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My time in Paris, Part 2 - Curt Yeomans

There is only one thing I can say about the Pantheon in Paris.

It's huge, and I mean really huge.

From the outside, you wouldn't think of it as being as large as it is. What you see is a large square, with steps out front, and a dome on top.

Trust me, if you go inside the Pantheon and stand under the dome, you will feel like an insignificant ant. It's the high ceilings, and the wide-open walkways.

If you don't believe me, go back and look at the photograph of the Pantheon's interior that ran in the newspaper in the last segment of my Postcards from Europe series. You may have seen little black specks at the bottom of the picture. Those are people. Normal, adult-sized people.

That is the thing about Paris. For a town where residents like their coffee in smaller cups than we're used to, they sure have enjoyed going big and over-the-top with almost everything else.

Stand under the Eiffel Tower and look straight up, and you gulp and say to yourself, "I feel small." Looking up at it may be all you get to do, unless you have the willpower to stand in line for a typical wait of 2 1/2 to 3 hours just to get to the stairs or elevators that will take you up the famous structure.

At least there is a street performer there to entertain you. That is, if you think you would enjoy a rather risgue comedy routine involving a bike horn and a life-sized female doll who plays hard to get.

Now, if you like your tourist attractions a bit more solemn, go to Notre Dame Cathedral. Then, stand at the end of the pews in front of you. You will be left in awe of the cathedral's size and grandeur. There are the high-arching ceilings, and the rose windows, and the beautiful paintings that are sometimes two, or three people tall.

And trust me, I had plenty of time to see Notre Dame between going to mass there on July 18, then re-visiting the place during a half-day tour of Paris on July 19, and going there again during a full-day tour on July 20.

I'm pretty sure I got all of the marveling at Notre Dame out of my system. It's a pretty swank place, though, for sure.

Even the two-hour River Seine cruise I took on July 20 was a no-holding-back affair. When I was arrived for the cruise with my full-day tour group (it was part of the tour), I was escorted to my table, where a bottle of wine was waiting on ice for me. Then, the waiter brought out the Chicken Caesar salad, later followed by the main course.

And that's when they brought out the home-run slugger - a woman who walked up and down the boat in a black, ballroom gown while playing classical music on her violin. Now THAT was swank.

About the only time I found something that was not as big, or over the top as I was expecting, was when I ventured into the Swatch watch, Esprit and Celio stores on the Champs Elysees. I was expecting extremely large prices on everything (and Cartier's window display did not disappoint, with its necklaces that reached as high as 10,000 Euros, or $15,000, in price).

But, the three stores where I made purchases, didn't have prices that were as high as I was anticipating. Of course, it was "Sale Month" on the Champs Elysees, so that could have had something to do with some of the prices. But I got a 40 Euro watch from Swatch, 10 Euro sunglasses and a 5 Euro scarf at Celio, and shirts, a hat and pants at Esprit that fell in the 20-40 Euro range.

Mind you, the exchange rate of Euros to U.S. Dollars is somewhere around $1.30-$1.50 per Euro, but it fluctuates from day to day.

When I boarded the Eurostar chunnel train that carried me from Paris to London, I felt satisfied enough to say, "I've done this. I can scratch seeing Paris off my 'To do before I die' list."

But London, that's a different story, and you'll find out why next week.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.