France and a Barge: An Introduction
Returning to Paris, France, on a beautiful clear and sunny day in October made my heart happy. The city was shining with brilliant light. Leaves in the Tuileries Gardens and on the Champs-Elysees were turning to gold. People were out in shorts and sleeveless dresses… again, this was in October! I expected the usual dreary gray of autumn in Paris but was surprised to find late summer weather.
I stayed the first night on the Left Bank. Loved my charming hotel, the Bel Ami, right in the middle of St Germain des Pres. I forgot how much I love this area. The Left Bank has such wonderful character. The cafes, the shops, the people! This is the district of writers, students, intellectuals. Walking past Cafe Les Deux Magots brought back memories of spending time, drinking cafe au lait over endless discussions with friends. That night I was whisked over to the Right Bank to have dinner with a friend at The Ritz Paris. This iconic and historic hotel has gone through a major refurbishment and is looking lovely. The Chanel spa, the swimming pool, the sumptuous rooms… all befitting a hotel named The Ritz.
Moving to my next hotel on the Right Bank, I checked into Le Bristol. I find this the most “French” of the Palace Hotels. Comfortable style but oh, so elegant. My spacious suite had a balcony with cafe table and chairs. The hotel has a resident cat! A beautiful white creature, very amenable to attention. Walking through this neighborhood one finds the most exclusive high-end shops and boutiques from Yves St Laurent to Hermes to Chanel. The day was so warm that my traveling companions and I were able to have lunch outside in the patio at Park Hyatt Vendome. This hotel is a stylish contemporary property with a great location near the opera and the Louvre.
We couldn’t miss seeing the Eiffel Tower light up with its twinkling lights as it does every evening on the hour, every hour. So, after dining at le Bristol, we headed up to Trocadero. We joined the crowd on the square near the Modern Art Museum, directly across from the Tour Eiffel. There was so much energy as the lights put on their five-minute show.
The next morning was surprisingly gray and damp, and on a Sunday, there was not much to do. We decided to take a ride on the Bateaux Mouche, the sightseeing boat that goes up and down the Seine River, past the most significant monuments. I’ve done this on the dinner cruise, which is definitely worth it. The day cruise was fun, but I would recommend nighttime, as the monuments are lit up.
We took the train (TGV) to Strasbourg. Fast, comfortable, and the speed was up to 315 kilometers per hour! We arrived to sunny and warm weather in Strasbourg, which is where we boarded our river barge, the Belmond Lilas, where we would spend three nights. I’ll tell you more about how the actual cruise went in a few days… stay tuned!