Paris with Kim and Rintaro

Two days after Afghanistan and a day after Amsterdam, I found unbound energy in my bones to drive down to Paris to see Kim and Rintaro.  Guess what:
The tour de France is happening today downtown and the spectators are everywhere even without Lance Armstrong.  It's like being in Times Square for New Year's Eve -- Lucky, Lucky!

As wonderful and memorable as the trip was it didn't start out too hot.

First the drive from Mons -- it took me forever to pack and check out of the hotel.

Second, I drove all around Paris looking for Kim and underestimated everything.

Kim sent me an email this morning and asked me to meet her and Rintaro at the Paris Marriott by 1:00 pm.

Well gues what, at 1:00 pm I had just driven into the city and was utterly driving in circles around this sacred city.

I stopped to call her cell phone but couldn't get through. Her cell phone was from HK -- Oh no, this wasn't good.  It was not like being lost in DC or in an American city where you knew people or you could call, text or email.  I had none of the above and didn't have an Iphone (since it was stolen from me a month ago).

No matter how many times I stopped to ask for directions, the nice people I met either couldn't or wouldn't speak any English.

Then I remembered that as a general rule, I should be prepared to speak just a little French when in Paris, but after being in Belgium yesterday, Amsterdam the day before, and Afghanistan just two days ago, it all started becoming a blur.

Finally, I was able to decipher some sketchy directions written on a napkin from some poor soul I nabbed at a restaurant and a las made it to the famous Marriott but there was no Kim -- Well, what did you expect, I was over 2 hours late.

While at the Marriott, I got a chance to see the setup for the 95th Tour de France, covering 21 stages and 3,500 km.  Today, the champion bikers would be racing down the Champs-Elysees.

After calling and calling again, I finally reached her and we agreed to meet by the metro station near the museums at 4:30 pm.  I rushed to get there because I knew it would take every waking second.

When I finally got there by 4:15 pm, I tried calling again.  This time couldn't get through.  I called and called and even tried several different pay phones.

No luck, No joy, No Kim.

As luck would have it, as I was exiting my 6th and final phone booth, I heard a sound: "Chito". It was lil Rintaro running towards me, scolding me for being late. 

I've never been happier being scolded.

Needless, to say, we had a great time, visiting around the Eifel Tower, running around like we were in DC, and all throughout this wonderful city that has turned out to be my favorite so far in this European Excursion.

Paris is an amazing city of so much FASCINATING history.  From the Royal Monarchs of King Louis and the Sun Gods to the execution of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution that started at the Bastille -- there is so much to learn and know and to apply to current events.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame is so gothic, so old.  It houses the skull of John the Baptist enclosed in gold.

Unfortunately for me, I had to drive back at midnight.  I had a plane to catch from Brussels the next morning -- would have to pull an all nighter driving the freeway in France and Belgium -- but hey, it was all worth it and more.

As they say in France: "Laissez les bons temps roulez"-- let the good times roll!

The story of the Eiffel Tower is really amazing.  It was built for the 1889 World's Fair and was at that time the tallest structure in the world.   Believe it or not, Parisians really hated the thing and called it a huge eyesore.  But the architect Eiffel was able to get the city to agree to keep it for 20 long years.  But soon enough, the tower became valuable for telecommunications purposes and Parisians as well as the rest of the world got to appreciate its true beauty.

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