Short Reprise

Trip Start Aug 12, 2012
Trip End Sep 26, 2012

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Friday, August 31, 2012

It is a bit strange entering a big city for a second time. You look to see if the old faces and places are still there. They are but a bit less friendly and more strained. The Cafe de Trocadero, which we ate at quite often last time has increased prices dramatically. In fact, analysing the bills, it seems to be the taxes that have increased. At the hotel, our beloved Plaza Tour Eiffel, they charged us a city tax, which wasn't, from my understanding, on the bill the last time. In fact this tax is taken in cash. They must want to avoid as many losses on their money.

Never mind Paris was still Paris. The women all elegant, us in our shorts and T Shirts. They spend it on clothes. I spend it on travel. We went back to the Eiffel Tower again. We didn't get on last time, the queues were off into the distance and we didn’t want to stand in the hot sun all day! This time the queues were shorter and the fee moderate. The fountains near the tower were flowing freely. Last time they were drought-effected. The view from the 2nd level was amazing. No wonder the citizens of Paris were impressed when the tower first opened. The city of Paris was laid out for all to see. On a clear day you could see for 70 kms in any direction. No wonder they were impressed, we were too!

Melien doesn’t like walking much (her rheumatics play up), and she didn’t wan’t to see museums. However I convinced her to have a look at the one painting that everybody knows about. The Monna Lisa as the French call her. It was a beautiful Saturday, the sun was shining, Melien took her coat off, we sat on the grass in the Jardin de Tuileries (Toulleries Garden), which abuts the Louvre and ate sandwiches and drank coffee and water. The birds, pigeons and sparrows, competed for our scraps. Then through the glass pyramid and the security bag check to enter the square below and be directed to the four surrounding galleries. We found out where the Mona Lisa was and took the lift. Turn right out of the lift and right again. Go around the room divider and there she was. Surrounded by 100s of people and encased in glass and discreet waist-high barriers kept us from getting too close. Some people were getting photos of the painting while others, more famous, were having their picture with the Mona Lisa. I was one of the first type, just to prove we did get to see her, here is the photo.

The bus trip around Paris on “Le Cars Rouges”, literally the red buses, was even more expensive than I remembered (€27 each), but we managed to see all the sights again including that fabulous Arc de Triomphe.

Also had a little boat trip. That was pleasant and whiled away an hour.

The next day we got out of bed late and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and packed up our bags. About 12:00 we went down to the lobby and checked out. Last time for lunch at the Trocadero Cafe and then back to the hotel to pick up a taxi for Orly airport and Lourdes, our next stop. Bad luck that the taxi was inspected by the cops, which held him up for 20 minutes and we are getting a little anxious. I still felt it would be OK but when the taxi did arrive, the Parisian traffic blocked some of the roads probably the ones to the airport. Paris is strange on Sunday. Everybody seems to stay in bed or walk everywhere. The buses don’t seem to run either. Still it was taking us a while to get anywhere. The taxi driver had given up talking by now and was feeling our anxiety. Finally we arrived. “Is this Terminal W?” “Everything is Terminal W” was his enigmatic reply.

Hit the ground running, grab a trolley, load it up and head inside. My Lord, which departure hall do we head for (there were at least 18 that I counted)? Finally we figured out the departure board and the hall and headed off in the direction of the check-in counter. Being a provincial airline, the check-in was clear and available, understood what our flight was and who we were and issued cards and waved us through - to a chaotic scene. A security inspection! I thought the UK was bad enough. Both of Melien’s hand luggage were checked by a determined woman who pulled out the kilt we bought for our brother-in-law as well as the sporran. This took some figuring out. “What is this?” she asked. “A sporran, a purse for Scotsmen to wear in front of their kilt” - pointing to the kilt. Thus convinced we had to repackage everything ourselves and push on to the departure gate. After a long wait, 20 minutes after boarding was due, we boarded the aircraft.

“19C and 19D.” I mumbled to myself as I waded deeper down the aisle. Yes, a win! The seats were right at the very back, the part that breaks off in an emergency, the seats next to the toilet, the seats from which you can hear every whine scream and shudder of the engines. Yes,yes,yes! The lady that was sitting in Melien’s aisle seat suggested she might to sit at the window. Having been beaten up because my wife wanted the aisle seat before and not delivering it, I suggested that she shift, which she ungraciously did.

Meantime, I am trying to stow hand luggage into the emergency lockers, all the while being watched by a hay-seed Air France employee who told me that there was plenty of room further up. Talk about a waste of space, this guy did not raise a finger to do anything for any of the struggling masses. He was Mr Minimalist, do only what was necessary and then grudgingly. I think national airlines like Air France and British Airways employees are still living in the union dominated 70s as far as thinking about the job and perhaps extending themselves to help or be helpful to their clients!

But some things do work out. Mr Minimalist only bothered us once to give us a drink and a packet of flavoured needle shaped crunchies. That was collected and lo and behold the whole journey was over in an hour and we landed in a deserted airport, picked up our baggage and taxied to our hotel.

Oh, one interesting thing, so as not to waste the land between the taxiways and the runways, the airport is planted with sweet corn! Amazing.
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