Thursday, November 21, 2013

Like A Bike

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: Monday, July 20, 2009

Our day began around 8 AM when Megan and I walked over to Paul for pastries. Darcy and Mathieu arrived at 10:00, worn out from lugging Darcy's suitcases down four flights of stairs, onto the tram, and up to our hotel room. We checked out of the hotel, but left all of our luggage in the storeroom at the front desk. The four of us took the tram back across town, where we enjoyed an early lunch at the Grec Gourmand. On the way back to the Ibis, we returned to the train station to purchase our tickets, forgetting about the student discount that would have saved 10 euros. We retrieved our luggage from the hotel and set off for Paris on the 1:20 train. We felt pretty smug that we had managed to find a near-empty compartment, until the train stopped a few minutes later at Les Aubrais and we discovered that we needed to switch to another train immediately! We struggled with our bags down a long flight of stairs and up another. If the conductor had not come back to lend a hand, we would have missed the train for sure! The doors closed and we departed the moment I stepped inside. Finding four seats together proved to be impossible, as we towed our bags down the entire length of the train, and finally found an empty compartment. And I mean EMPTY. There were no seats or luggage racks because we had stumbled into the bicycle compartment! We shoved our bags inside, and stood there laughing, relieved that we were at least all together. About ten minutes later, our train made an unscheduled stop. There was an announcement that this was for our security. By then we had all slid down to sit on the rather dirty floor, and we waited. And waited. And wished that we had a game to play. Darcy and I, at the exact same moment, burst into the same song, "Kum Ba Yah". Megan and Mathieu laughingly joined in. When the train began to move again, we were told that the delay had been due to "projectiles" being shot or thrown at the train ahead of us. We were just glad that we were not on a schedule, with no planes or other trains to catch.

Mathieu and Darcy,
 riding to Paris in the bicycle compartment.

Megan took it all in stride.

We grabbed a taxi and made our way across Paris to the Ibis Eiffel Cambronne. I had looked at the hotel on Google street view, and recognized it as soon as we turned the corner onto Rue Cambronne. I had chosen this hotel because of its proximity to the Eiffel Tower and because it was advertised as having air conditioning. We checked in, dropped our luggage in our rooms, and set out to find a cold drink. The cute little cafe we chose served us four soft drinks at a price of 18 euros. Paris is SO expensive. I later learned that drinks are cheaper if you sit at the bar, but we probably wouldn't have done that anyway. On the way back to the hotel, we passed a boulangerie and could not resist buying a snack. On the corner near the hotel was a small convenience store where we purchased cans of Coke for 1.25 and bottled water for just .80. I picked out several fresh, juicy plums, which turned out to be the tastiest plums I had ever eaten!

The view from our hotel window in Paris.

We ate an early dinner at McDonald's. Yes, McDonald's.  Or, MacDo, as the French would say. It was something we just had to experience. Mickey D's was housed in a beautiful old building and occupied two levels. In France, you can buy beer with your meal. Hello, "happy" meal! And they have real desserts, such as little citron cakes and chocolate souffle. 

There was a Metro stop conveniently close to the hotel, where we boarded in the direction of Montmartre. Mathieu was looking forward to seeing the sights. Though he was born in Paris, his family moved to another part of the country when he was small. He had been to Paris on many occasions, but only to conduct business or meet someone at the airport. He was enjoying being a tourist. The Metro makes me a bit uncomfortable, as I am claustrophobic. It was worse on this day because of the heat. I tried to focus on just breathing. Soon, we were arriving in Montmartre. 

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