Friday, May 2, 2014

Just Call Me Naive

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: April 10 and 11, 2014

I actually believed I could blog while on vacation in France! It didn't seem so far-fetched, since I am in the habit of keeping a travel journal. Even my journaling fell by the wayside. It's a good thing I managed to at least jot down a few highlights of each day. That, along with many photos to jog my memory, will help me to recreate the amazing trip I enjoyed. It was probably the best holiday ever!

I left Wichita on April 10, with only a carry-on in tow. The flight to Chicago was smooth and easy. I was faced with a five-hour layover, but the time passed swiftly. I walked a lot, read my book, window-shopped, and enjoyed lunch at a Chinese restaurant in the terminal. The flight to Paris was full. I was glad I had a window seat so that I could lean against it and try to sleep. I bunched up the coat I had been carrying and added its comfy bulk to the minuscule pillow provided by the airline. I did manage to snooze a bit on the eight-hour flight. 

Upon arrival in Paris I breezed through the airport (how wonderful to be able to bypass the wait at the luggage carousel!) to the taxi stand, where a young man approached me and asked if I wanted a cab. I replied in the affirmative but explained that I would first need to locate an ATM. He kindly escorted me to the nearest ATM and stood back as I procured some cash for the cab fare and the train ticket to Orléans. He then took my case and led me to the elevator for the parking garage. Wait - the parking garage? That didn't seem right. Unless things had drastically changed in the past year, I knew that the taxi stands were right outside the door on the main floor of the terminal. When we approached the vehicle, the young man lifted my bag into the back and politely opened the door for me as he explained that the fare to Gare d'Austerlitz would be 60 Euros. I argued a bit, saying that just last year it had been much less, but he remained adamant. Feeling mildly irritated, I settled into the cab and it wasn't until we were pulling out that I noticed there was no meter in the taxi. In fact, the brand-new SUV was spotlessly clean and bore not so much as a sticker on the window. I knew I had been duped! I was in an unlicensed, unregistered, illegal taxi! I became a bit nervous, but noticed that we were, at least, heading in the right direction. After a time, the young driver pulled off the freeway into a seedy-looking residential neighborhood through which we traveled for several miles. He had made some explanation that I couldn't understand. My nervousness increased until we were back on the freeway again. I noticed that the ramps were packed and wondered if perhaps we had simply gone around a traffic jam. I was relieved to see the train station up ahead. The young man pulled into a handicapped parking spot and procured my bag, then sat discreetly back in his seat, with the door barely ajar, as I paid him. I am sharing this embarrassing story with you in hopes that you will not make the same mistake I did. Not only did I pay at least 10 Euros too much for my ride to the station, I also deprived an honest, law-abiding taxi driver of a fare.  

At Gare d'Austerlitz, I waited in a long line at the ticket counter, but still managed to catch the 11:00 AM train to Orléans. It felt good to be safely ensconced on the quiet, modern train, on the last leg of a long journey. Darcy was waiting at the station when I disembarked. It was so good to see her waving and smiling! We exchanged hugs and headed for the exit. We walked out of the station into perfect spring weather. Bright sunshine, warmth, and a gentle breeze were so welcome after the long, cold winter in Kansas. 

The weather was so lovely that we decided to walk rather than take the tram across town. Our first goal was lunch. We stopped in at a little kebab stand where we purchased sandwiches and hot, crispy fries. Later, walking toward the ancient part of town, we chatted about the journey, our plans for vacation, and caught up on news. It was good to be back in Orléans. I felt very much at home as we walked down those gorgeous downtown streets. Darcy gave me a quick tour of the neighborhood after we had dropped my travel bag in her apartment.

There have many changes in the past year. Much of the renovation and construction that we had seen in 2013 was completed. It looked fabulous! There were a few new businesses in the area near the movie theater. A hardware store, Mr. Bricolage, had sprung up. Next to it was a small Monoprix department store, and a restaurant called Oh, Terroir, at which we would later dine. The construction at Place du Martroi had also been completed, and it looked great! The fountain is gone – it was moved elsewhere. The carousel was still in place, and a water feature of randomly splashing water jets has been put into use. When the weather warms up, I’m sure there will be many children cooling off there! 

 A partial view of Place du Martroi, Orléans, France.

This area was under construction last year.

TRAVEL TIP: Watch out for those illegal taxis at the Paris airports. Head straight for the taxi stands, where you will be certain of finding a licensed, legal cab.

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