Welcome aboard! If you’re new to this blog, there are a bunch of posts I have written that have gone up before today: some were practice with WordPress, some were preparations for this trip, and some were the three days traveling across the US before we left from Orlando.. You’re welcome to go back and review, comment, or just come along for the ride from here on out. And if you’re new to blogs, if you want to read in chronological order, you have to start at the bottom to read the first post, then go up to the next. You may also want to check out the book I wrote about my first trip to Europe as a twenty-one year old in 1974. You can find that here: Pilgrim Notes
I am trying to get used to WordPress, the blog publishing software I’m using. There are features that I find difficult to understand. I can’t seem to manage the photos very well yet. I’m also getting used to my tiny laptop (TabE) and the wireless keyboard I brought for it. I think I’ll learn as things go along.
A note about the purpose of this blog: I want this to be more about people than places or things. Obviously, in six months of travel, Rebecca and I will see lots of interesting places. But we will endeavor to connect with the folks we meet as we go along. The rest, as they say is history, and you can always read about that in books. We pick up the story in Paris:
Arrival in Paris
Have you ever awoken from a dream and not really known where you were?
I now see that the plan I made was not a good one. I had planned for us to be prepared but to go initially without relying on a phone or GPS. I wanted to wait to get a SIM card for an unlocked phone I brought for this adventure once we arrived in Belgium. I figured that we could survive two days getting around Paris just the Google maps I had printed out for this part of our trip. I had made one for the airport to the apartment in Paris, and another with directions to the train station when we were to leave Paris for Belgium on the 18th. But I did not figure on how to alter plans if something delayed us (which I now see is inevitable) meeting our host at the AirBnB apartment a bit west of the Arc de Triomphe by noon.
We realized that we were going to be seriously late when we took the wrong subway line from the Chatalet station back toward the Charles De Gaul Airport (instead of our intended Charles De Gaulle Etolle). Paris, what do you expect when you name two different subway stations after the same hero!
My phone showed no mobile connection, so I couldn’t contact our host. I couldn’t log on to our AirBnB account or send Thomas an email. How we rely on technology nowadays!
By the time we got off the subway at Pont de Neuilly we were already 30 minutes late to meet Thomas. We went directly to the apartment where we saw 12 different intercom buttons, none of which had Thomas Anyone on them. Rather than randomly pressing buttons asking for Thomas, we decided to get a drink at the nearest eating establishment that looked likely to have WIFI.
Our waiter at the Hippopotamus restaurant assured us that the WIFI was free, so I spent 20 minutes feverishly trying connect with Thomas by the AirBnB message board. No luck.
After noticing my frustration, our waiter loaned me his personal cell phone and I called the number I had printed out. Luckily, Thomas answered, and in 10 minutes, we were in the tiny efficiency apartment, getting an orientation to how to find everything we would need.
Thomas was visibly annoyed that he had waited an extra two hours to meet us, and rightly so. I felt awful that we had inconvenienced him. He said we were lucky. He told us that he had contacted AirBnB and they had told him that he had done the right thing, and he could just leave only ten minutes earlier. We had called him moments before he was planning to return to his home own on the north side of the City.
The apartment is cute but tiny! It was no more than eight feet wide and maybe 16 feet long with an extension for the shower. It seemed to have everything, but when Rebecca and I open up our luggage, we instantly filled up any available surface.
When we finally dropped our luggage, kicked off shoes and plopped down on the sofa-bed, we had been on traveling for over 24 hours straight and little to no sleep. We intended to just rest a few minutes and then go out and use our all-day subway pass and see a bit of Paris.
Have you ever awoken from a sleep that is so deep that you aren’t sure where you are? When I awoke, Rebecca had already gotten up and was showering. It must have been near 5pm, so I had only slept a little over an hour. But it seemed like days.
We got dressed and walked around the Pont de Neuilly region, west of downtown Paris. We walked across where the Boulevard Arc de Triomphe goes over the Seine.
Louis the14th and his grand boulevards and later Academy of Architecture provided the bones on which the modern, elegant city of Paris rose out of the17th century. Van Houseman’s architecture prescribed the elegant style of the grand five-story buildings that line the wide boulevards, always with the purpose to preserve the openness of the long, magnificent vistas. That was immediately evident the moment we stepped out of the Metro near our temporary apartment near the Pont de Seuilly.
We found a modest restaurant on the way back to the apartment, and then retired early.
Our only day to really see Paris started early. We wanted to be at the head of the line at nine, so we got up at six. We were on the subway platform at seven and discovered that the yellow line we took from the airport goes directly to the Louvre. We were at the museum’s back door in plenty of time to get a nice breakfast at one of those picturesque restaurants with little round tables out front.
We had plenty of time to take photos before entering the museum.
The Louvre is an antiquity in itself. Established 400 years ago, it had become the repository of great collections and has become the largest museum in the world.
We listened to the quick Rick Steves top top ten audio tour. We were able to see most of the great works of art early. I was more impressed with the crowd that gathered to see the Mona Lisa than the portrait itself. I got a kick out of people taking selfies with the famous painting in the background. The ropes kept us at least 15 get from artwork, so I felt that I’ve seen it fat better through reprints or online.
Rebecca was in history heaven. She taught Ancient Civilizations for 20 years.
Later, we made our way to some of Rebecca’s favorite historical favorites. We located Hammurabi’s code of law and the Winged Victory, two objects Rebecca taught in her Ancient History class.
Later, after a quick (and expensive) lunch inside the Louvre, we walked across the Seine to Notre Dam and the historic center of Paris.
Near the famous Shakespeare bookstore, we found a cute sidewalk cafe on the Rive Gouache, we listened to a street violinist while enjoying a carafe of wine. Ah, if we could live here this way, what could be better?
Back at the apartment, we got ready for another day of travel tomorrow. We’ll be in Brussels by 16:00 on the 18th, and we look forward to seeing our former exchange student, Kevin and his wife, Greet, and their kids, Seppe and Jolene. Next post from Belgium!