You really can't grasp the magnitude ... unless you've been inside it. Paris is beautiful, but it's also such a cramped, noisy place. And yet here, in the heart of the city, you have acres of solitude and quiet. By the way, meet the neighbor. It's French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
When you walk through the gate, you enter this massive courtyard. You're surrounded by three wings of this palace. The bling is evident even before you enter the home. The cars outside are pricy.
Inside ... rich carpet, tapestries. There are paintings by famous artists: Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent. And you can throw in some buddy-buddy shots of Ambassador Craig Stapleton and President Bush. They were co-owners in the Texas Rangers. I tried to get a picture with Ambassador Stapleton, but he scrambled out of the room after pictures with Utah Senate President John Valentine and Jason Perry, the Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development. It's ok, I have pictures of me with those that shook the hand of the Ambassador, as well as the aftertaste of a terrific roast beef and veggie appetizer.
I don't know how high the ceilings were. It seemed like you couldn't jump 30 feet and touch them. And the formal garden out back is amazingly peaceful, considering it borders a busy road.
The killer thing about it all: that's our house that could be on MTV Cribs. It's our tax dollars at work, along with corporate donations.
It's a busy place. We were quietly told to get moving before the next reception arrived.
Other Random Thoughts ...
- When they tell you it helps to know some French, they're not lying. I hopped into a cab (first cab ever, by the way) and the driver didn't know a lick of English. I told him the address. Thank goodness he recognized the street. He didn't understand the numbers I was giving to him. And I couldn't understand how much I owed. He had to write it down on a piece of paper.
- The French people have been surprisingly cordial. I heard bad stories before I came about their attitudes toward Americans. They must be moderating. Most were very friendly and helpful. Another taxi driver, though, reminded me I need to be on my toes here. He pretended like he didn't understand English at all. Then, when it was time for me to leave and I tipped him, he succinctly stated, "Thank you, sir. Have a very good day." Oh, thanks.
Frog Legs: Not so much. They way I had one prepared, it looked like a breaded scallop, with some buttery, creamy, eggy sauce beneath. I didn't know what I was getting at the time. Afterward, someone in the Utah delegation told me what it was. It actually made sense. I didn't think scallops had bones, and I was picking bones out of my mouth.
French Fries: Same as here. Overrated.
French Onion Soup: The soup I had was terrific. It was at a street-side cafe. The bread was slightly burnt, but the soup was not. It was terrific.
Bernaise Sauce: The one I had was thicker than what I'm used to in the United States, and it was chilled. It tasted good, though, and had a little more zip.
Water: Surprisingly pleasant here. No taste.
Coke: Always comes bottled, along with some lame plastic thing in a glass. Not sure why they put that in there. It tastes the same, but a bottle costs 4,50 or 5 euros. Ouche.