It's tempting when you plan your first big trip to Europe, to do everything to fit every single highlight into a 23-day tour around the planet's most diverse continent. Of course, you want to eat pasta in Rome, stand on top of the Eiffel Tower, cruise the lagoon in Venice, yodel in the Austrian hills, and so on. Yet, you can't do it all. Europe is an incredibly diverse continent full of bucket-list and postcard locations.
Let me now focus on my travel to France and impressions of the places I visited.
First time to ride an A380
We met up at NAIA T2 three hours before our departure and had a breeze checking-in our luggage. It helped that we already checked-in on-line 2 nights before. After more than 3 hours, we reached Kuala Lumpur where our connecting flight was. We only had an hour-and-a-half of lay over and after a quick trip to the comfort room, we hurried to the boarding area. And when it was time to board the aircraft, we were instructed to go to the second level while the other passengers were guided to the lower level. Upstairs we saw two co-passengers who looked confused but decided to just walk through the gates and after a few steps, there was our ride. Oh my, I forgot that our seats were located on the second floor of the aircraft. What an aircraft it was -- the Airbus A380! So huge we wondered how could it lift off the ground. We laughed all the way to our seats and decided to enjoy our ride on an A380.
After a 16-hour flight from KL, we reached Charles-de-Gaulle International Airport. None of us had slept much on the flight. Maybe it was the excitement, the adrenaline, whatever! Since the aircraft sits 500+ passengers, it took awhile before the luggages were loaded to the conveyor. After nearly an hour of waiting, my companions already had their luggages but mine was nowhere in sight. I began to worry. An airport crew accompanied me to a booth where I learned that my luggage had been left in KL, and that it would be brought in the next day. The OIC asked me why it took me sometime before I approached them when they had made the announcement several times already. I looked the guy straight in the eyes and said, "that announcement was in French".
First Impressions of Paris
The trip from CDG Airport to the city of Paris is pretty underwhelming. As we made our way through the outskirts of the city, there was not much to see. There were vacant lots and rundown buildings along the highway. I would be lying if I didn't say that I was a little concerned. But it's amazing how things can change in a blink of an eye. The famous landmarks of Paris began to appear in the distance. The Eiffel Tower stood as welcoming beacon and my concerns eased a bit.
My first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower -- while we were driving along Avenue Les Invalides
After making several quick turns, in a snap, I felt the embrace of Paris -- the city became alive to me. Standing tall in front of us was the Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph). My jaw dropped and my heart raced and we were screaming inside the car to the delight of our host, Edouard Macnab (our PH Finance Director, now VP Finance North America). We were in Paris, one of the most celebrated cities in the entire world, and before us stood one of the world's grandest monuments. And everything else changed as well. It was still early in the morning on a Sunday and the streets were still quiet -- elderly men walking in the side streets with baguettes under their arms, tourists having an "early" morning walk along the river banks. Sigh….sigh….sigh. Beautiful buildings showing off their gorgeous architecture lined each street. The rush of awe and excitement I felt is hard to capture with words. Deep in my heart, I knew, I was experiencing something special and this first taste developed into a love for the city.
The quiet streets of Paris on a Sunday morning
After a quick view of the Arc de Triomphe, Edouard took us near the Eiffel Tower and then, we drove through the Champs-Elysees and straight to the 7th Arrondissement. We stopped in front of a building called the Ecole Militaire (Military School) and adjacent to it is a pro called the Champ de Mars, the open area offers a magnificent, uninterrupted view of the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Champ de Mars (in front of Ecole Militaire)
VG, Knoll, and Liweng with Edouard
With the best PH Finance FD, Edouard Macnab, in his hometown of Paris