Friday, June 20, 2014

Ups and Downs and Paris Happy Landings...


Had to do some work to avoid grumpiness when we were advised by email Wednesday afternoon that Thursday's train was cancelled because of the strike. We'll worry later about being reimbursed. In the meantime, all busses I could find were full, save one that went Friday morning 5:30...and then landed us in suburban Paris, probably cranky, late in the day....

So renting a car seemed the best option. Anticipating a drop-off fee for the one-way trip, Paul was nevertheless shocked to find that a rental for 3 days would be 789 Euros. At that point, he suggested switching the conversation to English, as he suspected that perhaps his French was causing a misunderstanding. Here is the best part of the story for Paul, the cloud's silver lining: he was assured that his French was quite good, better than the rental car agent's English. But because of a scarcity of vehicles, the last-minute request on our part, and a hefty fee for dropping the car other than where it had been rented. . . ,Voilà! Beaucoup de bucks!!!

So the compromise was that we would rent it for one day, for 459 euros, dropping it at Charles de Gaulle. Which is what we spent yesterday doing. The good part of this is that it reminded us why prefer train travel over driving.

The bad part of this was the traffic around Paris. With the trains on strike and the taxi drivers very cranky, there are apparently more cars on the road than normal. We drove 550 of the kilometres from Bordeaux in about 4 hours,thanks to Vinci autoroutes (54 more euros in road tolls, another 50 or so in diesel). The last 75 or so to the airport? About 2.5 hours. At perhaps 15 kilometres away, lurching from one standstill to another, we stopped numerous times to allow emergency vehicles to make their way through. very impressive to watch a large van of gendarmes find a way through three solid lanes of traffic. then another, then an ambulance, a Sapeurs-pompiers truck, then another of those, and several more discreet emergency vehicles, black, marked only by the flashing blue light on top.

Once we finally got past the bouchon, we were at the airport in minutes. The Car Rental Return was easy to find, the RER was running, and the walk from Gare du Nord to our Latin Quarter hotel took us through the bustling, slightly gritty 10th in sunny, happy Paris with all its smells and sights and sounds. . ,

And we found this view from our room. . .

Today, we spent the morning in the Cluny Museum, had falafels for lunch in the Marais, checked out what's happening at Les Halles (big architectural changes being made in this central spot), ate ice cream on a bench in the shade by a bridge, held hands while crossing bridges, indulged in one cranky moment and another weepy one ('cause sainthood is boring, y'know?), and now we're chilling in our room before heading to the Jardin du Luxembourg for some more park bench sitting. Then dinner with friends this evening.

And tomorrow, we head back out to Charles de Gaulle for our flight to Italy. My adult children and their families have been flying this week, and a bit of me has lifted anxiously into the sky with each flight. I won't be relaxed until we're all together tomorrow evening....Meanwhile, however, I'm doing my best to squeeze a very good day and a half out of a favourite city....



  1. Wow! That's a hefty hit to the pocketbook for a car rental. Mais, il n'y a rien d'autre à faire. I am so impressed that you even dared to drive in Paris. Have a wonderful time in that beautiful city.
    As you cross into Italy, I'll be interested to see how you fare with the language. I find that with knowing French and Spanish I can understand a fair bit and read more, but can't speak it at all. Wishing all of you safe travels.

  2. Well where there is a will there is a managed to make it happen and what a relief you must be feeling. I have read about strikes in France as they seem to be common and I guess people get used to the disruptions but when one is travelling and on a schedule it is so stressful. I am happy that you made it work for you and am hoping you enjoy your family time together in a much more relaxed state.

  3. That is surely expensive! Mais, vous êtes à Paris maintenant. Did you eat on the rue des Rosiers? The view from your window is superb! Sunny park benches are perfect for relaxing! Safe and happy reunion with your family!

  4. You have borne up well, Frances! I'd have been LIVID. And that cost for the car rental (not to mention the utter inconvenience) is outrageous. I'm currently planning bus travel as well as the train travel we've already got booked so that, if we need buses, we will know that we've got the tickets. It won't be easy to get from one region to another, I suspect, but we hopefully will not have to avail ourselves of buses by the time we get there. I've heard that support for the strike is now fast waning - from within the ranks and due to introduction of legislation.

    Reports today say that 80 per cent of routes have been restored in some spots, things are entirely normal in others, but that some routes are still only functional at the 60% rate in certain pockets.

    Mind you, if the bus tickets are refundable, I might just buy them for security. Cuz a 40 dollar bus ticket is better than a 750 dollar car fee.

  5. Yikes for the car rental...but mon Dieu pour la chambre... Paris is a bit like that, annoying and fab in one go. And driving - oh dear, we have experienced some appalling times on the periferique but we all survived. What a blissful start to the weekend and Italy still to come. Agree with the comment above - if you can hack French, Italian is really v simple. And Italians are so happy when you have a go. The thought of what is ahead of you - so envious. Here, boiling hot, gin on the go, weekend started and B52s on the radio! Might start to dance.

  6. Wonderful recounting of how life is really lived. The annoyances, the weeping, the holding of hands, the adult children in motion, the anticipation. The flower boxes.

  7. Hi Mater, the car rental cost doesn't surprise me one bit. We looked into it for one of our trips and discovered that car rental in France is generally very expensive.

    Dare I ask who was Cranky and who was Weepy? :0) Never mind, the best is yet to come as you meet up with the family.

  8. So enjoying your travels, the beautiful, the bad and the downright frustrating! Hope Italy with the family is incredibly special!

  9. That car rental price would have definitely made me weepy! How lovely to be meeting up with your family. Have fun.


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