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Originally published October 6, 2012 at 7:01 PM | Page modified October 8, 2012 at 1:04 PM

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A quick zip through the City of Light

A couple with a layover in Paris gets a taste of the city in less than three hours.

Chicago Tribune

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My wife and I ran in a 20K race in Paris, strolled Boulevard Saint-Germain, and generally fell in love with Paris all in less than three hours. Less than three hours is all the time we had.

We were just minutes shy of an eight-hour layover in Paris. Many online tips would have you just curl up in an airport bar rather than risk missing your next flight at de Gaulle. But Paris? How could we not venture out?

The problem with most any layover excursion is that large airports typically are about an hour from downtown, so right there you factor in two hours. Security easily burns three more. The big variable is customs. One surly customs official can ruin the whole thing. But we were waved right through. Yes!

We ditched our luggage at the airport (service by Bagages du Monde), then hopped RER light rail. About an hour later we emerged from underground near the Eiffel Tower. Then plannus interruptus.

We were trapped between a 20K race and the Seine River. We walked and walked toward what we kept thinking would be the last of the race, no overpass, no underpass. So much for our precious minutes in Paris. Then a Brit and his partner, sharing our predicament, finally said, "We're going for it!" They eased into the race, ran about 50 yards while edging over and out on the other side. My wife and I followed. (I know this is wrong, rude, etc. But only one guy passed me; not bad.)

Now liberated, we made our way through a light mist, strolled passed fabled Hemingway haunts, and took note of drop-dead shopping for another visit.

Since we were in a tourist area, cabs were plentiful. We were back to de Gaulle in plenty of time.

And this is why I've started picking flights based on the layover city. I just wish I could have gotten a race T-shirt.

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