rooms because you pay for all that class and the packaging. It was rather wasteful to throw away the celadon green boxes and the bag...
The framboise cake (euro 5.90) was very yummy, perfect, and I take back what I said about not liking macarons. These macaroons (euro 2.20/RM8.80 each!) were lightly crisp outside and soft inside with beautiful, natural flavors although I wish they were not so sweet, especially the cherry. I love the rose and the lemon ones.
Mille feuille (euro5.90) is one of my fav cakes, so I had one everyday when I was in Paris. They were all fantastic, deliciously creamy with crispy layers of crumbly pastry.
I looked like a beggar in my sweatshirt so I didn't visit the LV flagship store on Champs Elysee. Two person so far have told me that I've missed big time. I was approached by a Chinese woman on Champ Elysee who asked me to help her buy an LV bag. I'm not sure why but I've heard that LV bags are so sought after by the mainland Chinese that there's often not enough stock so each customer is limited to 2 pieces only. My mom would retort "Got money also cannot buy, what kind of business!"
The lights show was fantastic, worth the while. The lights show comes on at the hour every hour for 5 minutes only. The place was like a carnival although it was 11 pm, with lots of Africans selling toys and souveneirs and young people blasting music from their boom boxes. People were getting on the Seine River cruises but we didn't because I just couldn't walk anymore. It was chilly too. Also, the bus tour that we were joining the day after had the cruise slotted in. And that was a wrong decision, we found out.
Note: I just read in Wiki that Laduree is the inventor of macarons and that Paul also belongs to the group that owns Laduree : Ladurée is a luxury cakes and pastries brand based in Paris, France. It is known as the inventor of the double-decker macaron, fifteen thousand of which are sold every day. They are considered the third best macaron shop in the world, after a small unknown shop in Toulouse and Financier in New York.