Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On a Weekend in France

Readers may remember way back to last week when I wrote about an upcoming weekend visit to Paris with the Kitten. That travel is complete, and I can say with confidence that Paris is a do again.

We flew from Dulles to Vienna to Paris, a route necessitated by my having cashed in miles. Our plane was a 2-4-2 configuration, and we had a 2 on the starboard side. While not roomy, we were fine, as neither of us is all that tall. We landed in Vienna, had to clear customs and then go back through security. In the meantime, we had a nice fat breakfast before our 2.5 hour flight back the way we came.

Landing in Paris, we moved quickly through immigration and found our way to the train station, where the RER train would whisk us to St. Michel station a ten minute walk from our hotel in St. Germaine. But just as we approached the terminal, security cleared everyone out as there was a suspicious bag left unattended. Without any real sense how long this would last, I checked Uber and everything looked good-so we caught an Uber to Paris. Our driver was a jazz buff (not the first Uber driver who would be listening to jazz), and drove like a maniac.

Our hotel was a nice little spot, probably 25 rooms or so, with a bar and a breakfast room. We set our stuff down and began a walkabout--probably around 3:30 PM. On the way out of the hotel about ten yards down was a bistro that I suggested should be our place to eat that night, as my next meal is generally one of the three top things on my mind at any one time.

The Kitten is an old Paris hand, and she had a determined agenda of gardens and churches for the first day. Around 6:30 or so, I'd had enough and suggested that we needed to get moving toward the hotel to get some dinner. I'd gotten maybe three hours sleep on the red-eye overnight and was beginning to fade. She was somewhat disappointed in me, as she had researched the Louvre and saw that it was open until ten on Fridays and that Friday evenings were the least well-attended. I delayed answering her, but reminded her that before we left I had predicted that Friday evening would be a groggy one for me.

We made our way to the little bistro and had a nice dinner. Turns out they call French Onion Soup  "Onion Soup" in France. Who'dathunk it? At the end of our dinner, I let the Kitten down gently and told her I was headed directly to bed. She--independent woman that she is--said, fine, I'm going to the Louvre. She did, and I did. Actually I didn't. I read for a little while but was unconscious by nine pm.

Eleven hours later I was awakened by a fully dressed woman holding a cup of Nescafe for me, telling me I had to get up because we had a lot to do. In fact, over the next two days we did do a lot. Museums, sites, palaces, meals, etc. Having a limited time in a city the size of Paris means you either do little or do lots for short period of time. She chose the latter, and I followed along. On Sunday after a long day at Versailles and a romantic dinner in a spot at the base of the Eiffel Tower, I decided to see if I had enough mile to upgrade us to business for the long flight home (we were going Paris to Franfurt to Dulles--I know, again in the wrong direction). The wonderful gent at United said "how'd you like to get on the non-stop from Paris to Dulles leaving at 1230?" and then cited the miles I'd have to cash in. This was a no brainer.

We woke Monday, made our way to the airport, and then traveled home uneventfully.

I have a few observations to make from the trip:

1) Paris is a beautiful city. Rome is my favorite, but Paris comes close to displacing #2 (Florence). A few more days in Paris and it would likely be #2.
2) Parisians were wonderful, helpful, and kind. Parisian waiters were...rude. Except the one at our final dinner, who was great.
3) Because we did a good bit of close quarters travel (planes, Metro, trains) I was able to enjoy the wafts of BO from a great many people. I don't have a great sense of smell, so if you smell bad enough for me to notice, you smell really bad. And there were a lot of foul smelling people in France.
4) I could live in Paris for a while, in fact I may someday. The Kitten and I are thinking about a one month a year plan in which we live somewhere else when we're retired. I'll let you know how that shakes out.
5) The walk Monday morning from the hotel to the train station was brisk and wonderful. We left the hotel around 8:15, and there was a school about halfway between us and the train station; from the age of the kids we saw walking hand and hand with their parents, it was likely a kindergarten. What a scene. Businesses slowly opening up, street sweepers and cleaners out, and little kids chattering like swallows to their parents as they walked. A great scene.
6) I do not recommend intercontinental weekend trips. Too much flying for too little hanging out.

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