All the things you can possibly imagine, the things you've seen in books—at a scale that you could never possibly anticipate.
Almost as soon as we could get checked into our delightful little hotel (Hotel Residence Europe) in the small northern suburb of Clichy, we were ready to explore the city. Clichy lies about 20 min north of the center of Paris by way of the "Metro"—their version of London's "Tube" or New York City's Subways. A quick stop (and test of my newly acquired French tongue) and we had Metro passes in hand for the week and were ready to rock. Having vast experience riding subways in NYC and "El" trains in Chicago made navigating the Paris Metro a breeze. So the first thought was, "let's get the to obvious sites right away!"
The Metro is tightly packed when heading into the center of Paris. It's a massive city far larger than I imagined. The city is zoned in terms of "arrondissement"—their term for "boroughs"—which are far larger than simple neighborhoods. They are nearly small cities unto themselves. For instance, Clichy lies in the 17th arrondissement and the "Arc de Triomphe" is located in the 8th arrondissement. And that would be our first stop. It was the dead of summer and Paris was encountering a historic heat wave. The brutal heat of the Metro was suffocating, and the announcement that we had reached our stop, Charles DeGaulle Etoile, was a welcome sound—until we got to the top and got zero respite from the heat as the blazing sun had not yet set. However, I couldn't feel the external heat anymore as my heart leapt and my internal temperature spiked from the excitement filling me. I caught a glimpse, just a small peek of my first Parisien monument, and by far one of my longtime favorites; the Arc de Triomphe. Here is when I knew that I would never be prepared for the scale of what I was going to see. Huge wouldn't even begin to do it justice. As majestic as it's name, it was clear to see its intent as a monument to the victories of an emperor.
Situated at the far end of the Champs Elysée, walking from the Arc to the other end seemed a natural choice, but already we witnessed the next example of scale; it's a 1.3 km walk down the famed avenue. No sweat, I'm an athlete… let's get it in. Besides, the Adidas Store is at the far end on the Franklin D. Roosevelt roundabout.