We began our spring break tour bright and early with a train wreck. Well, not exactly a train wreck but rather a unionized strike at the train station. The workers of the SNCF (the railroad system in France) decided would be perfect timing to strike just as all 20,000 students from the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie went on spring break.

France loves strikes. They strike over almost anything for no apparent reason to the general public. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care. But when I have a flight to Prague that is waiting for me, a fairly expensive ticket and no place to stay in Paris, I DO care.

While the public waiting for trains got more and more unrestful, we Americans waffled for two hours over what mode of transportation would be most rapid, economical and efficient in lieu of a train that didn’t exist. We had no way of knowing if the trains would begin running shortly or not run at all for the day. Just before despair began to set in and the option of a 450 € ($600.00) taxi was looking viable, SNCF announced that the 10:15 would be running to Paris. With a cheer, happiness abounded through the station! Now, if we could get to Charles de Gaulle Airport in time for our flight, all would be right in the world.

We hailed a taxi to the airport and watched our departure time come and go as the meter in the taxi clicked on and on. Stupid SNCF had made us miss our flight to Prague! We rescheduled our flight and whined to official SNCF workers who probably didn’t care about our misfortune. It was decided that the best idea would be to find a place to sleep for the night before any more time passed. One, two, hotels passed. By the third hotel, we feared that finding anywhere to sleep was futile. I began to feel that a very cold and long night in the Paris airport with the homeless people and crack addicts was in the cards.

But joy of joys! Luck finally smiled at us with the Neva Hotel right off of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Neva Hotel had 2 cancellations for that night, and although it cost a small fortune to sleep there, we booked the two rooms. That night we promenaded down the beautiful, famous Champs-Élysées Avenue. Beautiful people, haute couture, fine dining and sparkling jewels displayed in spotless display cases lit up the city as the sun sank behind L’Arc du Triomphe and Le Tour Eiffel started its spotlight.

I was exhausted, greasy, still angry at the SNCF and feeling much poorer, but the fact that I was experiencing a romantic city on one of the most beautiful avenues in the world while the world glittered with a million lights made me feel much better. I was fed (courtesy of The Victoria) and safely housed in a warm, safe hotel. I couldn’t stay angry long.

The next morning, I enjoyed a beautiful, flaky pain au chocolat that crumbled all over me while walking toward L’Arc du Triomphe that stood majestically in the sunlight. Sunday morning in Paris was slower-paced, sweeter and held so much potential. And even though the SNCF owes me about 120 € for its idiotic strike, I am flying from Paris to the Paris of the East (Prague) and life couldn’t get too much better.

To learn about L’Arc du Triomphe, Le Tour Eiffel and the Avenue Champs-Élysées, click on the respective links.

Click here to see my “castle” off the Champs-Élysées when I unexpectedly spent the night in Paris!

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