We spent a couple more days in Paris after my last update. We took the time to visit Versailles and the Musee d’Orsay. Versailles, naturally, was overpriced and packed, but I enjoyed the Musee d’Orsay, though Kathy seemed less interested in it.
Quite aside from the sites that we went to see in Paris, it was the experience of staying there that was interesting. Staying at Andrea’s apartment was a very different experience from staying in a hotel, as I’d done on previous trips to the city. It was quite a cramped apartment, and the kitchen consisted only of a 2-burner hot plate and a bar-sized fridge, equipped with a few utensils, and for cooking in, a kettle, one pot, and one small frying pan. Obviously with those tools, the cooking potential is limited, and I get the impression that Andrea eats out most of the time, but we did make a couple of attempts – a stir fry one night, fried chicken another, and fried beef on another night. It was fun to go out and get groceries. Paris is jam-packed, the second densest capital in the world, after Tokyo, and there were several food stores within a few blocks, but none completely stocked the way we’re used to in Canada. So we would take a trip to the baker, the butcher, the produce stand, and the ingredients all seem to be much higher quality (and admittedly more expensive) than what we could buy at Safeway.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see nearly as much of Andrea as we’d hoped to. She was fairly busy, but also, since her apartment is quite cramped, she probably spent more time at David’s than she normally would. We spent a fun afternoon on Friday wandering around the Paris streets together, walking about halfway across the city. She showed us to the local pub where she first started finding her social circle in Paris, which was a bit surreal, as it was a quite stereotypical English or Irish pub plopped right down in the middle of Paris, naturally frequented by a mainly English and Irish clientelle. It was good having a guide, as Andrea was able to take us to a number of businesses – pubs, restaurants, top notch chocolate shops and the like – that we wouldn’t have otherwise found.
After a fun, and tiring week, there’s nothing quite as good at leaving you with a bad impression of Paris as flying out of Charles de Gaul Airport. There were two options for getting there – either the express bus, or the RER (suburban train). Since it was a little cheaper, we chose the RER. That was our first mistake, since the RER to the airport was jam packed, and, while it did have shelves for luggage above the seats, I couldn’t get both our bags onto it, since a lot of people had oversized bags blocking the aisles. Then when we got off at the Terminal 1 station, it turns out that it’s not actually at terminal 1, but rather some distance away, near several hotels and the Air France headquarters. Since that wasn’t expected, and signage was poor, we ended up walking around to several nearby building before finding the bus we were supposed to take.
Once at the terminal, we had difficulty finding the check-in desk, as they weren’t numbered in any particular logical fashion, and we misread one sign leading us to walk all the way to the far end of the terminal. Then, we wanted to clear security early, instead of rushing right before our flight. We were given our most thorough search ever (full pat down, and they completely emptied our carry-on bags), and once past security we discovered there was nothing there: no shops, no cafe, no water fountains, not even a bathroom. So by the time our flight went, we were getting kind of grumpy.
Regardless, we’ve made it to London successfully. We were both quite tired today and didn’t get much done except take a walk. We decided to see a play, and were rather attracted by the very funny ads for Monty Python’s Spamalot, until reading the fine print (starts September 30). So we settled for tickets to see Chicago tomorrow, instead. It’s strange to be back in an English speaking country, but we’ve slightly offset that by (unintentionally) picking accommodation in an Arabic neighbourhood.
We’ve got only 3 more days to see London before heading home, so no doubt they’ll be pretty jam-packed as well.