Monday, April 28, 2014

France 2014 - Part 1

This is the journal I kept while we were in France this spring. It only reflects our unique experience. Enjoy a virtual trip to France with us!

April 6 - Sunday

Woke at 3:30 a.m. Showered, dressed, stripped the bed, and washed the linens. We were packed and ready to go by 5:00.
Bob Schwenck arrived a little before 6:00 to take us to San Diego. We still felt sad Bob and Bernie weren’t going with us.
Bob dropped us off at the international terminal. Our tickets were for British Airways, but we discovered we had to check in with American Airlines. The airline clerk assured us our seats were together for both legs of the flight (I had been unable to get our seat assignments online ahead of time.)
My ticket was TSA Pre-checked (meaning I didn’t have to open bags, take off shoes, or anything else). We were both pre-checked for our last flight to San Antonio. However, this time, Larry wasn’t. I sailed through screening, but had to wait for Larry, who had to wait in the long line.
We exchanged our cash for Euros, ate breakfast, and read until it was time to board. The flight to DFW before ours was cancelled for mechanical issues. Fortunately, ours was not. However, ours was a few minutes late taking off.
On the plane, we discovered we had an aisle seat and a window seat—with a center seat between. The nice man in that seat was happy to change with me to take the window.
Not only were we on the screaming baby flight, but the rotten kid from hell (probably two years old) sat behind me. When he wasn’t screeching at the top of his lungs, he was pounding the tray or kicking the back of my seat. Several other families traveled with little ones, but he was the only one making a nuisance of himself. Imagine my horror when the family (mother, father, grandmother and three boys, including the terror) waited in line to board the Paris flight.
We had lots of time to make our connection, despite the delay, and our seats were together on that one. The family with the rotten kid were a dozen rows ahead of us, thank God. But there were several small children on the flight.
We ate dinner onboard, watched a movie (Ender’s Game) and then tried to get some rest.
Another screaming baby flight. Several times, while people were trying to sleep, one or another of the kids started screeching. In the middle of the night, one father decided to walk the aisles with his shrieking child—assuring that everyone else woke up, too. Larry got some sleep. I got very little. And since I had been up after eleven the night before, I was operating on exhaustion.
We had all three seats in the center section since the flight wasn’t full, so we could stretch out a bit. Larry lay down across two of the seats. I tried it but couldn’t quite manage the contortions. I was reminded of one vacation when we tried sleeping in our 1958 Thunderbird. (A long story, and one of the reasons I do NOT do camping!)

April 7 - Monday

We ate breakfast onboard and then landed in Paris. We were really there at last!
We were accosted by a rogue taxi driver—the kind of guy we had been warned about in the literature. Our taxi ride cost us nearly double what it should have and pretty much depleted our stash of Euros.
However, we were in Paris, and nothing could spoil our excitement.
Our first sight was the Arc de Triomphe. Gorgeous! Traffic was horrible with horns honking and drivers cutting each other off. I was glad Larry wasn’t driving! Of course, I would never have considered trying it myself.

As we passed the Eiffel Tower, a gorgeous arrangement of “La Vie en Rose” by Michel Legrand came on the radio. What a perfect introduction to the city!
We arrived at Hôtel L’Empereur at 11:00 a.m., but check-in wasn’t until 2:00, p.m. so we dropped our bags and walked for the next two hours or so, exploring the area. We were close to Dôme des Invalides—Napoleon’s Tomb and the Military Museum—and not too far from the Tour Eiffel—the Eiffel Tower.

Old Paris buildings, with their magnificent iron fretwork, shutters, and window boxes, sat right next to modern ones. All were lovely.
Our hotel was charming. In the US, it would probably be called a boutique hotel. Everything was quite small and compact, but the place had obviously been remodeled and upgraded fairly recently.

We were on the 4th floor with a terrific view. (In France, the ground floor is numbered zero. Their first floor is the equivalent to our second floor and so forth)
Once we checked in, we took a nap for a couple of hours. We were both exhausted!
Around 4:30 p.m., we went back out and explored the neighborhood trying to decide where to eat dinner. So many choices! Lovely little cafes dotted every block. Each seemed to have had its own personality. We finally decided on La Terrasse on the main boulevard—mostly because its menu was in both English and French and Larry could read it. We took a table outside and ordered. Then the sky clouded over, and it began to rain. We moved inside where we could still look out and people watch.

Shortly after we moved inside, we saw a bright flash of light followed almost immediately by a huge clap of thunder. Then the rain began in earnest. We’d brought umbrellas with us, but we’d left them in our room since it was clear when we started out. However, the rain didn’t last. The sky cleared long before we finished our meal.
Because the Metro station was located around the corner, many people passed by on their way home. Parisians truly do have a great sense of style. I had pictured a city where everyone was as stylish as our friend Ginny Stephanian. I was not disappointed. Of course, these were mostly working people, the men in suits and trench coats and the women well-dressed, too.
The only disappointment was that nearly everyone smoked. All the restaurant tables were set with ashtrays. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Parisian women stay thin. Oh, and all the walking! In total, we’d covered over five miles the day before, according to Larry’s birthday present—his fitbit. He enjoyed it since it kept track of the amount of exercise he got. Since we were together all the time, it tracked mine as well!
For dinner, Larry ordered the chicken brochettes with rice, and I had the quiche Lorraine. The portions were just right, a nice change from American ones where we either split or take half home.
My quiche was fabulous! It was obviously made with whole cream. The serving was about an eighth of an 8” pie—just the right amount. It was served with a “salad” consisting of a quartered heart of ruffle-edged butter lettuce. The dressing—a tart mustard-style—came in its own little container.
Larry’s meal consisted of two small skewers of chicken chunks grilled with small pieces of green, red, and yellow pepper and lemon slices. White rice (about half a cup) was served in a separate cup-size small bowl along with a small container of sauce. Along with the usual baguette, a totally satisfying meal. We ordered American coffee afterward, and were served about two ounces in small cups. It appeared to have been brewed using a French press. Delicious—strong but not bitter. Of course, Larry added lots of sugar to his.
Back at the hotel, we went to bed early—around 7:30. The TV stations were mostly in French, but they got CNN International in English, so we were able to catch up on the news. The alarm clock had a docking station for my iPod, so we were also able to listen to music. I was glad I’d brought it since I also listened to it on the flight over.

To be continued next week...


  1. How fun to read your journal. While you were there, my granddaughter and family were staying in London and one day made a train trip to Paris and were nearly stranded there because one of the trains broke down in the tunnel. After a scary couple of hours, they finally got on the last train back to London.

    1. Glad they got back, but I'm sorry they missed really experiencing Paris. it's wonderful!

  2. What a wonderful account of the first days of your trip. I could almost imagine being there myself. I can't wait to read your next installment. Thank you and Larry for sharing your trip with us.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the account. More to come in the next few weeks--including Mt. St.-Michel, the highlight of the trip.