Monday, November 18, 2013

The Best-Laid Plans

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: Sunday, February. 22, 2009. 

We had set our alarm for 7:30 so that we could return to the Eiffel Tower to take the elevator to the top for some spectacular views of Paris. The lines there are often a three-hour wait and we had hoped to beat the crowd. However, when the alarm went off, we all sort of just mumbled and then went right back to sleep, not awakening again until 9:30! So much for getting up early. Darcy and I dressed quickly and then slipped out of the hotel and down the charming cobblestone street to a cafe where we purchased a couple of coffees and a hot chocolate which we took back to the room. After finishing our hot drinks, we packed and then carted our luggage to the reception area where it was stowed until our return. We still had some exploring to do! 

We set off in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, stopping at a lovely patisserie along the way. Darcy and I chose pain au chocolat, while Craig picked out a beautiful pomme-filled pastry that had a lovely leaf design cut into the flaky, golden crust. The chocolate croissants were heavenly, melt-in-your-mouth good, and Craig pronounced his breakfast treat as quite delicious. Upon reaching the Eiffel Tower, we decided to forgo the long lines and instead opted for the Batobus, which is a popular water-taxi. For a nominal fee, we purchased tickets and were soon on board, slowly cruising down the Seine, admiring the historic, architectural wonders before us. Tickets for the Batobus allow one to hop on and off at various stops along the Seine. We passed Notre Dame before choosing to disembark at the Louvre, though due to time constraints, we knew that we would not be able to tour any part of the museum. We entered the glass pyramid and navigated our way through the milling throng to ride the escalator down to the gift shop, where we browsed a bit.Then it was back onto the boat to return to our starting point. 

The Cathedral of Notre Dame, 
as seen from the Batobus on the Seine.

Darcy and I in the chilly courtyard of the Louvre.

Walking once again beneath the Eiffel Tower, we were amused by the many entertainers performing there. Mimes, musicians, and the like were in abundance. Some of them were quite talented. We avoided the more unsavory characters and continued on our way. We returned to the hotel for our luggage and were soon in a taxi on the way to Gare D'Austerlitz, one of several train stations in Paris. After a quick coffee in the busy station, we wrestled our luggage (well, Darcy and Craig did) onto the crowded train. With some difficulty, we managed to find three seats together in a compartment and thoroughly enjoyed our first smooth, quiet ride on an electric train. If you are going to Orléans, it is best to choose a train which does not terminate in Fleury Les-Aubrais. Otherwise, you must catch another train for the short hop to Orléans Centre or trundle your bags onto a tram. 

Our hotel, the Ibis, was almost directly across from the train station, so no taxi was needed. Our room on the 7th floor (8th floor, American) was clean and bright and had a roomy bathroom with a large tub. We were eager to see Darcy's new town, so we simply  dropped our bags in the room and headed out again. Orléans is a beautiful place, with lots of incredible old buildings and narrow, picturesque cobblestone streets. I could not stop smiling at the wonder of it all! We found a small Asian restaurant where we had a tasty lunch. I especially liked the tempura banana which I had for dessert. That's something not served in the Chinese restaurants at home. 

One of the streets leading to Darcy's apartment.

Darcy's little apartment in the ancient part of town, near a 600-year-old church, was just as I had pictured it. She had given us such good descriptions of everything, I almost felt as if I had been there before. Her desk-sized kitchen and tiny refrigerator had us shaking our heads trying to imagine our daughter, who loves to cook, preparing meals in that place! The living area consisted of a bed, a chair, and a desk. The room really resembled a dorm room, which is essentially what it was, as the residence is owned by the University of Orléans. Darcy had perked it up a bit with borrowed lace curtains at the windows and some posters on the walls.

While waiting for Darcy's boyfriend, Mathieu, to arrive, we checked email and sent messages to loved ones back home. By the time Mathieu popped in, we were ready for dinner. They took us to Flunch, which was a very interesting "cafeteria". It was much like any other cafeteria-type restaurant, except that the food is displayed in lovely, ornate, silver casserole dishes and colorful ceramic tureens rather than the boxy industrial stainless steel pans that we have in the states. Our meal was surprisingly good. I enjoyed the seafood dish which was prepared in a creamy wine sauce, and the dessert crepes were tasty as well. Though it was still early when we finished, we were very tired and were happy to return to our hotel where we settled in for the night.

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