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Living the Parisian Dream

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After a layover in Dallas, several delays and a sleepless overnight flight, I have finally arrived in Paris! It is cool here, with overcast skies and beautiful.

My journey began today, with a 20-minute ride from the airport to Hotel
Faubourg, nestled in the Chapelle district of North Paris. The area
where I am staying is an Indian district with narrow winding streets, lined with shops, restaurants and various businesses. The smell of curry, spice and patchouli is prevalent.

My first mission today, after settling into my room, was to find a bank
or something similar to help me exchange some dollars to euros. I was
directed by a friendly front-deskman to a place called Gare du Nord, about two blocks south of where I am staying. As I got closer to this transportation mecca, my surroundings began to change. The streets became wider, there were more and more people and the Indian cafes were replaced by bistros and bakeries.

Walking inside this huge building, stepping inside Gare du Nord is like
stepping into an underground city. There were thousands of people in a
huge cavernous space that is not unlike a mall or convention center.
In the center were lined long high speed trains and all around the
perimeter there were restaurants, shops and kiosks.

My favorite part of this hub was the departure list. A gigantic suspended board measuring 30 feet tall and 50 feet across held the names of all the
various destinations with their departure times. Each character on the
board was on its own tile, and as the information was updated, these
tiles flipped over to reveal the new information, click-click-clicking
in perfect rhythm until the board was updated. I must have stared at
that for 10 minutes, mesmerized. After wandering around
long enough to find the currency exchange kiosk, I finally completed my
task.

As I left the building, I saw for the first time what amazing architecture made up the exterior of this awesome place. Two stories above the entrances, statues lined the walls, peacefully, as if blessing those who were about to depart on their journey.

After Gare du Nord, I drifted among the cafes and restaurants, examining
menus in search of what should be my first Parisian meal. After wandering and thoughtfully choosing, I decided bone marrow would begin my culinary adventure.

My second day in Paris was all about transportation. The government here is trying to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, and many are upset about it.

So, besides staging peaceful protests, many unions are going on strike, not least among them, the transportation department. What does this mean for me? Waiting one hour for a cab, for starters. Also, the RER, the mass transit rail lines (think subway above ground), that connects all the major parts of Paris, is jam packed! I now officially know what it means to be a sardine.

On my trip back from the exposition center that night, when our rail car arrived at the platform, it was a mad dash to get to the door. Apparently it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. Show organizers are encouraging exhibitors to plan an extra hour or two of travel time to get to and from the show each day. Ouch!

I’d rather spend my time eating and drinking the great French beer….

Speaking of which, on my way back to the hotel that night, I stopped at a great cafe for a bowl full of mussels and a pint…..or two.

I’m living the dream. My next post is all about the International Food Show and I can’t wait to share it with you.

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