We're pretty at 5 in the morning. (pretty= cross-eyed and frown-smile, respectively.)
I kept a travel journal that I wrote in every night we were over in France, so what you'll be getting here is a shot of Jessie writings 2011 style. I severely edited for your sake because, oh my gosh, I am so verbose. Is it annoying? Don't answer that. I don't think I'm this wordy in real life. But it's like, no detail left undisclosed.
A word before I turn it over to 2011 pregnant, long-winded, journal Jess: Sean and I planned a three-part French adventure. Due to flight delays and complications, all but ONE full day of our Paris leg got cut out. Due to an accommodation snafu, we all but skipped our Avignon leg. So France, to me, is and always will be Nice. I completely edited out all the flight complainy crap and our short first evening in Paris. You're welc. And any non-italicized text is me, 2013 pregnant, long-winded Jess.
PS - O to the M to the gosh, we ate so much. Almost every paragraph has something about food. I know I was pregnant but mon Dieu. And what's Sean's excuse?
Monday, April 4
Paris Day! We wake up at 9 for complimentary breakfast at the hotel and head out armed with the metro map…uh-oh. We found the station easily enough but there are so many metro lines! After accruing probably several stares, smirks and snorts, the stupid Americans figure out their stop and commence with the throngs from the Champs Élysées. Almost as soon as you emerge from this exit the Eiffel Tower is visible. It’s stunning. Pictures don’t do it justice, but Sean snaps off tons and tons.
We notice no one is in line to go up from the south pillar of the Tower so this seems like the obvious choice right? Stupid Americans…”escaliers uniquement” = stairs only. Well, it’s cheaper, there’s no one in line, we have croissants to burn off, and I’m 5 months pregnant. The ideal choice. To be honest it wasn’t that bad. About 350-400 steps, then the view is worth it. We walk all the way around and see the Seine, the Louvre, and a bunch of other monuments we can’t name. We grab souvies and hot chocolate in the café and look out over Paris. Sean wants to do the second level, but I shoot it down because I didn’t know it was free and I didn’t want more stairs, and Sean doesn’t effectively communicate how much he really wanted to.
When we go back down, we walk through the unfathomably gorgeous park beneath and in the shadow of the tower, the Champs-de-Mars: scattered ponds, old bridges, huge expanses of grass for picnics, random beds of beautiful flowers, and – my fave – pink-blossomed trees in full bloom. We grab two “Parisiennes” (a baguette with ham, cheese, and butter) at a nearby boulangerie and, after the cashier rips us off an extra 1½€ because we look like tourists (we obv did the math after we left) we settle in to a prime bench that looks right at the Tower. Bliss.
We decide to follow the Seine because it’s close and many of Paris’ attractions are on its banks. We grab coffee on a stationary riverboat then start our long walk headed for the Museé d’Orsay. It takes us over an hour to get there…and it’s closed Mondays. Bust. By this time it’s around 3 and our feet kill, but we press on the Ile de Cité and the Notre Dame Cathedral. What a sight that is. I haven’t seen a church anything like it. It’s very dim and all dark gray stone with vibrant stained glass and it’s just…so…high. We walk through all the side chapels – and there are very many – and sit in the pews to take it all in. We stroll the circumference of the church outside but decide against going upstairs due to lines. Sean gets photos of “the monsters” sometimes and more properly known as gargoyles, many of which have severely deteriorated over time.
But what’s this?! A crêperie next to the Notre Dame? I am all excitement. We each get a “crêpe sucre-beurre” (sugar-butter) and nothing has ever tasted so delectable.
Whose is whose?
We sit there for awhile before braving the Metro back to the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower. After Sean uses the public motion-sensitive Water Closet that washes the toilet and floor after every use (???), we set out to find a suitable restaurant for dinner. The baby’s hungy.
Sean gets way excited because he sees Restaurant Ribe and thinks they have ribs. I assure him with not a hint of mockery that that isn’t what is meant by the title, but we check the menu anyway and find it quite appealing. The waitress speaks Anglais and is way friendly, and we get a great window seat. I order scrumptious salmon in butter and cream sauce that comes with fettucine. Sean grabs steak with peppercorn sauce and fries. Dessert comes with the meal: I get “nougat” (which turns out to be pistachio ice cream) with raspberry sauce; Sean, a crème with caramel. Everything was so good and so French.
It was only about 8 and still light out, so we walked around to kill time until the Tower would light up. We walked through a trendy-looking neighborhood and found a cute café. I got a cappuccino and Sean got a Heineken. By 8:30 it was about dusk so we headed to the Champs-de-Mars park to wait. The Eiffel Tower all lit up does not disappoint, and we got there just as it was starting to glow. It looks like it’s made out of gold.
The scam artists make good use of the picturesque time under the Tower, and we were soon approached by an enthusiastic African selling bracelets blessed with good “mugu mugu.” Since he had already tied me into the bracelet and strapped one on Sean too, we gave him 4½€ for being entertaining - instead of the 10€ he asked for. He took it and left with a “Hakuna Matata” farewell (no really, he said that. Like from the Lion King). The African brought on a world of pain, because all the other vendors in the park descended on us suckers with their tower keychains and statues so we had to flee.
It had been a long, successful day, so we boarded the metro and got back around 10.
Tuesday, April 5
Oh man. We are up by 7:30 a.m. because we have a 9:30 train. After eating speedily and checking out, we leave ourselves a little over an hour to get across town via Metro. Should be good right? Uh-uh. The first metro stop “Rome” doesn’t take our American cards and we are out of Euros. We walk five minutes further to the Place de Clichy stop and get tickets, but Sean gets stuck in the spindle with our luggage, accruing a line of angry cussing Frenchmen behind him. It was stressful at the time but now it's funny to think of sweaty, anxious, baggage-laden Sean on one side of the spindle while I watch helplessly two feet away. Since his ticket wasn’t working he grabs one off the floor with a prayer that it works. It does.
Apparently 8:30 is rush hour in Paris because trying to get our huge luggage on to the Metro stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey with Frenchmen who don’t wear deodorant is death-defying. Baby is not happy with the situation and does flippies in my tummy while I fend off puking. Thank God we change lines after four stops and this one is much less crowded. We make our stop but time is still an issue and we don’t know where our departure gate is. We ask around and make our train with about ten minutes to spare. Phew.
The TGV is high speed so we make Avignon in about two hours and forty minutes despite it being 420 miles away. Avignon weather is much more pleasant than Paris. It’s virtually cloudless and about 70˚. We grab a 40€ taxi ride to our hotel with high hopes of making a fun, full day. Here’s the catch: “Le Golf Grand Avignon” hotel is not in Avignon. It’s twenty minutes and 40€ away, in Vedene. A second catch: we can’t check in between the hours of 12 and 4 because they’re on lunch. Ah. A four hour lunch, but of course? Ok. So we lug our huge bags to the clubhouse (this is a golf resort) for some expensive lunch and three hours of down time. We play Crazy 8’s and I beat Sean six games to four.
Our little corner of clubhouse.
By the time we check in we’ve already decided we can’t stay in “Avignon.” The room at the resort is beautiful as are the grounds, but there are no bus, train or metro stops and we can afford neither taxi rides nor a rental car to get into Avignon. And this golf resort is secluded, there’s nothing local to do.
With ninja-like maneuvering, Sean finds us a hotel in Nice for Wednesday and Thursday nights, and informs the front desk we’ll be checking out in the morning. We have to eat the cost of this hotel, but oh well. We are able to switch our train tickets from Friday morning to Wednesday morning for an extra 25€. Now we just have to kill a few hours at this sleepy resort, as it’s only about 6 o’clock.
Upon walking the grounds we discover that the only restaurant in a two mile radius is closed for dinner. Baby won’t have that. The front desk suggests ordering a pizza, so we take the brochure. No one at the pizzeria speaks English however, and my French classes from eight years ago are not comin’ up strong for me. Ultimately the front desk orders for us and we enjoy a cheesy French pizza (as in, they don’t cut it into slices so we tear it like cavemen) and a liter of “Coca” on our beautiful terrace at dusk. Sean evens the score – and then-some – on Crazy 8’s and, after watching the better part of a CSI New York episode in French, we call it quits at 10:30.
Til Pars Deux, mon amies.