16 Days in France (Days 1 – 3)

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[OK, this isn’t Day 1, 2 or 3.  But it makes a worthy lead-off photo as I enjoy a Mary Tyler Moore moment with likely the two most famous Parisian landmarks – the Eiffel Tower as photographed from the top of the Arch de Triomph.]

Avignon

Bonjour mesdames et messieurs.  Bienvenue!  Je m’appelle Thomas (toe-MOSS) Obert (Oh-BARE) [Editor’s note:  “Toe moss” can usually be kept under control with fast actin’ Tinactin, but I do not “Bare” because I don’t have the figure for it.], and I will be your tour guide.  Here’s the plan:

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On June 5, the supervisor and I flew overnight to Paris, where we would meet up with her sister Rita, flying in from Indianapolis.  From Paris on the 6th, we took a TGV train to Avignon, where we spent the 7th unwinding and doing a preliminary preview (is that redundant) of the city.  [Editor’s note:  A TGV train travels at 200 mph and covered the 400-mile distance to Avignon in a couple of hours.  Why don’t we have them here?]  We were joined in Avignon on the 8th for the start of the cruise by Anne and Bill (whom you may recall as our traveling partners on the Mediterranean cruise last summer), who went first to Marseille, Bill’s brother Bert and his wife Kathy, their daughter Elizabeth (who roomed with Rita on the cruise), and two of Anne’s sisters, Sharon and Kay, ultimately making us a party of 10.  At the end of the cruise, members of the group spent various lengths of time in Paris.  Oh, did I mention that while Rita made it to Paris, her luggage didn’t – a continuous story line throughout the entire trip.

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[Icelandair, you ask?  It was on the Bucket List.]

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[Why is this man smiling?]

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[Doesn’t he realize he’s about to board one of those gawdawful international flights?]

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[Leaving behind the Minneapolis skyline and two weeks of rain in the Upper Midwest.  The end of our driveway was under water when we left Alex.]

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[The Land of 10,000 Lakes – many of which escaped their usual boundaries in our absence.]

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[Cloud]

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[Contrail]

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[Icelandair]

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[Never saw Greenland (another Bucket Lister) – totally cloud covered when we flew over.]

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[Actually, you don’t land in Reykjavik . . . ]

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[Iceland, ho!]

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[You land in Keflavik, a town of negligible population, on the western peninsula, possibly the only part of the country flat enough for an airport.]

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[Pretty bleak; possibly bleak beautiful?]

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[At the Keflavik airport one is still a 40-minute drive from Reykavik.  As soon as airline travel reaches the point where you can be knocked out upon boarding and awakened at your destination, we may decide to do Iceland.  Icelandair permits open-ended layovers, at no extra cost, should one be interested in helicopter rides to ice fields and hot springs.]

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[It appears they are trying to develop a mid-Atlantic hub here.  The current airport can’t a handle the traffic.  Both coming and going, our plane had no gate access, requiring bus rides to the tarmac and the good old-fashioned portable outside stairways for boarding.]

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[Au revoir, Iceland!]

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[Bonjour northwest Scottish islands!]

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[These island have names . . . I may or may not think of them.  Possibly the Orkneys?]

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[Proof positive that the Earth is indeed round.  Wait a sec, that’s the plane window.  Oy!]

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[The Isle of Man . . .]

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[How I knew that!  🙂  ]

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[These seat back flight maps are really handy!]

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[Yup, no doubt about it – the Isle of Man.]

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[I thought I saw Liverpool, but . . .]

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[The English Channel.  We’ve Chunneled under it, flown over it, now we have to take a hovercraft across it.]

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[Maybe some hovercraft here?]

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[Land, ho!  Bonjour France, you’re looking lovely!]

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[It doesn’t take long to reach Paris environs.]

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[Man has totally transformed the Earth’s surface.]

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[We have a Paris sighting . . . ]

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[Actually was quite surprised to hear the Paris metro area is only about 2 1/2 million – when you’re in amongst it, it seems much bigger than that.]

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[Charles de Gaulle, a/k/a, the CDG]

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[The supervisor remembered the pneumatic tubes from her business travels in the 80’s . . . ]

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[Yup, just pop you in a canister to send you up or down one level!  (Are you buying this?)]

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[Now came the hard part.  This was Rita’s first trip to Europe.  She was flying from Indianapolis via Air Canada and landed at a different CDG terminal from us.  We had to take the airport shuttle train through four stops to find her.  We told her to meet us at the Big ‘I’, the central information kiosk, that all use as a meeting point.  Though Rita arrived a couple hours ahead of us, she wasn’t at the designated meeting point!  The supervisor was getting all nervous about having “lost” her older sister.  Just  when we were about to issue an APB, Rita ambled over with great aplomb pushing her luggage cart.  The luggage cart was sans luggage – she subsequently discovered her bag had decided to go to Frankfurt rather than Paris.]

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[OK, now what?]

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[It was on to the TGV station for a train trip to Avignon.  Rita’s luggage would have to catch up to us when it could.]

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[We were fortunate to run into this nice gentleman who explained which train to catch and where we’d be in that train.  (Editor’s note:  The “doofus” hat was considered a necessity so Rita wouldn’t get lost.)]

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[Rita’s old iPad crashed right before the trip (an omen?), so she had to get a new, and went for the smaller size, version.  She was in “learning mode” during the trip and often called the device bad names when it would go into video mode, apparently for no damn reason!]

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[The train, the train!! ]

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[Yup, looks like it’s ours.]

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[I’m so lucky to have a great husband who takes me on these wonderful trips! ]

I took about a minute video here – the train ride is unbelievably smooth and quiet:

 

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[The woman on the left was thinking, “Harrrumph, tourists.”]

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[Look!  I’m walking!  At 200 miles per hour!]

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[Our room at the Grand Hotel in Avignon.  The super searched far and wide for a place where we could get a room for three . . .]

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[Because we always share a room to reduce costs.   And it gives me an opportunity to experience life in a sorority house!  😉 ]

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[Reetz checks her investment portfolio.  BTW, we had issues getting from the train station to the hotel.  It was getting dark when we arrived and there didn’t appear to be much in the way of public transportation to get us “to town.”  No sign of any buses, and taxi stands were sans cabs.  A local woman waiting for a cab finally ventured out to try locate some, found one and sent it back to us because we were first in line.  No wonder I have a soft spot for French women.]

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[The super checks out our suite . . . which turned out to be “sweet.”  🙂  ]

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[Our sitting room . . . where we would discuss the weighty issues of the day such as, “Where the hell is Rita’s luggage?” ]

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[I feel pretty!]

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[The view of the hotel lobby from our balcony.]

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[The view of the swimming pool, on the rooftop of the middle white wing – a place we never visited?]

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[A nightcap at the bar . . .]

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[Wine is that much?]

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[Stairway to heaven?]

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[The next morning we charged out into Avignon.  Because our cruise would begin here, then go south to Arles, then back to Avignon for the trip upriver, we did not want to do much beyond shopping so as not to spoil our tour in two days.  The city’s walled historic center was right across the street from our hotel.]

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[Our hotel was at the bottom center of this map.]

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[Inside the wall, Rita begins her European adventure, backpack armed with everything one could need in an emergency (well, she was a school nurse).]

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[If I can remember to point it out, we did go through the “home town” of Jackie Kennedy’s family.]

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[Churches provide much architectural splendor.  We’ll be back to this guy later . . . ]

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[OK, what we really came for . . . our first, on the street, French express breakfast.  It consists of coffee or hot chocolate, orange juice, a baguette and/or a croissant, with butter and jelly.  Beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  Then you just sit and people watch.  If you never ask for the check, you could sit there all day.  There is never a rush to leave an eating establishment.  Oh, we’re in city center here.]

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[Wake me when it’s time for my pedicure.]

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[Rita needed to go to a phone store to see if she could get her cell phone to work within and from Europe.  So we went to the Orange where Rita had her first encounter with a monsieur.  Though he tried the sim card Rita had purchased, he politely told her her model phone (or plan?) wasn’t going to work here.  Rita was hooked on messieurs (he was a charmer).]

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[Just walking around the little side streets off the central square . . . ]

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[I was too late with the camera here, probably from laughing.  The little guy in the middle had just run his arm up under mom’s tunic top to the point where his arm almost came out her neck line.  She never batted an eye as she  continued her texting.]

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[The Biddies in full shopping mode.]

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[Is it time to eat again yet?]

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[Hotel de Ville – in every town, City Hall.  We’re back to central square again.]

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[You know you’re in France when the merry-go-round features nudes.  😉  ]

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[Hmmm, is that photo worthy?]

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[Yah, sure, you betcha!]

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[A guitar and violin duo entertained.]

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[This little girl was eating lunch with her folks at a table just across from us.  She wasn’t particularly interested in her large plate of frites.  She just liked to take off on her pedal-less bike to see what was up in the neighborhood.]

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[Inside city hall, a monument to the French Underground.]

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[Walking toward the river, going outside the wall, to find our boat for our cruise the next day.]

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[The riverside dock area.  (Yes, we ultimately rode the Ferris Wheel . . .)]

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[Looking back from whence we came.]

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[Obviously some goofy American tourists.]

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[We found our boat!  The Viking Hermod.  Viking has so many boats now that they’re being named for gods who are not household names.  Hermod the Brave was a son of Odin and was famous for kicking a 62-yard field goal to win the 1833 B.C. Lutefisk Bowl.]

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[The Centennial Statue on the waterfront . . .]

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[Between the city walls and the Rhone River just behind me.]

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[The Biddies discovered a flea market on the river.]

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[The Centennial Statue]

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[Walking around the city wall back to the hotel.]

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[It was a long walk – never pass up a resting bench!]

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[There’s home!]

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[Kitty-corner from our hotel, the main entrance into the walled city.]

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[The view from the hotel side.]

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[A little Cotes du Rhone for a party in the hotel garden.  Based on my many years of corkscrew experience, I neatly removed the cork . . . and about a quarter of the bottle top!  Obviously a faulty bottle!]

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[Nevertheless, we forged ahead, secure in the knowledge that a little glass dust would provide good roughage.  Rita checks the cheese to make sure it’s compatible with our wine and ciabatta.]

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[Foot massage, s’il vous plait?]

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[This, and the following flowers, were in the courtyard garden.  From here I’ll turn it over to Lorlee for further explanation . . . 🙂 ]

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[Sisters]

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[Check, s’il vous plait.  Merci.]

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[This, and the two following, are courtesy of the supervisor’s tablet.  Ain’t we got fun?]

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[Woo-woo!  Painting the town rouge!]

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[So, do you come here often?  I’m a Virgo!]

Women eat while they are talking; men  talk while they are eating.  ~  Malcolm De Chazal

Up next:  Let the cruise begin!

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