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Monday, January 5, 2009

A New Year - in Paris

Our itinerary required us to return by plane via Amsterdam again, so we decided early in our planning to make a "knights" chess move, that is a backwards "L" from Amsterdam, Paris, London, and retrace our way back to Amsterdam. So after breakfast in London, we headed by Underground to Saint Pancras Train Station and catch our return Eurostar trip to Paris. We opted to celebrate the New Year in Paris rather than London because we thought the Eiffel Tower would have fireworks and would be a once in a lifetime vision. We were surprised to learn that they have only had fireworks twice in the last 10 years, once for the millennium, and the other for their bid in 2002 for the Olympics. However, they did have a light show, where they flashed a sort of display of lights at midnight. More on that in a minute.

But first, if our hotel experience in Paris is any indication of our new year, then we are in for a celebration. After arriving in Paris from London we did our metro-walking, "luggage and all" return to our Paris hotel. I went to the registration desk to get our key, but was promptly informed that they were trying to reach us all day to let us know they had to give our hotel room to another guest who became ill, and with the holiday, they were at capacity. Therefore, they would have to move us to another hotel and would pay for a cab to get us there. In the back of my mind I was picturing a gloomy, cramped hotel that would make our stay miserable. But it turned out to be a serendipitous moment for the entire family -as if we had won a trip to Paris! They put us up in the Hotel Concord Lafayette, a wonderful hotel in the heart of town near the Arc De Triomphe. They arranged for us to have two high level junior suites that would have cost around 900 Euros per night each. Our girls were thrilled, my husband and I couldn't believe our luck. The rooms overlooked the Eiffel Tower, which enabled us to see the new year from our room rather than fight the crowds on the Champs Elysees. That turned out to be a good thing, as we later learned, because there are many young adult revelers who love to get roaring drunk and have brawls, break bottles, and get thoroughly rowdy. We skirted that scene by heading home by 10 pm after a wonderful Italian dinner in the Latin Quarter followed by "chocolat"crepes. Back in our glorious suites, we all showered (we now had a total of 4 bathrooms), and got into our hotel-provided robes and slippers. Then we piled into our room and did our annual New Year's Predictions. This is something we have done for the past 5 years, where each of us makes predictions for every family member. We read them aloud with loads of hilarity, as many of the predictions are outright silly. When the clock struck midnight, the display from the Eiffel Tower was wonderful - from standing blue lights with star shapes to a fizzy, moving white-light punctuation. It was so fun to see all this from the comfort of our suite. There were spontaneous fireworks that some folks must have brought on their own, but not a major display of them. It was wonderful to be in Paris for this occasion.

The next morning, it was still dark as midnight at 8 am. We would have a wonderful "free" breakfast in their club floor and feast on creamy scrambled eggs with salmon, chocolat croissants, fresh squeezed orange juice, muffins, baguettes, yogurt, coffee, tea and real hot cocoa. Sad to say goodbye to Paris, we would take our last European train ride for now to Amsterdam Centraal Station, where we would spend our last night in Europe.

Tomorrow: Amsterdam - Anne Frank Haus

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