PARIS. -- My 10-day adventure in Paris is about to come to an end.
It is 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Paris and I board a plane bound for Seattle at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.
My time here has been just short of indescribable. I checked off everything on my must-see list, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Orsay, the Latin Quarter, Champs Élysées, Notre Dame, the Sorbonne, the Arc de Triomphe, the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Oscar Wilde's tomb and several other places recommended by friends.
Watching the Bastille Day fireworks from a comfortable chair in the Tuileries garden last night was a fitting climax to a glorious trip. The fireworks are set off in part at the Eiffel Tower, making for some amazing bursts of color and sparkles.
I finished my last full day on a high note. One of my friends urged me to visit the Orsay museum, where I saw original work of such masters as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Renoir, Monet and Cezanne. While the Louvre is certainly more famous, housing the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, I found the Orsay easiest to tour and the most rewarding. The air conditioning helped.
Things I learned and may help future visitors to Paris:
- The subway system is superb and fairly easy to navigate once you get the hang of it.
- Eating at a neighborhood cafe for every meal is too costly and too boring. Look for one of the many small grocery stores, where you can buy pre-made salads, bottled water, ice tea, etc. My room at the Normandy Hotel has a fridge, so I even bought a carton of OJ, yogurt and cheese for cheap and quick breakfasts.
- The first seven days I shared a flat with a traveling partner and it was great. We prepared our own breakfasts and several of our meals there. We also had laundry facilities. We paid about $630 for the week. For comparison, my hotel room is $95 a night.
- French friends warned me of pickpockets, so I was extra careful when I was out among crowds.
- Street beggars are not uncommon.
- Cafes are great places for people watching and sometimes the wifi is free. But it does not always work.
- Subway maps and a Paris street map are a must. I found the Rick Steves Paris 2015 guidebook a handy source of information.
- Pack some old clothes that you won't mind discarding at trip's end because you will find yourself buying more gifts and items for yourself than you anticipated. So, au revoir to my 2013 Bloomsday T-shirt, among other things. I came with one checked bag and a carry-on. You can, too.
OK, that's it for my tips.
As I prepare to leave the City of Lights and so much grand history, I am brought back to Earth by the memory of a phone call from Indiana today. I recently met with a funeral director to pre-plan my funeral. I know, macabre, right? I have no plans to end my life story any time soon, but I want to make things easy for my son. Anyway, the funeral director called, not knowing I was in Paris, to see if I had any questions about the plan we agreed upon. I explained that I was in France and we agreed to connect later. Much, much later, I hope, because there are other parts of Europe I hope to see in the future. But none will top Paris.