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France

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)

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)

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