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Trip to France from May-July .. PARIS to BLOIS Part One

Trip to France from May-July .. PARIS to BLOIS Part One

Aug 19th, 2007, 07:08 PM
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Trip to France from May-July .. PARIS to BLOIS Part One

Last May, I traveled to France. This was a trip that I had only dreamed about for 43 years. I heard someone say on the radio one day, "If you have a goal that you have not reached, you have only yourself to blame."
I decided this was meant for me to hear because I had allowed my savings for France to be used on roof repairs, earthquake repairs, auto repairs, other vacations, and other items that just kept coming up and absorbing my savings. Now that the children are grown and it was just me and my husband of 37 years, I decided I would go to France. I planned for 4 years, doing research and dreaming. After waiting so long for this trip, wanting to go to Paris for a week turned into needing to go to France for 11 weeks! No, I'd never traveled beyond North America before and never alone. (My husband did not share this France dream but he knew me well enough to not discourage me in my quest.) My being alone seemed to scare my family, (geeze, I was 59 years old!) However, my sister planned to meet me for my first several days in Paris and my 83 year old mother hooked up with me in the Basque country for a month. Finally caving to everyone's good advice, my hubby joined me the last of my trip. I'd like to share my experience with you. If enough are interested, I'll continue with a Part II and whatever else it takes to get my memories on this forum. But I certainly won't bore you if you don't want to hear further, just let me know?!
I traveled on a budget: I planned on $125 a day...U.S. dollars and that was counting air fare, hotels, food, gifts, sightseeing and travel. I'll let you know how I did at the very end of my reporting.

THE DREAM JOURNEY BEGINS
Thursday, May 4, 2006
My life-long dream of going to France is actually coming true. I’m at Sacramento airport awaiting to board for Houston. This saving and planning has come to fruition. I’m actually in a haze of sorts. My right ear is totally plugged except for a roaring. Perhaps this is adding to the haze. I had to say good-bye to the love of my life, Jack. I knew it would be hard, but I never imagined it would sit like a rock in the pit of my stomach. I’m trying not to cry, but the tears are flowing like a backyard waterfall. Our 6½ weeks apart will be hard and very, very long. What was I thinking?! Now I look forward to June 15, when he joins me.

Lesson #1 from this adventure that is bound to change who I am: I need to be more loving to Jack.

HOUSTON, TX – Yes, that’s on the ground “Houston” and NOT in the air. Lightening on the ground prevented us from landing. We circled for 20 minutes then diverted to San Antonio to refuel. Meanwhile, back in Houston, the flight to Paris took off without me – and it ended up being just a short storm! So what a day. I had Airborne for brunch, Immodium for lunch and Airborne for dinner. I can’t eat while nerves are a dancin'. Even though I’d confirmed 5 times in the past year, Continental served me a BEEF sandwich. Does that sound like “vegetarian” to you? I couldn’t have eaten it anyway, but it’s interesting.
I couldn’t collect my bag in Houston; the tickets to claim luggage were switched and I have 5 stubs to bags going to San Salvador. I’d rather take a detour to Central America than stay 24 hours in Houston. So I’m exhausted and found a Super 8 Motel for $65. I had to pay because “God” did this to me, not Continental. Who knows, Ina (my sister) may beat me to Paris! I’m bummed, but I think there’s Lesson #2 in here somewhere: I’m not in control at all. I have to let this go. (Me, the control freak of the Universe!)
Oh yeah, I’d written my thoughts down on a piece of paper in Sacramento and they took the paper because I’d written on my boarding pass! Duh.
Houston Hotel $65, $2.50 coffee, $1 tip + $65E for apartment in Paris

Friday May 5th –
It’s Cinco de Mayo – I thought for sure I’d be drinking a cervesa in Paris, but instead, I’m drinking the humidity and tap water of the Super 8 Motel, Houston TX. I checked out at 11:00 am and sat in the lounge until 4pm. Good news from Ina: my apartment in Paris was upgraded due to damage to the original one. It looks like it’s on a major blvd so we’ll see how the traffic sounds are…
On the plane to Paris...at last. Due to my seat number, I was the last to board. Now I have a small carry-on cloth bag but there wasn’t room for it for 10 rows back! This is so not fair considering the oversized bags these folks sneak through. Sheesh! So I’m cramming mine under my feet. Then came the video remote control. I couldn’t for the life of me work mine!! Which meant; no reading light either. Lesson #3: for women everywhere – learn to use those remote controls at home, you may need the skill later on. I couldn’t even figure out the “t.v.” or the food tray coming out of the arm rest!

Saturday May 6th 8:30 a.m. Paris time. What comic relief I’ve provided my fellow passengers! This trip is a Comedy of Errors to say the least. I wanted to read but couldn’t find the lamp light button. The video monitor was next – I got it out but somehow, I’d missed the instructions given so I got the remote out only to find it was a telephone. I got all my crap out of my lap, lowered the monitor and stood looking for my remote control. There was none. About an hour of twiddling my thumbs, I tried the phone again and on the flip side was the remote. I pushed all the buttons to no avail. Put it all away. Now understand, I’m emitting an abundance of nervous energy to begin with, now I feel like a tiger in a cage. Finally, the Apanish speaking woman next to me says, “Push that button” then “So push this one too”. And I got “Harry Potter”…the last 20 minutes. I said, “I want to read…light?” She points to my remote and says, “Lightbulb” Sure enough, an icon of a lightbulb. I need to remember to think in icons.
While trying to sleep, I tossed, I turned, I twisted. I fidgeted until I realized I’d lost my glasses that were tucked into my shirt neckline. Once again, unload all my crap, look through stuff, stand up, search my seat…nothing. I sat down again and got my flashlight and found my glasses between the seat ahd the side of the airplane. Too narrow for me to reach. Unload and get on the floor! But as I’m getting down ,my pants fell to my crotch! (I’d forgotten I’d unbuttoned them as I was tossing.) Heaven help me. I had to take my watch off to reach for my glasses, the space was so narrow. I pulled out 5 pieces of trash. At least I did get my glasses.

PARIS
Landed fine. I saw the Concorde at Charles de Gaulle. Just that excited me. Got my backpack fine. Then I walked what seemed forever to find the Air France bus. 18E R/T only to discover they then circled the airport and stopped where I’d began walking and where a helper told me “no” they don’t load here. But they certainly did!
Into Paris – I helped an elderly woman with her seatbelt, she was sweet to me. Saw pansies, tulips, daffodils, pine trees, very green everything, then the city. 15 story apartment buildings, dirty, poverty, tons of signs of poverty plus graffiti. It was hot and humid like Texas.
At Gare de Lyon, I found a taxi to go to Roots Travel. The cab dropped me off about 2 cobble stoned streets away because he didn’t want to circle around. 7.3E. I had to wait for two hours for Roots to open. I finally got the key to my apartment for a week (minus one day spent in Houston!).
I walked to the Metro, heaved all my stupid stuff down steps, up steps, and down and up some more. Bought a carnet of tickets 10.7E. Then I people-watched as folks used the tickets through the turnstiles. Sure enough, the straps of my carry-on got caught in the stile and I was stuck. I had to stand on my head to get everything unhooked! After many, many more steps dragging my way-too-heavy bags, I found the correct platform.
I let one whole train pass so I could see how folks got on/off. Hey, I'm from the rural parts of Oregon and we don't have metros in the woods. I've never ridden one before, let alone ever seen one, felt one, or smelled one. So I got on and my foot with a hunkin' hiking boot, bumped a young classy French gal (30-ish) as she got off and I got on. She yelled “Alors!” Then gave me a nasty look through the glass and I mouthed “I’m sorry”. But when I saw her 7” of pointed toed shoes! Heck, she is the one who owed me an apology for wearing such lethal weapons!
Anyway, after wandering down the wrong streets (plural, plural), I found Impasse Jean Beausire but couldn’t locate #3. I about sat down and cried when an older lady approached (karma at work here...) and asked me something in French. I apologized and said I didn’t speak French well. She saw my map and I said I was lost, (Half French and half English) I was looking for #3. She got excited and she figured the mystery: #2 and #4 were on one side of the rue and #3 was on the other side. I kissed her cheek and blubbered a “merci beaucoup!”
I entered a narrow hallway and turned into a TOTALLY pitch black area. I kept walking, fully expecting Sasquatch to leap out, then I stumbled upon stairs. Old, wooden, uneven, hand-hewn about 200 y ears ago, spiraling up 57 steps to the apartment! I could tell because I got my trusty tiny beam of light to see with. I stopped the last 20 stairs and almost sat down, everything was so heavy, but I thought, “If I can’t make this climb, how the heck will I trek all over France?” So up I went. Then struggled with an unusual lock and once inside, I literally collapsed. I stripped, showered and dumped out all my bags. I HAVE to unload 10 pounds at least! I had to call my brother-in-law, Warren, as my sister,Ina, was to land in 30 minutes. I found a Tobac and got a calling card. I walked about 3/4 of a mile until I found a phone. I called W but I’d forgotten to bring with me our apartment phone number. Back up the 57 stairs, then down into a huge rain storm. Got that done and back up 57 stairs. Decided to check out the hood – So after a quick tour, back up the 57 stairs and Warren called saying Ina was here. I went looking for her but no luck so back up the 57 stairs to the top. Then I hung out the window and whistled. Finally, I saw Ina. Up the stairs again with Ina and guess what…Lesson #4: there are funky light switches so you didn’t have to climb the stairs in pitch blackness.
Settled her in. Then went for dinner. Tuna sandwich and French fries! 29E for both. Back up the 57 stairs for the night. We crashed in a nice firm bed and didn’t walk until mid-morning!
7.3E taxi, 7.5E telecarte, 5.7E groceries, 10.7E carnet, (29E dinner – Ina paid), 65E apartment

Sunday May 7 – Out the door at 11 a.m. headed down Rue St. Antoine towards Notre Dame. Walked through Place des Vosges centre, by St. Paul église, Hotel de Ville, across the Seine River...hold on here...I am walking across the Seine....it isn't just on a map or a photo from a book...I AM HERE!!!!
Then to Notre Dame and through it. My 1st cathedral ever – down Isle de la Cité to the point with picnickers and lovers across Pont Neuf and into Musée du Louvre. I saw Hammurabi’s Code in person! All musées were free today. Back up rue de Rivoli/St. Antoine – got groceries and home at 19:00 for a total of 8 hours of walking. I still feel like I’m in Disneyland. Also, until I had coffee today, I felt like I’d been on a boat and I was wobbley. Ina said long flights do that to her too.
Well, I’m out of clothes so we are washing in a machine in the kitchen. Warren called.
7.5E bkfst, 9E coffees, 5E groceries, 7.8 on gifts
We window shopped a lot so it was fun. Saw the Eiffel Tower from Pont Neuf!! Zillions of people, most are focused on selves, shop owners are all pleasant. Several only speak French. The Marais is becoming trendy. We’ll plan for tomorrow. Today was just a meandering/exploring day. It was cloudy and sunny today.
21.5E meals, 7.8E gifts, 65E apartment

Monday May 8 – Started late as we slept in until 9a.m. Went to patisserie for goodies and coffee. Walked to Musée Picasso and back to the Rue du Rivoli. My ear is still a mess so a pharmacist gave me drops to remove was (not the problem), but I tried them anyway.
Pizza 3E Got my cell phone SIM card 30E and I think I programmed it ok. Got my 1st chocolat opera (like a Napoleon). My pomme tarte was best so far. Found good café au lait with a pot @ 2.4E. Got a museum pass 45E for 4 days. Picasso would’ve been 9.9E. Tomorrow we will see Rodin and D’Orsay. Today we managed to climb our 57 steps only 5 times. Gift shopping is hard. Rubix cube – 22E, Hoyle deck of cards 10E, YoYo 8E, Uno cards 18E. Most shops were closed Sunday and Monday (due to holiday) so Tuesday may be better. It was cloudy and sunny today.
14.8E dining, 3.5E post cards, 45E museé pass, 5.9E Rx; 30E SIM, 65E apartment

Tuesday May 9 – I laid awake most of the night; my ear giving me fits. It rained most of the night. 4:30am it was blowing and very wet out. Oh, my cell phone went off at midnight! Guess I did something wrong after all. Heck, no surprise there! Ina had to show me the toilet in our apartment, I would have looked outside and down the hall for it! It was in a separate closet…thus Lesson #5 the name “WC” stands for water closet DUH.
Neither one of us can figure the t.v.; dang remote control. I can’t hear out of my right ear at all again this morning.
Reflections on Picasso: Nose-to-nose with a famous artist. I didn’t have a clue Picasso could actually draw, but he had realistic works that were incredible. His eye for making life less serious has made me look at modern art differently. One piece made me think of Wallace & Grommit where another, of Maurice Sendak’s work. Each must have been affected by Picasso’s work. Photography, sculpting, pen and ink, oils, charcoal; no matter the medium, Picasso was a master of them all. He made art on scraps of paper.
Rodin: What an artist. Watched a black and white movie of him chiseling away on stone. Huge tools, hours and hours to just make a small change. His work is perfection. I saw my 1st Van Gogh. Oh my gosh. Again, I was nose-to-nose with it. Also got to see some Monet’s!
At the d’Orsay, for the Impressionists. Pisarro and Cezanne: We caught a special showing for 1.5E extra. I was willing to pay 15E extra! There were paintings by both artists and many of the same scene side by side so we could see the influences one had over the other.
I saw a huge Monet water lily painting, it was dark; Seurat, Sissaly, Maureat, Manet, Renoir, Lautrec and so many more. I was able to see their brush strokes. Unbelievable is all I can say! I am in awe. I am in Paris!
Pastries get better and better every day. I ate Paul’s Pomier (cinnamon swirl without the cinnamon)…to die for! My ear is better. Found internet café for 3.1E/hour. It’s 10:30pm so we’re unwinding. It rained all day. We only made two trips up our 57 stairs. It rained most of the day with some sunshine later in the afternoon.
Breads 9.7E, 2.5E toilet paper, 1.5E musee, 8.7E gifts, 3.1E internet, 3.6E post cards, 65E apartment

Wednesday May 10 - Oh my gosh what a full day. We ate here at the apartment then headed to Gare Montparnasse. Took a bus to St. Sulpice then walked to Gare Montparnasse. On the way, we shopped in a cool kids’ toy store. I spent 42E on grandkids! I tried to reserve Italian trains but couldn’t. Did reserve other trains. We got tickets to Verrière where they have a miniature of France you walk around. I want to get the idea of how the country looks. It was in need of repairs and sprucing up but it was pretty cool. We walked a long way to get there, maybe an hour out in the country. I guess we should have taken a bus! We had 1/2 a soggy sandwich and a beer for lunch. Back to Gare Montparnasse then we walked to the Louvre. Walked through St.Germain area and through the Luxombourg Jardins. Oh my gosh. People here are so lucky to have these parks, the history, the beauty, the art. Just too much at their fingertips! We saw Vermeer paintings, The Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, famous Italian paintings, Botecelli frescos and the Mona Lisa. We walked into this huge room and saw her. I cried. We walked right up to the front and I cried so hard, I had to walk away. I just couldn’t believe I was standing there in the Louvre, looking at the Mona Lisa. The room had many people in it but they just parted as I walked in and honestly, I felt like the parting of the Red Sea, it was surreal. Leonardo DaVinci’s genius in front of me. I was humbled to be in such greatness.
We caught the Metro home, stopped for chocolates first – my first taste and it was mmmm good. 2.4E – not that good, but hey, it’s Paris! It was a very cold, gray day today. At this rate, I’m gonna freeze fast.
Observations: French women are classy, modest, petite, not fat at all, chic. Styles: No tummies showing, no cleavage, long scarves, long skirts, shorter skirts over slinky pants or other skirts, classy jackets, skirts that balloon at the bottom, pointed shoes, heels, black, solid colors, nothing too bright, hair pulled back, big necklaces. It is very expensive to buy clothes here. Men: no baggy pants worn around their knees, no undershorts hanging out. Very clean cut.
I only have one more day with Ina. I’m sad. She has been a great teacher. I can ride a bus, an RER, make reservations, pay for a toilet, ask for directions in French, get lost and found on a map, and eat pastry without guilt! What a sister. I think I’d like for her to stay another week. We haven’t closed our eyes at night until after midnight every night. We know why the French eat such late dinners – they are so busy soaking up all this beauty every day that just like in Las Vegas, they lose track of time. We walked for 10 hours today. We will be up at 7am tomorrow as I have to catch a train.
Oh my ear is much better today, still blocked a bit. I don’t notice the smell of urine as strongly as the day I arrived – perhaps the rain helped – St. Germain is classier with less dog crap in the streets, sidewalks, doorsteps, etc. as here in the Marais district. Things are improving here too. Men are sweeping and picking up every where on a daily basis. Anne Frank type sirens are frequent. The shop owner in the olive oil shop today scared me and I jumped and squealed. (Remember I'm from a QUIET country setting and small noises make me jump!) His eyes popped and he laughed when I laughed. The French are very quiet people and very kind so far. I feel quite safe.
9E reservations, 11E train to Verrière, 6.8 meals, 41.9E grandkids, 1.5E toilet, 1.4E gift, 65E apartment

Thursday May 11 – last full day in Paris. We had breakfast standing in a bakery. There is a seat tax so if you sit down, each item you eat is taxed. We walked everywhere again today. We went to the Pompidou Center – it is just too confusing and all the exhibits I wanted to see were closed. We got an incredible but smoggy view from the top. Outside was a group of Tibetan voice throwers. We stood in front of a web camera at a designated time and Warren was in Seattle watching us. He called us on my cell phone and we were talking to him as he was watching us. Then we went to Café de la Gare and he saw us from their web cam. We stood in the courtyard grinning at the camera for 15 minutes like country hicks. But he saw us and got our photos! Ina heard music and peeked in to find a group of flamingo dancers! We walked until we dropped, then came back to pack up our clean clothes! (Laundromat here is 3.5E to wash and 5.5E to dry for 10 minutes. That’s $4.6 and $6.75 US…crazy.) We are glad we had a washer in the apartment. It was sunny all day today.
14E misc., 44E gifts, 65E apartment

Friday May 12 – We got up and cleaned the apartment and took Ina’s bag to her hotel then ate at a bakery, of course. We checked out of our apartment then went to Gare d’Austerlitz via the Metro. We had to wait an hour for my train. Ina waited by the window and waved and blew kisses. As the doors closed, I began to cry. She ran along side of the train waving a scarf. I’m so glad she’s the crazy one! I cried for miles – wondering what the heck made me want to do this so badly. Now I’m alone and I’m scared and I’m regretting my holding this dream for so many years. I cried so hard, I gave myself a mega headache.
We passed nuclear power plants. Miles and miles of apartments in the burbs. Then to nicer homes in towns then fields of green and yellow like mustard only it isn't mustard but I've forgotten the name of it. Stone and concrete silos; some square, some like ours. Highways along train tracks. What a fast train! We left on time and arrived on time – something poor Amtrak just cannot accomplish. They speed through towns too. I keep jumping everytime we pass another train, it’s like hitting a wall, it just slams. I saw my first barn and it’s stone with a tile roof. Several pockets of homes on farmland. Wind machines at Tivernon. Plain, new brick and stone houses north of Orléans.
I was handed survey on the train, I filled it out and returned it to a woman. The 2nd leg of the trip, she hands me another one. I tried to explain I’d already filled one out but my fractured French just shut her down! So I took the form anyway.
I'm on to Blois to see castles. They won't be in any Disneyland Park; I just need to see for myself that they do exist.
Later....Sandee

jackster747 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 06:00 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 447
Sandee, great report! I can't wait to read more of your adventure.
Kansan is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 06:25 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 8,585
This is fun! We'll be in France next year...3 days in Paris. I applaud your sense of humor and patience with the flight fiasco. Sandee...I think you meant "flamenco" dancers, although the other spelling conjures up some strange thoughts.....
LLindaC is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 17,549
By all means continue posting your report...I'm enjoying it.
Dukey is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 10:48 AM
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Posts: 23,074
Glad you finally figured out how to use the audio/video/games/phone/light control on Continental's 777.

I assume you mean you lost your vegetarian meal for the IAH-CDG flight. That's because it left on the original flight without you. They need 24 hours to order a special meal, which I guess they could have re-ordered it for you, but with a misconnection, there are somewhat more important things like actually securing a seat and get the bags retagged, etc.

The Air France coach stop at Terminal 2A/2C is outside Door C2. It's a very walk from the Terminal 2A customs exit that you'll get out of.
rkkwan is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 11:23 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 554
Brava, Sandee! I'm really enjoying your report, and I applaud your honesty. Please keep it coming. EJ
elsiejune is offline  
Aug 20th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 434
Hi, super report, cannot wait for your next installment!
lucyp is offline  
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