Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Red Eye, Versailles, and a Rainy Sky!

Here are some of my memories from the beginning of my trip to Paris. I wish I would have taken a few more pictures of things like the airports, planes and restaurants, but I feel really self conscious about taking pictures in places like that. We did take this one in the Airport as we were waiting to our international flight. We traveled with carry-on luggage to save time getting through the airport in Paris and because we planned on taking the RER train into the city and did not want to lug big bags with us. We took this picture in front of the Panda Express because my husband loves that place! (Naomi is holding the little red box in her hand;))
We had Pizza for an early dinner. I think this was at the Boston airport. Our flight to Newark was just a small plane, the thing I remember most about that one was the family on board - there was a little boy shouting at his papa in what we think was Italian! That was a short flight, just a bit over an hour and a half. Then we grabbed our bags, found our gate and boarded for the long flight to Paris! I was so excited, and a bit nervous - our plan was a red-eye flight, so we would be arriving at Paris at 7:30 in the morning. Our check-in at the hotel wasn't until early afternoon, but we were hoping to be able to check in early so we could proceed on to see Versailles that afternoon without carting our luggage :)

I had wondered if we would be able to see the Statue of Liberty as we began our flight, and sure enough, we flew by this great landmark (which also has a french origin!). She was only about 2 inches tall from our perspective, but there was no mistaking that famous profile and Verdigris color! In fact we were also able to see the Boston area from the plane as we retraced our previous flight - I was rather surprised to see our flight path on the onboard system - we flew right along the Atlantic Seaboard then over the North Atlantic Ocean, over Great Britain and on to Paris.

As soon as we were at altitude the flight crew brought us dinner, speedily whisked away the garbage and dimmed the lights. We had a cup of Chamomile Tea, then leaned back and made ourselves comfortable for a short night's rest - what little there was of either! There was a group of rather talkative teens who spent most of the night chatting and laughing, and getting shushed by various passengers and the flight crew! About an hour before we landed, the lights came on, we were given our first croissants of our trip, and I drank a cup of rather bad coffee, but was glad for the lift it gave me - my daughter never fails to remark that she does not know how I wasn't dying of exhaustion all day.

We arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport, wheeled our bags out and braved the unknown. We were very hopeful that we would be able to find our way to the Train station and from there make our way to our hotel. We passed through customs, got our passports stamped and traversed various interesting walkways and passages and voila - found the train station with little stress. Of course at that point we had to buy train tickets, and I struggled to get my phone to access the French network. Somehow I had success and was able to let my husband know we arrived safe and sound, but for the next few days had little luck with my phone calls!

On the train we hopped, afterward realizing that we had got on the train that stops at every station instead of the direct one. It was interesting looking out the train windows and seeing various people get on and off as the train made it's way into the center of town. I was a little nervous about being robbed or something, but we never experienced any even remotely unsettling circumstances during our entire trip. It was raining (we had been watching the weather and were prepared for this) and it didn't really look that much different from any suburban area. As we got into the city itself the train goes underground, so not much of a view there - we knew which station to look for and were ready to brave the subway system!

Luckily my daughter is very familiar with using a subway, so we weren't very nervous about that. She knew how to read the maps! We were off the train, and two transfers later were outside the metro station a few blocks from our hotel. Now is where we ran into our fist major hurdle of our trip. It really was quite rainy, and we knew our hotel was to the north of the Metro stop, but we had neglected to print out directions, and because it was so heavily overcast we had no clue which way North was! We did have the address of the hotel, but unfortunately the only person we saw nearby was an elderly man who spoke no English. He was very concerned about helping us out, though. He pointed us in the direction our street was, so we bravely set off to see if we could find it. I think we must have walked the long way, but we did find our street, and eventually the hotel. We must have looked like drowned rats (did I say it was raining?) as we pulled our luggage into the lobby, and after waiting for another group to check in, was informed that our room was ready - hurrah!

We were enchanted by our lovely little room, very cozy and quaint, unpacked a bit, then made our action plan for the afternoon. We decided to walk to the nearby train station, get our tickets to Versailles, and have lunch there before seeing the Palace. We also needed to find a bank to get some French money, hopefully one of the banks that partners with our bank at home so we could save ourselves the fees!

On the train, we were both feeling a bit weary and groggy, but were determined to carry on and enjoy the afternoon. I remarked that it didn't really feel like we were in Paris yet, when the train came above ground, and there out the window was that most Parisian of landmarks, the Eiffel Tower! What a thrill to see it for the first time! This excitement of this moment energized me and carried me throughout the next several hours, I was probably grinning like a fool!

We got into Versailles and according to the guidebook we were to turn right out of the train station and then left at the first boulevard, so at least we had instructions to get there. As it turns out you don't really need instruction, just go with the mass of people getting out of the train - they are all headed where you are, too. We got through the mass of umbrella salesmen (cheap umbrellas, and you could tell by the drifts of them you find discarded after they break!) and headed downstream with all the other tourists. With a bit of searching we actually found the bank we wanted, stocked up on cash and headed to a sandwich shop to fortify our bodies. Jambon and fromage sandwiches and wonderful strong coffee with cream were the perfect lunch! We just relaxed and pinched ourselves, ready for afternoon of sightseeing in one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen.

The rain poured down most of that afternoon, we were glad for our raincoats and at least it wasn't cold. There were puddles everywhere, but being able to see the fountains in full play was well worth the rain, and besides that, we are from the Oregon coast - no one stays in when it rains! Here we are, heading for the gates, see them glitter even in the rain? Make sure you wear good walking shoes when you go to Versailles, it's one big palace!

This is the chapel of Versailles. It's a beautiful place with a lovely painted ceiling and gold organ. The most notable reference in the audio guide we had said that this was one of the only references to God you would find in the entire Palace. Very true - we saw lots of references to the roman gods, too many pictures of various Louis', but only this one room set aside for worship.

Au revoir to those brave enough to read all of this for now and I will continue with a review of Versailles next week!


1 comment:

Pam Geisel - For Quilts Sake said...

I've never been to Paris so I'm excited to read more.