I was exhausted by the time I stepped out of the plane, but that quickly dissipated as soon as I caught a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe. It was Sunday and tomorrow was a national holiday. There was some sort of commemoration there, not the usual ceremony of the unknown soldier and the etoile was filled with bands and soldiers in ceremonial regalia. Our driver whizzed by and I hurriedly snapped photographs from the car and quickly tried to explain the history of the arch to my girls. We'd approached from the same direction as Napoleon's troops, even though he'd marched through an incomplete wooden arch at the same spot where we now saw the soldiers. They seemed to ignore my tidbit of history, the older one rolling her eyes at her mother, the odd Trivial Pursuit Queen, but I knew they would get something from my babblings.
Our hotel wasn't far from there. I'd stayed at the same place last time I'd visited, ten years ago and I quickly realized how long ago that was. The hotel was still an art gallery in itself, but t had undergone extensive renovations. The halls, one painted a dark color, were now swathed in white paint. They had been covered with paintings before so that almost no wall showed between the frames, some very good, some quirky and I remember wandering through the halls for hours admiring them. The paintings were now tastefully spaced out and the lobby redone in Marble and furniture from the French revolutionary period. It had changed from a business hotel to one frequented by Sheiks dressed all in white and state of the art wireless internet had invaded the halls, replacing the antiquated phone system. Objets d'art were interspersed throughout the buildings and I almost fainted when I emerged from the bathroom to discover my youngest perched atop a small elephant statue, just the right size for riding.
We changed for dinner. The women that I'd seen in the lobby had all worn shoes. No flats, no flip flops, but real shoes. Almost everyone had on a scarf of some type so I dressed accordingly. I could tell by the artfully tied Hermes scarves that I would like this trip. The uber-casual dress code in my part of Texas had relegated my orange boxed scarves to the back of my closet. How could I not? Proper shopping attire here often including a nice string or pearls. Here, even women considered "not facially blessed" knew how to dress well and would turn heads. The French have a term for it; "un jolie laide" and French women own more shoes per capita than any other European women. The French seem to know that hot has nothign to do with being an American size two or four. In Paris, hot is in your heart.