A Travellerspoint blog

April 20, 2010 - A day in Paris, nice bonus!

In Paris we got tickets to Toulouse but now we had a free day in Paris. What fun.

Eglise Saint-Sulpice from our hotel room

Eglise Saint-Sulpice from our hotel room

Day 7 — April 20, 2010 (Tuesday)

We woke up in Paris! Life is good. We walked over to Paul’s for breakfast. It’s been a year but the same female beggar was at the door and the occasionally grumpy waitress, whom we have come to like over the years, is still there. She was in one of her more cheerful moods today. Paul’s hot chocolate is as good as we remembered. After breakfast, Ed gave a few coins to the perpetual beggar and we walked around the corner to the tabac and bought a new Paris Pratique map book. I didn't bring ours because we hadn't planned to visit Paris on this trip. Walked back to St. Sulpice and found a travel agent on the square. (Bailly Voyages, 10 Rue Saint-Sulpice75006 Paris, France +33 (0)1 5542-7000) She quickly got us train tickets to Toulouse for tomorrow morning. Then walked back to the hotel and extended one more night.

Paul's on rue de Buci - Breakfast

Paul's on rue de Buci - Breakfast

Market on rue de Seine

Market on rue de Seine

Le Passage de Cour du Commerce Saint-André

Le Passage de Cour du Commerce Saint-André

Walked back to rue de Buci to a cell phone store to see about getting Edie’s phone working. They weren’t open yet so we headed toward the Seine and soon found an open cell phone store. A pleasant salesman got us set up for the month and our chores were done. We headed to Notre Dame and played tourist. They’ve added signs to explain some of the carvings around the choir. The sun was streaming through the stained glass so I took pictures. Hope they come out.

Fontaine Saint Michel at Place Saint Michel

Fontaine Saint Michel at Place Saint Michel


Statue of Charlemagne in front of Notre Dame de Paris

Statue of Charlemagne in front of Notre Dame de Paris


Notre Dame de Paris - Entrance

Notre Dame de Paris - Entrance


Notre Dame de Paris - Stained Glass

Notre Dame de Paris - Stained Glass


Notre Dame de Paris - new signage

Notre Dame de Paris - new signage


Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris


Notre Dame de Paris - Stained Glass

Notre Dame de Paris - Stained Glass


Notre Dame de Paris - Stained Glass

Notre Dame de Paris - Stained Glass

Then we walked toward the Hotel de Ville and I bought a beautiful scarf to replace my ragged one . . . a nice souvenir. Continued across the Seine and then along it toward the Tuileries, my favorite place in Paris. We cut through the Cour Carée at the Louvre and then through the Cour Napoleon noting the fountains were turned off. Into the Tuileries . . . no little boats today . . . where it was very windy and dust was blowing. We found a table by the fountain and I had a coffee and we remembered our first visit many years ago when a sudden storm hit and we had the Tuileries all to ourselves. Fun memories.

The Conciergerie across the Seine

The Conciergerie across the Seine


Quai de la Mégisserie along the Seine in Paris

Quai de la Mégisserie along the Seine in Paris


The first plane we'd seen since the volcano erupted

The first plane we'd seen since the volcano erupted


The Louvre and Pei Pyramid in Paris

The Louvre and Pei Pyramid in Paris


Arc du Carrousel in The Tuileries Gardens in Paris

Arc du Carrousel in The Tuileries Gardens in Paris


The Tuileries Gardens in Paris

The Tuileries Gardens in Paris


The Tuileries Gardens in Paris

The Tuileries Gardens in Paris


A coffee in the Tuileries

A coffee in the Tuileries


The Tuileries Gardens in Paris

The Tuileries Gardens in Paris

We crossed the Pont L.S. Senghor (formerly Pont Solférino) to discover a Segway tour on the “down” side. There are padlocks all over the fence and we have no idea why. They are purely decorative . . . or symbolic. Will have to do some research. [Later discovered these are “love padlocks” put there by couples declaring their undying love. They were on the Pont des Arts but removed by the city in May, 2010. They are cropping up on bridges all over Europe and becoming a structural nuisance in addition to being incredibly ugly.] Continued to the Musée d’Orsay and up rue Bellechasse to a favorite restaurant where we had duck confit and a Cotes du Rhone. We hiked back to our hotel via rue de l’Université and rue Bonaparte, stopping at a pharmacie for band-aids (Compeed) and hydrogen peroxide for my poor blistered feet.

Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor - the lower level

Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor - the lower level


Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor - a Segway Tour on the upper level

Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor - a Segway Tour on the upper level


Musée d'Orsay

Musée d'Orsay


Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Près in Paris

Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Près in Paris

By the time we got back, the cell phone had lost its charge so we recharged it. Ed called Peugeot and arranged to pick up our car at Toulouse (TLS) tomorrow. I tried to repair my feet – not very successfully – and then called Sylvia to tell her we’d meet her at our gite tomorrow between 4:00 and 6:00 PM. It’s taken a long time to get to Toulouse and our train is at 6:00 AM tomorrow so I hope it all works out. What an adventure!

Posted by Beausoleil 23:34 Archived in France Comments (5)

April 19, 2010 - We leave London for Paris, not Toulouse

We'll figure out Toulouse when we get to Paris. Right now just having Eurostar tickets to Paris is a miracle.

Corner of Waterloo Place and St. Charles II Street

Corner of Waterloo Place and St. Charles II Street

Day 6 — April 19, 2010 (Monday)

I’m writing this in Paris! What a day we’ve had. We had breakfast at the Thistle City Barbican, our hotel in London, courtesy of British Airways. Finished packing and checked out to discover British Airways covered the entire bill. We didn’t have to pay anything which was nice since we’re already paying for a car and house in the Dordogne.

We left our luggage with the very helpful Thistle Hotel people and left for the London Visitors’ Bureau on Regent Street to book a train from Paris to Toulouse. When we arrived, the line waiting for exactly the same thing went around two blocks. Ed stood in line for over three hours and was only halfway. I had gone inside to use their pay Internet connection and when I checked on Ed, everyone was asking why the line had stopped moving. I returned inside and asked a few questions and discovered the SNCF web site for booking trains in France was overwhelmed and had gone down. We gave up and returned to our pub for lunch . . . excellent. We retrieved our luggage at the hotel and treated ourselves to a taxi to St. Pancras Station. The taxi was a Mercedes . . . my first ride in one . . . and the driver chattered the entire way. It was fun and he only charged 10 £ so Ed gave him a big tip.

Line for tickets out of London

Line for tickets out of London


Lobby of the Thistle City Barbican in London

Lobby of the Thistle City Barbican in London

Arrived at St. Pancras Station and Ed zipped down to turn in our Oyster cards. We tried to check in for our train but it wasn’t open yet so we walked across the hall to Paul’s and got coffee and two seats until they opened the check-in. They announced; we checked in and went through Security and Passport Control and into a lovely waiting room with hardwood floors and polite people. It was like airports used to be!

We boarded right on time and didn’t have seats together but a French family traded with us so we were together and they were together. The Eurostar train is very comfortable and quiet . . . much nicer than an airplane. The trip zipped by, across England, under the Channel and across France to Paris. I thought the tunnel would be oppressive but you hardly know it is there. You are above ground until you get to the Channel and then underground for twenty minutes. The minute we came out, I knew we were in France. It looks so different.

St. Pancras Station in London - Ready to go to Paris

St. Pancras Station in London - Ready to go to Paris


View from the Eurostar between London and Paris

View from the Eurostar between London and Paris


View from the Eurostar between London and Paris

View from the Eurostar between London and Paris


View from the Eurostar between London and Paris

View from the Eurostar between London and Paris


View from the Eurostar between London and Paris

View from the Eurostar between London and Paris

Arrived at Gare du Nord just as the SNCF ticket offices closed for the night so we got a carnet of Metro tickets and headed for Metro line #4. One suitcase got stuck in the gate and the girl behind us put her Metro ticket in which released Ed’s suitcase but then she couldn’t get through. Over the gate, I passed her another ticket from our carnet while a nice black family helped her friend get her luggage through. We all eventually got to our trains. It was kind of a community experience.

We rode to St. Germain and walked to Hotel Clement hoping that despite the volcano chaos, they would have a room for us. Thankfully, they did and we are in a lovely room papered in French toile fabric. We're on the top floor with a view of the Pantheon dome (lighted) and St. Sulpice Church (lighted). It is heavenly.

View of Saint Sulpice from our room at Hotel Clement in Paris

View of Saint Sulpice from our room at Hotel Clement in Paris

We’ve met people we never would on an ordinary trip. Two young people offered me seats in various places. The crowd in line were all advising and helping each other. We chatted at length with an Aussie and a young Israeli trying to get to Sophia for his new job. I met a French woman from La Jermay and a British lady trying to get to Paris.

We sent a couple people to STA Travel where we got our Eurostar tickets. We left STA cards with our hotel concierge and gave them to the Canadians we’ve eaten with at the hotel. The hotel manager thanked us for the cards and the staff all wished us a good journey. It’s been quite an experience and we’re not quite there . . . but closer!

Posted by Beausoleil 15:18 Archived in France Tagged london paris france uk eurostar_train Comments (4)

April 18, 2010 - Still in London. Will we ever leave?

Much better day. We found a working travel agent, got train tickets and British Air announced they are paying for our London stay. Hooray!

Barbican Center - Early Morning (even the ducks aren't awake yet)

Barbican Center - Early Morning (even the ducks aren't awake yet)

Day 5 — April 18, 2010 (Sunday)

Slept until seven o’clock and went down to breakfast where the hostess said we could save about 6 £ by getting a voucher at the desk. Breakfast was 16.50 £ and the voucher brought it down to 10.50 £. We quickly decided to go to our pub for a better breakfast for 4.79 £. We did and it was great.

After breakfast we walked to and through the Barbican Center taking photos and ending at the Museum of London. Walked back to St. Joseph’s Church for Mass. Tiny but very diverse congregation.

The Barbican Centre - London

The Barbican Centre - London


The Barbican Centre - London

The Barbican Centre - London

Ed with Union - Horse with Two Discs by Christopher Le Brun

Ed with Union - Horse with Two Discs by Christopher Le Brun


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City Wall - London

City Wall - London


Saint Giles at Cripplegate by the Barbican Centre

Saint Giles at Cripplegate by the Barbican Centre


The Barbican Centre - London

The Barbican Centre - London


The Barbican Centre - London

The Barbican Centre - London

Back to the London Museum where we got directions to the nearest tube station to get our Oyster cards. No ticket office (Sunday) so we walked over to Liverpool Station and got the cards.

Used our new Oyster cards to “tube” to St. Pancras International Station where they were not selling any Eurostar tickets. You couldn’t even get in line unless you had a confirmed reservation. On to British National Railways who also could not help. AAAGH.

We passed a Vodaphone store and decided to go in and see if we could buy minutes for Edie’s cell phone. As we talked to the fellow, we decided the French cell phone wouldn’t be practical here . . . but another customer listening told us about a nearby travel agent (STA Travel) who could get us Eurostar tickets. We happily got directions, hopped back on the tube to Russell Square Station and out to STA Travel on the opposite corner.

Joy! We have tickets to Paris tomorrow at 5:30 PM. We arrive in Paris Gare du Nord at 9:00 PM and will deal with getting to Toulouse from Paris. At least it’s on the right side of the English Channel.

Back to St. Pancras and printed our tickets. We are ready! We found a Paul’s in St. Pancras (there are two of them) and had a croissant and Badoit. Went back to our hotel to the delightful news that British Airways is paying our entire hotel bill, dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.
Rested until dinner and tried to e-mail the kids to give them the news but we’ve run out of Internet time again. Ten dollars to send three e-mails seems expensive so it will have to wait.

Posted by Beausoleil 13:56 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (7)

April 17, 2010 - another exciting day in London

There seems to be no escape. The volcano keeps erupting and the airlines keep cancelling flights.

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Day 4 — April 17, 2010 (Saturday)

Another day and the volcano is getting worse. Flights are now canceled until Sunday at 1:00 PM and probably until Monday. The French train strike is still on; ferries are swamped and not even accepting foot traffic. Our hotel has no British Airways information and we are expected to check out at noon . . . with no place to go.

We had breakfast and Ed left for the airport to see if he can either get his suitcase or file a lost luggage report. My Internet access is used up and the phone Edie loaned us has no minutes left. This is an unending bad dream.

Later:
Noon has arrived but Ed has not. I called Peugeot and explained we can’t take our car today. He understood, said they would hold it and to give a call when we had a pickup time. Thank goodness Peugeot listens to the news.

I e-mailed the kids with our (Edie’s) phone number but told them we have no minutes so can’t use it. Peg sent a Eurostar web link for a London–Toulouse train on the 19th but since Ed isn’t here, I can’t book anything.

I called the front desk and they said I had to check out so I packed all of our luggage and somehow managed to get it all down to the desk. There were two families ahead of me but when my turn came, they rebooked us back into the same room so I had to drag everything back upstairs . . . but we have a room!

I’m sitting in a very noisy lobby for an hour so they can clean our room. I found a chair facing the door so I can watch for Ed. It’s noisy here. Some man lost his daughter and started yelling hysterically. She was right there! All our fellow BA refugees are now lined up trying to rebook and rooms are limited so I’m glad I came down fifteen minutes early. We have to pay tonight and it’s pricey. Wish we could sightsee since we’re paying for the room. Ah well, just happy to have a room. Now if Ed could find his suitcase . . .

An older Houston uber-Republican decided to start a conversation that was inescapable. I remained polite but not very agreeable. I finally escaped him and returned to our now-clean room. Decided to do my nails while watching the depressing news about the volcano.

Ed finally appeared triumphant with his suitcase. Joy! We checked with the concierge about church and then made a wild attempt to book trains online to Toulouse. We could book to Paris for $568 and couldn’t figure out how to continue. French rail strike and lousy web site . . . sigh. We gave up and started calling travel agents who were not interested in our business. Strange country.

large_3bc02aa0-1bcc-11eb-ae79-676ad532db3c.jpg

We gave up and set off in search of church discovering a rather strange locked church about a 20 minute walk away . . . on my now-serious foot blisters. Walking back we stopped at J.G.W.S. Masque Haunt [pub at 168-172 Old St., London] for dinner. We got a Finian’s Red Ale and Ed got a beef pie while I opted for roasted lamb. It was superb and everyone in the place was a neighborhood resident. It was truly a fun pub with excellent food and a great choice of beers. They also had a nice wine list including California wines.

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

The Masque Haunt Pub in London

The Masque Haunt Pub in London

Stopped at a pharmacy for band-aids (called plasters here) for my blisters before returning to the hotel. We booked Sunday night at the hotel and really need to get to France. We’re paying for a leased car and a gite in the Dordogne while we are in London.

Posted by Beausoleil 15:53 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (4)

April 16, 2010 - an unexpected day in London

We managed some sightseeing while trapped in London. If you're there, you might as well look around . . .

Double-decker London bus at the Bank of England Museum

Double-decker London bus at the Bank of England Museum

Day 3 — April 16, 2010 (Friday)

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This morning at our British Airways (BA)-provided breakfast there was a sign posted that they would pay for another night at the Thistle Hotel. Knowing that, we decided to see London for free. The concierge gave us a map and we set off on foot.

*****

We walked to and across Southwark Bridge, meeting a trio from Canada in the same ash-cloud dilemma walking downtown. Later we met a lost Aussie businessman who needed a look at our map. Looking for the Globe Theater we asked a young Londoner for directions. He was interrupted by an elderly Londoner and they contradicted each other. We opted for the younger fellow since he seemed more willing to check directions on our map. Later the older man came racing over to tell us that the younger fellow had been correct.

*****

*****

Bank Station at The Royal Exchange

Bank Station at The Royal Exchange

Whittington Gardens-Saint Michael Paternoster Royal

Whittington Gardens-Saint Michael Paternoster Royal

View of the train bridge from Southwark Bridge

View of the train bridge from Southwark Bridge

Dome and Spires of Saint Paul's Cathedral from Southwark Bridge

Dome and Spires of Saint Paul's Cathedral from Southwark Bridge

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London


We found the Globe Theater and checked the gift shop and the outside. Next we walked under the Millennium Bridge and into the Tate Modern Art Museum. London is odd in that museums are free but you pay to visit the churches. Having no British money, we chose museums!

I’m not terribly excited by modern art but a lot of it, while not inspiring, is often lots of fun. The museum is very well done with explanations, movies and interactive exhibits that were wildly popular with young people. It was fun to watch and the works were interesting (or curious). We went to the top floor restaurant for lunch overlooking the Thames River, Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s. They took credit cards so we had the crab lunch and it was good.

*****

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

The Tate Modern - London

Lunchtime view of St. Paul's from the Tate Modern

Lunchtime view of St. Paul's from the Tate Modern

We left the museum and walked over the Millennium Bridge and up to St. Paul’s, then back to the hotel without getting lost.

St. Paul's Cathedral from the Millenium Bridge

St. Paul's Cathedral from the Millenium Bridge


St. Paul's Cathedral walking up Peter's Hill, London

St. Paul's Cathedral walking up Peter's Hill, London

Back in the room, Ed tried to make a phone call and had to go down to the desk to make phone arrangements. He came back and it still didn’t work. Back down; back up; it worked. We saw on tv that BA canceled all flights up to 10:00 AM Saturday. That was our rebooked flight! Ed called the BA number they gave us and it didn’t work. He called Customer Service and got a robot who said to rebook on ba.com.

Next I had a fight with the computer trying to purchase Internet access. I got as far as the credit card and it was refused. Ed had used it a few times here in London and had no trouble. So . . . he called MasterCard to see what happened. We had called and told them we’d be in France but were using the card in London so they decided it was suspicious. He got it all straightened out (hadn’t they heard the news?!) and I signed on to see verification of our second flight cancellation. Sigh . . .

I e-mailed the kids who had already discovered we were in London. Jean & Peg checked the BA website! Next I went to the BA web site to re-rebook and it told us to telephone. I checked phone numbers and Ed called again. The phone says to rebook on the web site; the web site says to rebook on the phone. Catch 22 . . . I logged off.

I e-mailed Andrew (NiceLife on Virtual Tourist) and asked him how to get out of London because he lives here and will hopefully know. I’ll check VT later. There must be boats . . .

We went to the BA buffet dinner and to hear our update at 8:00 PM. Nice buffet–no update. Came back to our room to discover on tv that all BA flights tomorrow are canceled. Sigh . . . back to the web.

Posted by Beausoleil 13:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged museums london volcano uk tate_modern globe_theatre saint-paul's Comments (3)

Thursday - April 15, 2010 - The Volcano

Oops, they closed European air space while we were in London. Now how do we get to Toulouse? A volcano blew its top in Iceland and the world is dealing with it. An adventure . . .

Train from Sacramento to San Francisco followed by a flight that was supposed to go to Toulouse, France but didn't quite get there.

Train from Sacramento to San Francisco followed by a flight that was supposed to go to Toulouse, France but didn't quite get there.

This morning we woke on the plane, ate most of a mediocre breakfast and then the pilot made a long drawn-out announcement about arriving a “wee bit late” due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland and a very brief understated mention that the London airport would be closing at noon. Our connecting flight to Toulouse was scheduled at 2:20 PM. What was happening?!

(Here I’ll add the e-mail I wrote to the kids that I still haven’t sent because we have no British money and our hotel charges for Internet. Here it is.)
Hi. We’re vacationing in London. Don’t know if you’ve heard but there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland. We arrived in London at 10:20 AM (London time) and at noon they closed the entire airport. You cannot believe the mess. No one knew what anyone else was doing and workers kept contradicting each other. They all meant well but it was a huge mess. We stood in lines for over 6 hours and Dad’s suitcase has disappeared. Fortunately I have mine with toothbrushes and toothpaste.

We stood in line to rebook and have a flight out SATURDAY morning at 7:30 AM so we should be able to get our leased car in Toulouse. However, we lose two nights in Toulouse. The hotel was pretty reasonable about it. Dad couldn't call until after 6 o'clock PM but they said if they could rent the room, they would not charge us. Don't know if that will happen since no one else can travel either. We will probably lose the first night. They did cancel tomorrow night and we have a day in London . . . for which I am absolutely not prepared. Perhaps we'll look for Harry Potter!

Still in the airport but after we rebooked, we moved to another longer line to get a hotel voucher. This line was a nightmare (worse nightmare) and we hadn't been able to get our luggage so I stayed in line and Dad went down two floors to look for luggage. He didn't appear for hours and I was getting worried. As I entered the last rope of the line, he appeared with my suitcase and said they couldn't find his. They suggested we check again on Saturday. I was concerned because you need to file a lost luggage report before you leave the airport, but it is checked through to Toulouse so if it doesn't show up in Toulouse, we can file a report there. Hopefully, it will show up in Toulouse. He does have his backpack with jammies and undies so it's not a complete disaster.

At any rate, we are (courtesy of British Airways) staying at Thistle Hotel (Barbican City) in downtown London. We don't know about tomorrow night because they are booked full. She said to check at 9:00 AM and see if anyone left so we could get that room. Everyone has been very nice except BA will not pay for the second night. Most other airlines didn't even provide minimal support or rooms so we fared better than most. I'm hoping we can stay here another night. If not, we'll start looking in the morning but sightseeing would be more fun. If we find Harry Potter, we will take photos. LOL

The down side is that we have no maps, no English money, no guide books and no plan for London . . . just complete plans and walks in Toulouse that we will not see on this trip. The volcano is still erupting so we're not entirely positive the Saturday flight will happen, but that is the current plan. Belgium has canceled flights but we haven't heard any other news. At least we're stranded in a country where we speak the language.

It's been exciting . . . and we all know how much I like excitement. ; )

Posted by Beausoleil 14:03 Archived in France Tagged france volcano uk lhr Comments (6)

Flying to Toulouse Day 1 — April 14, 2010

Toulouse Airport is a great start for a visit to the Dordogne region . . . if you can get to Toulouse. We had a surprise in store for us when we tried to change planes in London.

Mimi, our perfect kitty.

Mimi, our perfect kitty.


Up very early. Mimi, our new rescue kitty, helped us finish packing. It certainly helped us wake up and we were all in a good mood. She is the perfect cat, small, polite, lovable, energetic and seemingly gets along with everyone. We’ll miss her on our trip.

We all had breakfast and Peg drove us to the train station and waited with us in a rather brisk cool breeze (harbinger of things to come). The train arrived on time so we bid fond farewell to Peg and boarded. We’re glad she has kitty to keep her company. Wish she could join us.

Very peaceful trip on Amtrak to Richmond where we got our BART tickets and boarded BART to MacArthur where we transferred to another BART to San Francisco Airport (SFO). No delays; nice weather; easy trip although Ed had to stand for the last leg.

At the airport we had a club sandwich at Lori’s Diner and hiked to our check-in gate. We were early so had to wait but ended up first in line when they opened. Checked in and headed for security which in SFO was very polite. Shock! I still have bad memories of Montreal airport security so was delighted to be treated like a human being.

Walked to our boarding gate – and we wait. Finally boarded and took off on time for a long boring trip until . . .

Posted by Beausoleil 14:01 Archived in USA Tagged trains usa mimi bart Comments (4)

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