It is easy to see why so many guidebooks rank Paris at the top of their "must-sees" of Europe. The city is absolutely crammed with sights and sounds, and while few countries are wholly and accurately represented by their capital city, Paris is indeed a good introduction to France.
After struggling to find accomodation for the first several hours after arriving in Paris, we settled down in perhaps the worst hostel we had ever been in. Gripes aside, we set off on the following morning and made haste to France's most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower. Once there, Danny and Rocky decided they would wait in line for a chance to ascend the beast; Martin, having already seen it, passed.
Day two found us up at 7am. Who would have thought? This was perhaps the earliest we had been willingly awake, but there was lots to do, it was going to be a busy day. After a bare-bones breakfast, we set out and took Paris' wonderful metro system to the Arc de Triomph, erected in the early 19th century to mark Napoleon's victories. It is now home to the Grave of the Unknown Soldier and is a solemn World War memorial. Encircling the Arc is the world's largest roundabout; a mind-boggling 12 different avenues converge at the Arc, creating what can only be described as traffic chaos, Paris style.
From here we walked the 2km down the famous Ave des Champs Elysees to Place de la Concorde, the center of which is dominated by a 3,000 year old Egyptian obelisk. We continued towards the world-renowned Louvre Museum, to which we would return later. From here the Notre Dame Cathedral was a short stroll, as was the new and controversial modern art museum. From here we jetted up to Paris' version of Science World before descending upon the Louvre. The Louvre is a place that words cannot possibly describe. Its collection has sources in all corners of the world, and is absolutely magnificent. Its closest competitor, if that is the right word, is the Vatican Museum which we had the pleasure to visit not three weeks earlier. Danny, in particular, was astounded by the ancient Persian artifacts that were on display. This was the first time he got to experience his history in real life.
After the Louvre we made the long walk home and crashed. If ever there was a night that we were going to sleep well, it was that night. As something of an afterthought, Paris is an interesting place: it is home to the world's largest roundabout, and yet not five minutes walk will get you onto a quiet and relatively scerene street. The old latin quarter is particularly tranquil and overwhelmingly full of character.
Our next destination, we had decided, had to be Amsterdam. Full of an aura of liberty, unbridled openness, and unparalleled fun, we figured Amsterdam was a place we could not miss.