This is the third, and final, installment about my recent excursion to the South of France, ending with two days in Paris. It had been over 30 years since I had lived and traveled in France, and the first time in the South of France. This is a trip I had been anticipating for several years, and it finally came together.
We woke up in Chalon-Sur-Saone on 23 June, early in the morning. Bags were to be packed, and loaded on the trucks for Paris. Our time on the river had come to an end and we were to board buses after our final breakfast aboard the Avalon Scenery. It is funny how you develop relationships with some of the crew members over the course of a little over a week. They did an excellent job and really took care of us, we will miss them.
The bus made a stop in Beaune to tour the Hotel-Dieu, a charity hospital dating back to 1443. It is still a viable hospital today. Then a stroll through town, a stop at a sidewalk cafe, and time to purchase a few items for friends in Maine and it is back to the bus, and on to Dijon where we will board the High Speed Train (TGV) for Paris.
The train arrived in Paris after about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Buses were waiting to take us to the Pullman Montparnasse hotel. It is nice to have a room over twice the size as the cabin on the boat, but we do miss the Avalon Scenery. Avalon seems to use only 5 star hotels on this cruise. Quite nice.
After settling in our room, we took a stroll around this section of Paris and had supper and a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe. This is part of what I have missed about living in Europe. There is great pleasure in sitting there with the town bustling around you and watching the people strolling along, or hurrying to their destination. It is astounding the amount of traffic, and the motor cycles, scooters, and bicycles on the roads.
A good nights sleep, an early breakfast, and we boarded the Avalon Tour Bus for a drive around Paris. I thought it would be good for Rose to see the main sights this way, as she had never been to Paris. The bus made the obligatory stop for a view of the Eiffel Tower and a Kodak moment. We also strolled through a nearby park and had a grand view of the now, French Parliament Building, once a grand chateau that was taken over during the French Revolution. Then it was back to the hotel, and lunch at yet another sidewalk cafe. After a leisurely meal we boarded yet another bus for the Louvre Museum.
There were only 5 of us on this tour and our guide, Joelle, proved to be resourceful and a fountain of knowledge. She appeared to be somewhat of an Art Historian. Rose loved it and thought the guide was fantastic. I was a little less enthusiastic. The Bus would not stop so I could photograph the front of the Louvre. Joelle spent so much time explaining and talking about a few paintings, we could not see very much of the museum. The Louvre itself has grown a lot in the 40 years since I was last there. The modernization effort has taken the charm out of the Louvre. Add to that the hordes of Chinese swarming everywhere, and you were hard pressed to even get close to any of the masterpieces. Had I not spent time in the Louvre many years ago, I would not have known how much different it is now. Oh well, things always change, and you can never go back. Sometimes the change is for the better, sometimes not.
To mark the end of our stay in France, upon returning to the hotel we were informed there may be delays getting to the airport the next morning. The Paris Taxi Drivers Union has declared a one day strike and they will try to block many of the roads. The Avalon representatives were hard at work arranging alternate transportation for our trip to the airport and the flight back to the States.
That evening, we found yet another sidewalk cafe, and I got a French Crepe the likes of which I have been craving for many years, since I last was in France. It was a desert Crepe, filled with Bananas and Chocolate. They just don't make Crepes like this in the States or Canada. What a great ending to the trip.
After breakfast at the hotel, Avalon had arranged a Van for six of us to go to the Airport. As we were driving I was listening to the driver and the radio reports about various roads being blocked by the Taxi Drivers, including the road to Airport Terminal 1. Luckily we were leaving at Terminal 2, and that road was still clear. We arrived at the Terminal about an hour ahead of schedule and had to wait for the Swiss Air counter to open. Things went very smoothly for us to go through customs and take our flight to Zurich. In Zurich, we had to go to the other side of the airport to catch our flight to Boston.
The Swiss Air plane was most uncomfortable. I had paid extra for seats with extra leg room. I shudder to think how close the seats were where there wasn't extra leg room. We were crammed in like Sardines and they still did not have Rose's requirement for a Gluten Free meal correct.
The worst part of the entire trip was going through customs when we arrived in Boston. Five international flights landed within a very short time frame, and we waited in line for over an hour and a half to have our passports checked. Very poor planning on the U.S. Customs service. There were not enough agents on duty to handle the crowd, and half the custom booths were closed due to lack of personnel. I was very surprised that after we went through the passport check and retrieved our luggage, nothing was checked. I could have had anything in my suitcase and no one would have been the wiser. Not a good footnote for Border Security at the airport.
After another 2 hour bus ride to Portland, Maine, we were finally in my car and headed for home, arriving at about 3:00 am on Friday, 26 June 2015. It was a great vacation, and I would highly recommend Avalon River Cruises to anyone, but it was good to be home.
I had a Family Photo Session scheduled for the next day, and a wedding on the 4th of July, but that will be another blog entry.
Stay tuned and thanks for reading.
Please check out this blog by Jen on the 100 Best Things to do in France!