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Monday, July 6, 2009

Traveling to Europe, Day one

After months of preparation for our trip it was obvious that we were not prepared. My first mistake was thinking that I would be able to sleep on the plane and avoid jet lag. Our flight left Dallas at 12:30 on Friday so I planned to go to sleep early on Thursday, wake up very early on Friday and by the time our international flight left Minneapolis at 5 I would be ready for a nice long nap.

First of all, I didn't fall asleep until well after 1am and set the alarm for 5pm, not 5am so we slept until 7am. both Jason and myself had things to do and we had to leave our house by 9 to get to the airport in time. We did, though we may have left the house in a bit more disarray than we had wanted. Jason's mother was coming up to look after the dogs and we left her an unmade bed, dust bunnies and probably a few dishes.

DFW to MSP was a typical domestic flight, we had our water and peanuts and got to the gate with some time to spare. In Minneapolis we were informed that the flight was oversold and that they were looking for volunteers to be bumped to a flight the next day. I held my breath. We were on free flights so I was afraid that we'd be bumped. Luckily, some poor souls volunteered because we were able to board our flight.

I have only one thing to say about flying for 9 hours in economy class with very little sucks. I did not sleep for more than a few minutes at a time and the guy in the seat in front of me immediately leaned his seat all the way back. This always seems to happen to me.

Also, the in flight movie was Hotel for Dogs, which I watched without sound and immediately wished I hadn't. I was already missing our dogs.

Finally we arrived in Paris CDG and after some confusion found our way to customs, which was a shock. I expected questions, forms, baggage checks at least. None of that, just a sleepy agent behind a glass window who stamped my passport. Jason's stamp is upside down.

Welcome to Paris.

After figuring out how to get our 5 day Visit pass, we hopped the RER, which is the train and headed into town. Luckily we got the express so we were in Gare du Nord within a half hour. From there we got on the metro line 5 to our stop, Jacques Bonsergent, only to miss it because, silly Americans, we didn't know that in order to get off the train you have to pull the handle to open the door. We ended up at the next stop, the Republique, which was not terribly far from our hotel, though we did wander a few blocks because I had only mapped our path from the previous stop.

Our hotel was the Best Western Aida Marais
Originally I booked a room with a balcony, however when we arrived we were given the balcony room, on the 5th floor, and told that the lift was not working.
We went up the stairs once. The staircase was spiraled. You are going to hear a bit about spiral staircases in my travels. Once was enough to realize that the balcony was very much not worth the climb. I got the desk clerk to give us a room on the first floor, which was still up one flight of stairs, but one was fine. Our room, though there was no balcony, still had French windows (huh, French windows in France) so we could open up and look out over the street. The bed was wonderful with a fabulous cotton comforter, which is really hard to find in hotels these days, either they have a down comforter or a cheap velux blanket and bed spread. The bathroom was clean and fairly new which is always a plus. That striped floor is hardwood.The room itself was tiny. We had previously stayed in a few historic hotels in New Orleans and San Antonio that were small, but this was smaller even than those. The bathroom door hit the bed when opened. To be honest, it was not an inconvenience at all.

Needless to say, I was jet lagged. And even if I wasn't, I had had about 4 hours of sleep in almost 48, so I was beat. I took a small nap which turned into a bigger nap. Eventually I got up.
While I was asleep Jason explored our neighborhoods and learned some interesting things, mainly that no where in our neighborhood sold film or clove cigarettes (turns out no where in Paris or Rome sells them), and that pharmacies are just that, places to buy health and beauty products, no snacks, no drinks, nothing.
We had a meal at Cafe Pierre, which was forgettable and headed to the Eiffel Tower. We hopped the metro and were there within minutes.
We walked around the park and down past the Champs Du March and into town in search of a place to eat. We walked for quite a ways before realizing that we should probably get on the metro because it was rather late. When we were back in the Republique area we got some fries and a chocolate pastry from a fast food restaurant called Quick.
After that I slept for about 10 hours and was in somewhat better condition to start my vacation.
Up next: Day 2, the Louvre and La Madeleine.

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