Every Visit to Paris is Too Short

I’m always surprised how quickly you can travel from one major city to another here in Europe. The other day we left Bruges on an 8:30 train to Brussels, where we killed time and had coffee and a pastry in the station. Took a high-speed Thalys train at 11:13 and 90 minutes later, we were in a Paris taxi on the way to our hotel.

The Thalys changed speed quite a lot, frequently running at conventional speeds for ordinary passenger trains; i.e.: 50-70 mph. But on several stretches, especially within 50-75 miles of Paris, the train reverted to high-speed and we flew along at close to 200 mph.

Our hotel here in Paris is just a couple of blocks off of the Champs-Elysées. There are shops all along this famous avenue selling high-end clothing and accessories for both men and women.

The metro here is impressive. It’s much cleaner than I remember and it really is the only way to get around . . . except, of course, when they close the station where you want to get off for no apparent reason.

Yesterday, we visited the Army Museum and Napoleon’s tomb. The former was interesting, especially a long corridor hung with huge black and white photos of French military heroes, Charles de Gaulle being by far the one most prominently featured. Almost all of the de Gaulle photos were of him with other world leaders, each with words of praise for the other. There were several shots of de Gaulle with Dwight Eisenhower, who privately considered him a huge pain in the ass.*

Napoleon’s tomb is part of the same complex and it’s stunning: a towering gold-domed building with alcoves containing massive sculptures. And the sarcophagus? Well, it’s certainly the focal point within this magnificent edifice.

But I’m still fresh from our visit to Ypres, where the terrible consequences of man’s proclivity for war may still be seen. Napoleon led France into war twice at a cost of how many hundreds of thousands of lives? His tomb is certainly impressive, but it was paid for with a great deal more than francs.

* Personally, I shall always revere de Gaulle for coming to Washington in November of 1963 to march in John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession—the President of France, marching the entire distance, ramrod straight, all by himself.