So this is a blog about Japan. But on occasion, my job gives me the opportunity to travel from Japan to another country. Last month, it was a trip to Paris, France.
My wife traveled with me on this trip. I had a week of meetings, then we took a few days of vacation to enjoy the city. We’ve been to Paris before, but the last time was several years ago. It was a good chance to see a city we really enjoy. Here’s how it went.
First of all, it’s a long trip from Tokyo to Paris. 12 hours of economy class Air France, to be exact. The flight crew works hard to make it as pleasant a journey as possible. But it’s a long trip.
Being familiar with Paris, we opted to take the subway from Charles de Gaulle airport to our hotel in the city. We managed to navigate the ticket machine with no problem, and we were on our way.
After being immersed in Japanese culture, and trying hard to learn some Japanese, it was a bit of a struggle to recall the limited amount of French I have learned in the past. Strangely, I found it easier to read French this trip. I think it is because there are some similarities with English, after being used to struggling through Kanji and Japanese grammar. Still, my ability to converse in French is infantile at best. Je parle un peu francais. Fortunately, most Parisians speak some English, and we got along just fine.
During my business meetings we stayed at a typical large business hotel. Nice, but extremely expensive. At the conclusion of business, we moved to a small hotel in Montparnasse, the Hotel des Bains. A small, quaint little hotel in a quiet neighborhood, it was our third stay there. Nothing fancy, but very Parisian. From there, we walked and took the subway across the city.
There is so much to see in Paris that we only went to some of our favorites in the short time we were there. In particular, we enjoy Promenade Plantée, an elevated park converted from an old railway bed. Another favorite is Montmartre Cemetery, established in the early 1800s. It’s a fascinating look at Parisian history, and a quiet and relaxing place to spend the day. And we wandered to Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower, Musee D’orsay, Arc de Triomphe…a good look at some of the highlights of Paris in a few short days.
Of all the things I enjoy about Paris, the one thing I don’t like is the cigarette smoke. It seems like everyone in Paris — EVERYONE — smokes. In restaurants, at sidewalk cafes, walking, driving… cigarette smoke is everywhere. I realize it’s a cultural thing, and I try to deal with it as part of the experience. But really…smoking stinks!
But the end of the vacation came very quickly and it was soon time for the trip back to Japan. It’s a pleasure to visit Paris. The history, the culture, the food, and the atmosphere… Paris is a unique and interesting place to experience.