Category Archives: Travel: Europe

PARIS ’99: day 1 Dude, business class ROCKS!

I lucked out on this trip. My mom had frequent flyer miles that were going to expire and she offered them to me. (Tough life, right? Hey, if you are offered good things, accept them gracefully and HAVE FUN!) Aside from the fact that I had enough room to stretch out my legs (short ones though they are) I am simply amazed that I even made it to Paris in the first place.
I had stayed out late on the previous Saturday night and then having the time change, I was a little groggy anyway. In addition to that, several weeks before I mentally had shifted my days 1 forward. Ya know, I thought it was Tuesday when it was Monday…and this had been going on for weeks…so I thought I needed to be at the airport on Tuesday oops.
Luckily, bugboy called me and was doing his last minute panic of “I’ve never been overseas before…am I packing right? What have I forgotten?” and I actually had to look at my tix and notice that I’d better get my butt in gear and finish all my little details. Thanks bugboy! So I actually made it to the plane on time and on the right day. Sheesh.
But, back to the aforementioned business class…oh, heavenly chair.
Feet rests. Seats lean waaaayyyy back. Seat wide enough for fat fredlet fanny…and lots of toys to futz with…no map, alas. (must just be for the plebeians, let them eat cake and all that jazz…) No big deal though. I had enough to distract me.
“Ms. Fredlet?” (huh huh uhhuh huhuh…she called me Ms.) “Would you like some champagne before we take off?”
Why yes. Yes, I would.
Take off was uneventful, so shall it remain. However we did fly out over San Francisco proper (Hey, there’s Lorraine’s house! Hi Twinnie!) It really is a gorgeous city…saw the breakers on Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park and the GG Bridge heading off into the wilds of the North Coast. Then poofy white clouds obscured the view as we head over the east bay…Sigh.
Lunch was smoked salmon with a silly little salad followed by veal and veggies. Total protein kick for me (which is good) and while I was full, I just couldn’t pass up a few small bites of the cheesecake for dessert. Oh my.
I was pretty comatose after dinner and I’d seen both movies on the flight so I decided to go to lay back and be alone with my thoughts.
And did you know that the seats in business class are psychic?

“Oh fredlet, you want to lean back more than that…”
I do? Oh, you are so completely right…
” And fredlet, my pet, your little feet need to be raised.”
Ahhh, I see the wisdom in your words, my friend.
” Let me just turn on this lumbar massage here as well…”
nnnnggguuuuuhhhhhh….. (eyes roll back into my head)

Get the picture?
Now if I can just find a man with all these qualities, I’ll be set. Hah.
I spent the first 2-3 hours of the flight asleep, but the second movie rolled around and I was awake again. I tried to go back to sleep, but it just wasn’t going to happen so I read my book and daydreamed the remaining 6 hours of the flight.
Breakfast had bell peppers (NOT listed on the menu thankyouverymuch-feh) and we landed soon after they finished up the service.
Collected my luggage, flirted with a band that had a gig on Thursday night in town and gave suggestions of things to do for a chick who’d never been to Paris before.
Bugboy was set to arrive from Austin about a 1/2 hours after me, but at a different terminal. So I caught the navette [shuttle] to Aerogare 2. His flight was a little late, but in the grand scheme of things, it meant nothing and I didn’t mind hanging out people watching. Collected the Bugboy and tromped off the the RER.
They’ve done quite a bit of construction since the last several times I’ve been to Paris. So, I’m thinking Bugboy must not have been too impressed with my tour guidance getting us in to Paris. Yet, get into Paris we did.
My lack of brains continued to bite me in the form of me not having the exact address on the fax (just the name of the hotel and the fax number..no phone number though) that I was using to get us in to the hotel since Deb, under whose name the room was registered, wasn’t set to arrive until after we did. I had the name of the hotel and the general area where it was, but I was tired and needed a shower to restore my human status, so I didn’t feel like just walking around looking for the hotel with Bugboy and our luggage in tow.
I took a chance at the École Militaire métro stop and walked into the nearest store and asked if they could look it up in their Pages Jaunes [yellow pages]. Well, after a bit of nudging, the finally located the hotel and it was about 3 blocks away. Works for me.
Installed ourselves in the room. Restored human status with showers and Deb arrived. That was a happy thing. We originally had planned to meet up that night at 7 at the Place Saint Michel for sandwiches grecs [gyros] and having woken up with a sore throat monday morning, I was feeling the effects of not having been able to sleep on the flight, which is my normal cure for any sort of jetlag. I haven’t ever really had jetlag before and it kicked my hiney this time.
Anyhoo, we tromped around the 15th arrondissement until we found a wee tabac and had sandwiches au jambon et beurre [ham sammiches with butter] and Deb had ravioli followed close on its heels by a café liégois [coffee sundae]. The waiter was really fun. French waiters are usually the devil’s lapdog, but this one was lots of fun and sweet! Spoke french when we spoke french. Spoke english when we spoke english. Spoke italian when we spoke italian (he started saying italian things when Deb ordered the ravioli…) Lots of fun!
I managed to make it to the general vicinity of the bed when we got back before going comatose, but Deb (oh she of the iron will) went out for a walk…it was about 8:45 or 9 ish at night. I woke up when she got back, blearily inquired as to her well being and probably passed out again before she answered.
Apparently though, I was not meant to sleep through the night as I was woken up every few hours…oh well. C’est la vie.

total miles walked:approximately 2

PARIS 97′: day 10

I slept late, and woke to church choir faintly coming from the church out my window. As the entire of France is closed on Sundays. Ack and I decided to go to Cinquieme Element (Fifth Element), with French subtitles! I know its not a terribly big deal, but I think its cool that I can go to a foreign movie and understand the words and not have to read the sub titles. Sure, its a Hollywood film, but oh well. =: )
The theatre was really awesome. I think that the seats are probably more comfortable than my furniture at home. Granted they can afford to get these seats since they charge $10 a ticket.
After the movie we walked around the Champs Elysees a bit and watched the people the went home since we were going to be going to going to Avignon the next day.
miles walked: approximately 1 mile

PARIS ’97: day 9

As I headed out this morning, I promised myself that I was going to see the Arenes de Lutece, the old Roman arenas of Paris which I’d never managed to see on my 2 previous trips.
Disappointing.
I had seen great arenas in Nimes and the Roman aqueducts and I expected to see at least some arches. Nope. Just a kind of open area where lions would eat the Christians and romans would cheer. Or something a little less interesting, like soccer.
.flickr-photo { border: solid 1px #000000; }.flickr-frame { float: left; text-align: center; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; }.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }

To be fair, we didn’t get to go on the tour of whatever it was they had a tour of, but unless they actually showed me the feeding of the lions, I don’t think that it would have made up for the anti-climax I had. Seeing as we were in the area, we tromped off toward the 5th and up around back of Pantheon (my old stomping grounds from ’90). We walked toward Blvd St Michel ( Boul Mich), and toward the Cluny museum. It was raining yet again, and since we weren’t due to met Deb until 5:30, we spent some quality time with the ancient relics in Cluny (ranging from Roman baths to medieval pottery, stained glass and crypts) I adore Cluny, I have a real affinity for the early middle ages and roman times. Renaissance bores me out of my gourd.
After Cluny, as with any museum, we needed coffee and found a cafe to sit in and rest. After we ordered and were settling in, the small glassed in table area came available and a veritable horde of germans came into the cafe and ran into the waiter.
The conversation went as follows:

waiter:Bonjour messiuers! Combien des personnes? (Hello, how many people?)
lead german dude: Dix-huit hommes… sans femmes! (Eighteen men…and no women!)
Loud german laughter here, waiter smiles faintly.

It was fairly amusing, but very noisy listening to them trying to order in French when not all of them spoke french and cries of “cafe creme” and “mit milsch” filled the air.
We squeezed out of the now crowded cafe and walked up past Notre Dame to Les Halles,(another of my favorite places) checked out the postcard vendors that there don’t seem to be as many of, singing dudes from England(?) in orange clogs and tails (I have no idea, but was an interesting sight anyway), more postcards (X-files are BIG over here), and the final walk over to St Eustache near to a bar I used to go to when it was boiling hot.
The bar used to be named the the James Joyce, then, after they didn’t register the name and had to rename it, it was called the james ulysses, then I don’t know what happened. They’ve named it something else. Who cares at this point.
[NOTE: Its Quigley’s Point, but I’m sure it has changed again]
Back to meet Deb at Place St Michel, had a greek sandwich and bad french music piped over the radio, Deb was laughing so hard she was barking. At that point we wandered around back streets, had a cafe liégois at some strange cafe and went home to pass out.
miles walked: approximately 7 miles

PARIS ’97: day 8: the women return triumphant from the hunt.

.flickr-photo { border: solid 1px #000000; }.flickr-frame { float: left; text-align: center; margin-right: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; }.flickr-caption { font-size: 0.8em; margin-top: 0px; }

After being so cultured, Deb and I had to go shopping. Hopped the metro to Rue de Rennes down by that abomination, the Tour Montparnasse, and just about had an aneurysm at all of the kitchen and plates shops on the street. I did restrain myself valiantly by simply thinking, “I’ll have to carry this home.” Say no more.
Tati, a MASSIVE Woolworth’s type store loomed ahead and beckoned its unwary victims into the gaping maw that is its front doorway. We succumbed to its sirens song.
2 hours later, Deb and I emerged from the store with lots of warmer things to wear and presents to sooth the savage beasts at home who didn’t quite fit into our luggage on the trip over to Paris.
Ack, on the other hand was doing laundry. MMMMMM. Fun.
While Deb and I were still out on the town, we stopped into the shops for dinner makings and we found that the white peaches, that I rave about, and very yummy strawberries were being sold at the market.
Dinner was a melange of leftovers, more wine, and those amazing peaches and strawberries. Here a revolutionary statement:
*I like white peaches better than chocolate.*
Think about that for a minute and think about who wrote that.
They smell like roses and they taste better than anything else in the whole world.
I don’t think I’ve said too much about where we are staying. We are at the Golden Tulip on the Rue de Foubourg St Honore in the 8th arrondissment at Rue Balzac.
It has a little balcony and looks directly at this old stone church (Ascencion, if you want to look at a map). Our room is on the 3rd floor (4th in American counting) and looks right at the stained glass windows of the nave.)
To get to our suite, you have to go through this little walkway that they have enclosed on domed plastic and carpeted, a nice effect, though we’ve dubbed it the Habitrail since we feel a little like hamsters walking through it!
Right outside the Habitrail as you first enter it, there is a little 2 foot wide, 8 foot long water garden with koi and lilies and a small waterfall from the pond about it. I want one.
estimated miles walked: approximately 4 1/2

PARIS ’97: day 5: No wonder California works so hard to keep the French wines out of the stores…..

We all went up to Boulangerie Paul’s for chocolat chaud et pain chocolat. This little patisserie was getting to be a habit for Deb and me. Even one of the girls there recognized us and we talked a little. It was still rainy but not torrential, but not very cold.
Our new rule about going places was that you took the Metro to a farther out place, and then walked the rest form there. So, metro to Notre Dame, did touristy picture thing inside and out, grabbed an obscene amount of postcards and trinkets at some little crap shop, walked up rue St Denis toward Pompidou center in Beauborg. Found my first internet cafe, and we had a peek around, but I wasn’t that impressed. Maybe there are better ones out there, I hope so.
Skipped that and went up the tube escalators and went to the cafe on top of the Pompidou Center and wrote out postcards whilst re-establishing body core temperature again.
Since we were so close, we walked over to Les Halles and went into the shopping mall there. deb picked up the scent of shoes and went charging off into the distance. Ack and I found the FNAC (mecca of media) and after drooling over lots of $100 software, went home.
Nabbed 2 baguettes at out local bakery, ate leftover risotto, baguettes, and french wine for $2.25 at the local Kwik-E-mart….
Let me just rant and rave a little here about California wines….
We are being soaked for upwards of $12 a bottle for mediocre, non-imported (near vineger sometimes) wine. We got 2 bottles in a row of WONDERFUL French wine for 12 F, as I mentioned before, about $2.25 a bottle and the only thing you could buy for that in the states would be as tasty as lighter fluid, “Hey bubba, pass me that yummy Ronsenol!”. Yo! California wine producers, shape up or ship out.
…and the tomatoes here have actual flavor! Roma tomatoes, the only semblance of flavored tomatoes you can buy in a store have nothing on the tomatoes you can get here. I will eat 5 or 6 tomatoes by themselves in one sitting because they taste so wonderful. Amazing.
And while we are on a produce roll….white peaches are better than chocolate….think about what you are reading here, people…and who’s writing this. WOW.
estimated miles walked: approximately 4

PARIS ’97: day 4: anybody know how big a cubit is?

Deb ran off this morning by herself to nurse the muse. She left us a note that we found about an hour after we woke up. So we decide to explore up the other side of Fg St. Honore. Know what we found?
RAIN.
Well that and La Madeleine, a very Roman pillar and pagan looking church smack dab in the middle of town. Very nice, still wet though.
Shoes got a bit soggy from walking all that way but as soon as we found a store we popped in and bought some serious rain proof shoes. Mine are lumberjack boots, and of course, I had the lumberjack song in my head all day!
Found Achilles an umbrella so that he wouldn’t be totally soggy, and off we went. As you walk up the Fg. St Honore it changes into Blvd. Haussman and then it turns into Montmartre. To solve an old mystery that we have been questioning for a while, we stopped into McDonalds and looked. Quentin was wrong, its Royale Cheese, not Royale with Cheese.
Geez, those Hollywood types.
The Hard Rock was about 10 feet from the McD’s so I stopped in to get my customary guitar pin, I’ll try to take a picture of my hat with all of the pins from the various locations.) The conversation I had with the guy there was great! We alternated in French and English and talked about San Francisco vs. Paris. They covet our ocean, by the way, referring to the Seine as “that dirty thing in the middle of town.”
Having accomplished that vital mission, we cut across Rue St Denis past many charcuteries [butchers] complete with goat’s heads in the window (you know someone would scream satanism in the US, geez), rabbits, chickens (whole body, sometimes even with the feathers to make it look nice…) and basically things referred to quaintly as “variety meats” and I’ll spare you further details.
Gosh, no thanks, I’ll just go get a baguette. Ewwwwwwwww.
Dropped into Gare de L’Est for Amsterdam info, and after having located the info, ran into a guy from Dallas (who’s HS turns 100 years old in NY city), who is doing the as many countries as you can pack into 2 weeks. He sold us his leftover metro tickets and we chatted a bit and then Ack and I took the Metro home.
When we arrived back at the hotel, Deb was there all smug in that she smote the force of evil and chaos and managed to get some rice that would do for risotto. The risotto was a success, even with a minimal kitchen and forces of nature against her (terribly yummy risotto) Early-ish night since we’d been walking out in the rain and were kinda cold.
estimated miles walked: approximately 4 1/2

PARIS ’97: day 3: Le Shopping til you are dropping.

Achilles decided to abandon the women folk to do what we do oh so well…shop. He had an extraordinary walk, but if you want that description, email him yourself. Deb and I decided to pillage Prisunic (earlier rhapsodic reference to that if you are missing a description), we only spent about an hour in there, but I did restrain myself admirably remembering that I had to carry home anything I bought. No large french flower pots for me. Although, I will see if I can take pics of the paintings on the outside of the french farm animals making french barnyard noises…I’m quite the little gardener lately and that stuff makes me almost as happy as gadgets.
On the way back, Deb hit her favorite shoe store, but only drooled a little and didn’t bring out an Uzi and take the store hostage with demands of ‘one pair of shoes in each color or this sales clerk is toast!’ I think she is in a 12 step program for her Arche shoe addiction. Deb and I continue our quest for the rice, no such luck. We did however manage to locate all the other ingredients and get some really wonderful shrimpies before the guy closed up shop. We walked back and forth to the Blvd Grand Armees about 2 times before we gave up on the idea of finding an open Italian deli or shop. We did stop into a nifty little junk shop where I bought an umbrella.
Back at the corner of Ternes I went into the FNAC while Deb ran the back streets one more time. I drooled over the french books, cd’s, lasers and computers for a while then met Deb at the corner.
We got home before our appointed meeting time, listed to the Odyssey that Achilles took…marveled that he could walk that far (I think he was wearing 7 league boots). We talked for a while and we going to forage for food a little later on since it was only about 6 and no one was really terribly hungry. Risotto, we decided, was not meant to be that day.
Oops.
A 3 1/2 hour nap later we decided to take a chance on the Italian take out next door. So Deb and I run down and I burst into spontaneous French (it seems to have taken hold again) and off we go with marvelous little pizzas and spaghettis back to our room.
total miles walked: approximately 5

PARIS ’97: day 2: Will work for hip replacement

After having slept an indecent amount of time in Deb’s estimation (what everyone doesn’t sleep in excess of 11 hours?) we launched ourselves forth into the wilds of Paris. Walked up to the Arc de Triumphe (get your map out now, we are at Rue de Faubourg St. Honore and rue Balzac in the 8th arrondissment) and the walked down the zoo that is the Champs Elysees on a Saturday. We stopped here and there, most notably PrisUnic which is a dead ringer for Target but has an entire level of the best food you ever saw: breads, cheese, wines and yummies that you can’t get in America for less than $20 a pop. Then we walked down the Champs Elysees up to Ave Franklin D. Roosevelt and were briefly considering going to the Metro, but ended up walking back up to the Fg. St Honore and hoofing it over to the Opera. Deb pillaged the Galeries Lafayette and I made sure Achilles didn’t go stark raving mad while all of these ravenous shoppers pooled and eddied around him in their shopping frenzy. =: ) I found a pair of 20 Franc espadrilles (a GREAT DEAL) and we saw a wonderful vintage Jaguar parked on the streets. Deb did a cheesecake pose in front of it.
From the Opera we took the Metro and got off on Franklin D. Roosevelt station and walked back up the Champs Elysees. We went back to the apt. at that point to dump stuff off and get change clothes…oh yeah, did I neglect to mention it was HOT that day? About 95 degrees F. Yeow. I was about to pass out from the heat.
After an hour or so at the apt cooling our feet and selves, we went out again and went all the way down Rue d’Iena and over the Pont d’Iena to the Eiffel Tower. This was about 7:15 p.m. It stays really light until about 10 pm, so we had several hours to play yet. We walked around under the tower and got one of those hot dogs made from almost an entire baguettes and munched for a while watching about 5 kids terrorizing the pigeons. Then we walked down to the river and got tickets for the bateaux-mouches, those flat bottom boats that go up and down the Seine under all the bridges. There was this little girl, who I’m certain learned to walk about 5 hours before, that was running up and down the walkways with manic glee while her mother patiently followed her around for the entire hour of the boat ride. It was great. I think I got a picture of that, too.
From there we walked down into the 7th arr. and grabbed the Metro at Ecole Militaire and went into the 6th at St. Michel. There are about 500 densely packed restaurants in the old medieval winding streets, where guys point at you and say, “Here’s your table!” We finally ended up in a Greek restaurant and ate ourselves into a coma. At midnight we were in the mood for nothing else but sleep. So we took the metro back and walked home where we promptly passed out.
total miles walked:approximately 15

PARIS ’97: day 1: the flight from hell

American Airlines can just bite me.
We got on the plane in SF to Chicago and it was your run of the mill flight, they played Jerry Macguire, but cut out my favorite part where Cuba Gooding, Jr. says “Did you shoplift the bootie?” Bummer. So, no big deal.
We get to Chicago and do the layover thing and get on the plane to Paris. I quote the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “Woo Hoo!”
Well, the flight is about 7 hours long. So we are already pooped and uncomfortable from the first 4 hours leg of the flight. But, being a good little camper who wants to go to Paris, I buck up and just wiggle around a lot to keep what passes for circulation in my body.
About 3 1/2 hours into the flight, we were over Newfoundland, I believe, the captain comes over the intercom with his very loud, very nasal voice and says “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have lost one of our in flight navigation systems and will have to go back to Chicago since we can’t go over the water without a redundant system.”
Getting another nav system didn’t wig me out, It was flying ALL the way back to Chicago that really set everyone’s hair on edge. I did particularly hear the smokers who hadn’t had a cig in about 4-5 hours.
After a near mutiny, the captain conceded us going to New York to either repair the plane or get a new one if its available. But that wasn’t all he said, he threw in this little jibe about “All of you who actually understand aviation will know why we should have gone back to Chicago.” Well, those of us who do actually know about aviation got ticked off. But we sat down and took the 2 hours back to New York like good little drones.
We we got to NY, we were told in no uncertain terms that we weren’t going to be able to get off the plane or move around or eat or smoke or….well,Ii think you get the picture. Also this Customer Relations ‘manager’ who was supposed to answer any questions we may have had, basically said “Sit back in your seats or I will call security” and to a woman who was meeting her 7 year old child in Paris who wanted the airline to contact her kid and let her know that she would be late replied “I have more important things to do.”
That’s when the serious predatory instinct kicked in.
To the stewards and stewardesses credit, they were trying to making things comfortable and get us some leeway, but to no avail.
Eventually, the repairmen who were determining the status of the repairs, declared the plane irreparable and we had to change planes. I think they realized that we were a crazed mob who had been stuck in our tiny little seats for 6 hours and still had a 7 hour flight ahead of us as well…..and they hadn’t fed me recently either. Always a bad sign.
So 2 1/2 hours later, after swiftly removing any traces of that heinous CR rep so that we wouldn’t BBQ her on a spit, we got back onto a fresh plane with a new crew and captain who didn’t have such a whiny little voice. They toadied up very nicely and fed me immediately. The cool thing though was that these seats had those little video monitors in the back of the seat with a kind of remote control in the arm rest. The remote was extremely cool, you could switch channels, do the volume etc, and switch over to radio, but, you could also turn it sideways and play Nintendo or flip it over completely and it was a credit card airphone! Also it has a setting where you could look at the status of the flight:position, time remaining, miles/km remaining, and outside airspeed temp etc. Yes, placate me with gadgets every time.
Unfortunately, I was so exhausted that I played with the toy a little and passed out in those uncomfortable chairs. We got to Paris at 3 pm and luckily enough our ride to the apartment knew we were going to be late and came back for us. Customs even stamped my passport..they are notorious for seeing my American passport and waving me on through-you can’t even beg them for a stamp. The last time I went to Europe I don’t have a single incident in my passport that would even look like I was there. Siggghhhh.
We get to the apartment and get settled and immediately go in search of food. We end up wandering around North of the Arc de Triumphe on the Blvd Grand Armees at a brasserie, where I had confit de canard avec frites (candied duck with garlicky fries)…WONDERFUL!!!! We sat outside and talked for quite a while, then went back home where we all went comatose for about 11 hours.
total miles walked:approximately 5