Monday, September 29, 2008

French twist:Part One

Vacationing in France during an economic downturn is probably not a wise thing to do. But we did and enjoyed every minute, every euro that we spent. What encouraged us to take this trip was our age. Our age. We're not going to be healthier or richer than we are now; and who knows what will happen to the dollar? Those were our thoughts when we booked this trip with the assistance of April S. at the Eugene AAA travel agency. April researched and booked all the details, including transfers to and from airports. Great job, April.

The minute we arrived in Paris, and we met the Trafalgar representative, our vacation started.

Our day started with a bus trip around the city. It was still early in the day and the tour guide explained that half of the tour group was still missing and it was too early to check into the hotel. After we had checked in at the Marriott Courtyard, in a beautiful section of Paris, he gathered us for introductions and a welcome drink. The introductions revealed that most of the group was from Canada and Australia. The Americans were in the minority. He couldn't get us the welcome drink, he explained,because of the timing and the fact that the hotel was not quite ready for us. Something about an Arabian princess and her entourage staying at the hotel at the same time was complicating all the arrangements.

By late afternoon we were shuffled back into the bus to visit Notre Dame and have our first meal together at a cafe across the river from the cathedral. The view was typical Parisian, outdoor seating, strolling couples beautifully dressed in Merino wool or cashmere sweaters with scarfs and mantles smartly adorning their necks, and numerous tourists clutching maps, and wearing sensible shoes.

We stopped at the Eiffel Tower, all illuminated with starts ( for ten minutes each hour) to celebrate the occasion of France becoming the head of the European Union. Even the Arc du Triomphe had new items, two flags, the French and the European Union, to celebrate the new status. In the two days we spent in Paris, we traversed the Arc a few times and each time, though the traffic was horrendous, we all looked up and admired the flags.

Some people stopped to shop at the glamorous places on the Champs Elisees. Most of us got back to the hotel and collapsed, happy to discover that CNN was covering the world affairs for us in English. Come to think of it, with our guide and the rest of the passengers all speaking English, with the hotel staff speaking English, we were not going to have much of a challenge communicating. Even at dinner, as we ordered in French, the waiters eagerly answered in English, proud and eager to practice with us.

The only challenge on this first day was figuring out how to flush the toilets in the different places. No standard flushing equipment here. Everywhere, a new and enchanting twist to get rid of waste.

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