My first 'day' in Paris was one VERY long day... A day that was closer to 2 days without any sleep.
I woke up Friday morning around 730AM. I went to work until about 1230PM. Went home and prepared everything for the trip. By 2PM I was on my way to Miami International to board the 6:05PM plane. My goal was to leave by 2PM so I could be there by 3PM. They say that you should arrive for international flights at least 3 hours early, so I figured for a 6PM flight, I should get there by 3PM. I got there by 3PM. My parents dropped me off at the airport and I went in. By around 430PM, I was checked in, through security and waiting at the gate. By 515PM or so, I was boarding the plane. By 620PM or so, we were lifting off. For the next 9 hours we were flying. We were scheduled to arrive in Paris at 9AM Saturday morning Paris time. Paris is 6 hours ahead of Miami, so that works out to an arrival of 3AM Miami time. During this 9 hour flight I got maybe 1-2 hours of sleep. It's very difficult to sleep in coach with the cramped seats, the constant noise of the engines, the constant distraction of people in front and behind you bumping your seats etc.
We arrived in Paris right on schedule. By around 930AM Paris time, I was off the plane. Then another hour or so to work through customs (no problem), and to get my luggage (slow!). By now it's around 1030AM Paris time. (430AM Miami time). I get my luggage and head off to try to find the train station to hop a train into Paris. Naturally, the train station was on the other side of the huge airport, so I had a long walk ahead of me. Thankfully, my luggage had wheels so it was a simple roll down the aisles and I was at the train station. The train station also had escalators so getting between levels was no problem. I found the train with a little help, bought my ticket and was on my way. A good 45 minutes later, the train arrives in the main train station in Paris. From there, I buy a subway ticket and take the subway to the plaza where my hotel was. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I had already planned out this route ahead of time and knew exactly where to go. I was at my hotel and checked in my about 1130AM Paris time. (730AM Miami time). I've now been up 24 hours so far with only 1-2 hours of sleep. I'm feeling fine. Oddly enough not tired at all.
I've just arrived in Paris. I have no clue where the hell anything is, I don't speak the language and its lunch time. What am I going to do? So I set out from my hotel to explore the Place de Republique (the plaza where my hotel was located). This was a large plaza full of many stores, restraunts etc. I ended up eating at, of all places McDonalds. My first meal in a foreign country was in McDonalds! Why in the hell would a health nut like me eat in an 'evil' place like that for lunch? Desparation. I knew the menu and knew what the hell I was getting. I can be adventurous later! I ordered by burger and 'fried potatoes' there and went upstairs to eat. Interestingly enough, this McDonalds offered free WiFi service in the restaraunt. Too bad I didn't have a wireless PDA or I would have sat in there and played on the Internet for a bit.
After completing my lunch, I head back to the hotel to plan my day. I'm already somewhat familiar with the subway system there, since I'd researched this stuff before I went. I decided that the Eiffel Tower would be my first stop. I hopped on the subway and headed off to the subway station nearest the tower. I ended up at a station a couple of blocks from the tower. So I started walking towards the tower. Now getting lost in Paris is VERY easy. I got lost several times while I was there. Missing the Eiffel tower though is damn near impossible. That thing is huge! You can't really appreciate the shear size of that thing unless you are there. It is 900 feet tall (nearly as tall as the Sears Tower in Chicago). That's 90 stories tall! You can't miss it. After a brief stop at a souveneir stand to buy a couple typical tourist souveneirs I arrive at the tower. There are two HUGE lines. It takes me some time to figure out that one line is for the elevator up (bigger line, 7 euros per person in cost) and the line for the stairs up (smaller line, 3.80 euros per person in cost). I didn't fee like waiting in the elevator line so I got in the cheaper and faster stairs line. I was through that line in maybe 15 minutes and on my way up the stairs. Now this was not an easy task! This was 680 iron stairs out in the open air, on a windy day in 30-35 degrees weather! Needless to say, I was puffing away, and out of breath by the time I reached the top. I spent the next several hours exploring the upper levels of the tower. There's a lot to see up there. There are two levels of the tower you can get to. (well 3 actually, but the very top level was closed). There was an ice scating rink up there with some kids skating around. There was a gift shop to look around in. There was a snack shop to buy food at. There was even a post office inside the upper levels of the tower. One of the typical tourist routines is to buy a postcard up there and mail it from the Eiffel Tower post office. This means the reciever of the post card gets a post card stamped as being mailed from the Eiffel Tower. I bought a couple of post cards and mailed them back home from the post office, like a good little tourist. The view from up there was incredible! After a few hours there, I was done and I climbed down the stairs and hopped the subway home to the hotel. It was now about 6pm Paris time (12pm Miami time.) I grabbed a sandwich for dinner from one of the sandwich stands in the plaza. Along with that sandwich I bought a bottle of Vittel mineral water, purely by chance. I wanted something to drink and that was the only water they had. My God, that water was good! I ended up drinking a lot of Vittel during the week. I went back to the hotel, ate my sandwich for dinner and relaxed a bit, watching the news. The news was ALL there was to watch. I could watch CNN, BBC News, or Sky News and that's it. Everything else was in French (or Arabic. Was I watching Al-Jazeera???)
I ended up going to bed at about 9PM. I was so exhausted by this point, I couldn't hardly walk, let alone stay awake. I'd now been awake 32 hours straight. In that time, I'd spent half a day at work, 9 hours on a plane, an hour on a train, 30 minutes on subways, and several hours climbing up and down 680 iron stairs! What a long day that was!
Approaching the Eiffel Tower