France – Days 8 and 9 (Sunday and Monday, October 9 and 10, 2011)

The Best Laid Plans…

DSC00859Despite my plan of sleeping in, I woke up reasonably early, but still full from a late, big lunch and late dinner from yesterday. It was a rainy morning, but I mapped out my morning and afternoon site seeing, got cleaned up and hopped on the metro for the Eiffel Tower (my basic plan was to work my way West to East). Having had to navigate the Paris metro 20 years ago, I remember it being a little tricky, but understandable once you figured it all out. This time was about the same and I found the right path and transfer stops to get to the tower. It being a Sunday morning, I was hoping the crowds would be lighter, but two stops from the destination, the train was suddenly packed with people, including a number of them in running outfits with marathon markers.

As I worked my way out of the metro and onto the street, it turns out there was…wait for it…a marathon at the Eiffel Tower this morning! It took almost half an hour, but I finally fought my way through the crowd (my hand never leaving where I kept my wallet) and got over to the tower. Stupidly, I neglected to see about reserving a ticket to go up the tower ahead of the trip, so the earliest time I could get to up was sometime around 10:00 or 11:00 that evening.* So, I took all the pictures I could from the ground, and made my way over to Les Invalides, and it’s golden dome.

DSC00855     DSC00858

DSC00890     DSC00848

* Fate seems to have smiled on me for not getting a ticket at that time, as you’ll read below.

After heading back to the hotel and meeting up with a few others for lunch (which took far longer than planned), I went back out and made my way over to the Louvre and Notre Dame, only to discover that my camera battery hadn’t charged correctly overnight and was drained, so I wasn’t able to get any more pictures for the day (I think I may have given some French children their first lesson in swearing in English when I discovered this).

One Final Night in Paris

The chill and rain slowly tapered away as the day went on, leaving things still cloudy and cool, but slightly warmer and more humid than before. A few of us went out to dinner at Relais de l’Entrecôte, a very popular steak and frites place that was amazingly good (that and we were starving). I noticed that the waitress was very to-the-point, and as it turns out, that’s part of the restaurant’s notoriety. The menu is singular – a green salad first course with walnuts and a vinaigrette dressing, then grilled and sliced steak made to your order in an herb-based sauce maison (horse sauce) with thin and golden frites. Your only choices are dessert (I had these cravingly good Profiteroles au Chocolat, but their Crème Brule was incredible, as well) and wine (we opted for a rose). The only downside was the place was warm as Hell and even louder due to it being busy that night. Having eaten our body weights in steak, fries and dessert, we arrived back at the hotel around 11:00 PM and got ready for the early morning and flight home.

Le Relais de l_Entrecôte Paris

Relais de l’Entrecôte

Home Again

Just like Friday night/Saturday morning, sleep was elusive, especially given the upset at the Bordeaux train station adding to my anticipation of getting up in time for meeting in the hotel lobby to head to the airport. Not being a morning person, I planned for some redundancy and asked for a wake-up call, set the TV alarm and travel alarm clock for 5:00 AM. By 6:00 AM I was cleaned up, dressed and sitting in the lobby, trying my best to ignore Creepy Guy’s mumbled, negative remarks about his “shitty experience” at the Eiffel Tower at midnight last night. Apparently, he ran into another American tour group who blew him off after a very brief conversation of:

Creepy Guy: Hey, I’m American, too.
Them: Oh, that’s nice. Bye.

Paul’s original plan had us hopping on the metro to the train station, and in turn hopping on the train to CDG, but having experienced enough of the Paris subway system, he arranged for taxis to take us to the airport instead.* En route to the airport, one of our crowd was a little hung over, and steadily turning more and more green (I doubt the taxi driver’s less-than-smooth-driving was helping the poor man’s queasiness). Barring a half-second where I thought he was going to lose it all over me, we finally begged the taxi driver in a muddled conversation of English and French to pull over and whatever our tour mate ate and/or drank was revisited on the curb. Poor guy, though he was pretty happy when I offered him some gum.

* CDG is similar to Dulles in that it’s outside the city, so it’s not as convenient to get to as other cities’ airports. Cost-wise, a taxi split among several of us was approximately the same as the subway and train ticket to CDG.

Despite the traffic jams en route, CDG wasn’t as busy as we expected, and again, we got through security with plenty of time to spare. Once in the plane (another Airbus A380), we were all making jokes about the prospect of having to sit next to Creepy Guy. However, as the plane steadily filled up, I noticed that one seat next to me remained empty, and I hadn’t seen Creepy Guy since the hotel. As time got short, I noticed one of the flight attendants moving Creepy Guy from one seat to another, and then another. I was starting to get a little worried that my luck was running out until the plane pulled away from the gate and the seat was still empty. The man on the other side of that seat and I took advantage and enjoyed stretching out a little on the flight.

Shortly after takeoff, I closed my eyes to get a short nap in. The next thing I knew, a flight attendant was gently waking me for the meal, and it turns out I had slept almost an hour and a half. Somehow, I managed to get a few more naps in and watched the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie (it was okay, not great).

Landing at Dulles, the weather was warm and sunny and damn if it didn’t feel good to be home again!

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