Going Home

Flying home Air France. The Charles DeGaulle terminal we are departing from is a lot newer and cleaner than the one we flew into.
I ordered “assistance” because of the distance to the gate. The little thing they sent with a wheelchair must have weighed 90 pounds wringing wet. Uncle D got a workout instead. We whizzed through security and Doane and boarded early. That was the good news. The bad news is that we had no time to shop duty free!
Can hardly wait to see everyone and snuggle with the puppies!

Last Day in Paris

Dernier Jour

Another day in the high 40’s. There are still leaves on the wisteria and the geraniums in the window boxes. It rained in the am and then cleared.
There seem to be a lot of young people smoking while walking down the street, mobile phonies attached to ears. The uniform of choice for women of all ages is leggings, tailored coat, short boots, and a scarf. Did see a young woman in a mink coat pedaling a bicycle. Rent a bikes are popular, even in this weather.
Walked to Sainte Chapelle, my favorite place in Paris. It was one of Doug’s favorites, too. Colored light brings on a sense of the surreal and mystical, and Ste. Chapelle magnifies this tenfold. The proportions, the glass itself, the finishes all pull together so cohesively and elevate you to another space.
Met David and we had lunch at a not very good Greek restaurant. David was looking for a particular dish prepared a particular way. He had French Onion soup instead. I walked back by the Senate and through Luxembourg gardens. Stopped at the lovely chocolatier shop we had found on our first day, Cristian Constant, and bought some to take home. It was a very lovely process as he picked out each chocolate individually and carefully wrapped the box. I didn’t have the heart to tell him customs might undo all of his work. I went back to the Hotel Perryve. David wasn’t feeling like eating so I had dinner by myself at a corner cafe. Entrecôte with Bernaise sauce, salad, pommes frites, a coupe of Roederer in Toya’s honor, citron tart and decaf espresso. When we were in New Mexico, I learned from Toya that any meal is a celebration if you add a glass of champagne!
It was fascinating to watch people in the cafe. I was inside, overlooking the enclosed sidewalk area of the cafe, aka the smoking section. A middle-aged balding man with his younger girl friend were outrageously flirting with each other. When she played with her hair, every other woman and the gay man in the near vicinity did too. Two friends out for a meal complaining about their boyfriends or husbands. A group of four that seemed oddly matched-two young women and a young man with a very old, fragile, and flamboyant man with coiffed shoulder-length hair. A quiet guy with his computer observing everyone, including me observing him. Outside, someone had parked a Lamborghini. All eyes riveted on the driver when he returned to his car. Considerable hair-flipping ensued . It was another fit, well-groomed guy going through his middle-age crisis.
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Day 3

A beautiful sunny brisk day. I dressed comfortably, cargo pants and walking shoes. I didn’t care if someone identified me as a tourist. Uncle D and I are soloing today. He went to find a man with a rug. I am going to play tourist. It is a perfect day for a double decker bus tour. I spent the first half of the day looking for a place to exchange my old Euro traveler’s cheques. Everyone is so helpful directing me somewhere else. Finally, after 5 banks and one “bureau de change,” I went to a seedy hole in the wall bureau. They charged an outrageous amount, but I really didn’t have much choice. I felt like I was doing some back alley, black market deal. Note to self: Bring dollars. New dollars, it can sometimes be difficult to change old dollars without the strip in them, as Uncle D discovered in Oman. Everyone wants dollars. Or rely on ATM’s, in which case bring plastic that works overseas.
I enjoyed the sights by myself, from the top of the open bus. Took some selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, But my arm wasn’t long enough for one of those shots that looks like I am touching the top.
Desperate for a bathroom, I got off the bus at Printemps. You would think a major department store would have toilets. But nooooooooo. Found a pay to pee loo, 2€. When I was little, public restrooms cost a nickel, if you wanted a clean one. There were always a few free ones that were iffy. The thought occurred to me that no toilettes is also a reason to drink very small cups of coffee from very little cups, instead of big, old, american mugs. You never see anyone walking around with bottles of water here. Wonder if the French have urinary problems or other problems caused by sub minimal hydration? One of the sure signs of getting old? Complaining about toilets.
Made it up to the top floor dining room of Printemps. It is a most wonderous place. Its chapeau is an art nouveau domed glass ceiling that was once open to the ground floor. It now is the splendid domed cover of this charming round cafe. To reflect the beauty of the glass, the tables are mirrored. It was like eating inside a brightly colored Christmas ornament. Had some wonderful Scottish salmon. And a coupe of champagne.
Americans are everywhere in the Place de l’Opera. A lot of them are young. Students? They seem too well-dressed to be students.
I hopped back on the bus and got off at Notre Dame in time for vespers. A beautiful soloist accompanied by an organist filled the Cathedral with sound. The scene was completed by a ceremonially ornamented priest resembling Jabba the Hut dozing off in the corner, waiting his turn on stage.
For dinner, Uncle D and I went to Champs Elysee, past the Christmas stalls, and we found a restaurant serving something Uncle D had a yen for, veal piccata. It was an Italian place and we were the only Americans. The food was more than up to french standards. We were in everyone’s laps once again. How do the French stay so slim anyway?
It was a long wonderful day.

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Day Deux, Paris

Had breakfast at the corner cafe, Cafe Madame. Did a quick visit to Monoprix. It is a grocery store/deli/CVS with clothes. The one near us in St. Germain is kind of small, compared to the one Alice and I shopped at in Colmar. Bought some wash cloths. What do the French use to scrub down with anyway? No banks were open, they open on Saturdays and close on Mondays. I have some Euro travelers cheques that need cashing. Hopped over to Galerie Lafayette, that ultimate temple of consumerism. Suffered shopping overload, the store is gorgeous, reminiscent of the old City of Paris in the city,
Grabbed a bite at a nearby cafe. Uncle D had the worst onion soup he had ever tasted, my open faced ham and cheese sandwich was fine. I was on a quest to find a milliner’s supply store called Ultra Mod which sold real French chenille. On the ship, Basia used French chenille to back her pieces. It is fuller and fluffier than our pipe cleaners and is made of silk. Victorians used French chenille to embellish shawls, fringe, hats, and household decor. I will have to research where I can find it at home.
The store displays are really special in Paris. What the Christmas displays lack in profusion and exuberance, they more than make up for in jewel-like elegance. They seem to lean towards flocking. Everything. I can hardly wait to post pictures.
The “Ecole Maternelle” down the street was busy tonight. The children and parents were leaving with “sapins ” or fir trees.
Uncle D is on an ever ending quest for Coquilles St. Jacques. It doesn’t seem to exist anymore. We went to a cafe that looked promising as they offered substitutes for their lemon sauce. But David and the waiter couldn’t communicate and he ended up having French Onion soup. I, on the other hand had a wonderful dinner. I must confess, I will not miss dining cheek to jowl in itty bitty eateries! The food is more than enough to make up for this minor inconvenience!

Ahhhh Paris

Paris
We had an uneventful flight and breezed through a rather sad looking and empty Charles De Gaulle Airport. It is really showing its age. The taxi ride to our hotel in Saint Germain was yikes 60€. Still, it somehow felt like we were coming home. Driving on the right side of the road. Understanding what is being said. Women dressed like we do at home. No exotic smells.

Even though it was still morning, we were able to check in. Hotel Perreyve is a typical old style budget hotel. I think the room and bath are actually smaller than our cabin on the ship.It is definitely similar to some of the places I stayed in the first time I came to Paris in college. The front desk lady is lovely and allows me to limp through my rusty French then tells me how well I speak it. Alice can attest to the fact that this is not the case. Biggest disappointment? No bidet! The elevator is a hoot. It holds two people or one person with one suitcase. It took forever to get ourselves and our luggage upstairs. We have one of those quintessential double floor to ceiling windows overlooking the street that open to lovely old filagreed wrought iron.
So after settling in, we had a quick meal at a nearby cafe across from the Luxembourg Gardens. We stopped at a neighborhood chocolatier and had a pastry and cafe and sampled some of the best chocolate I have ever had.
The Christmas decorations are tasteful and restrained and the street lightings are individual to each area of the ville. Not the exuberant tinseled glitz of Sri Lanka! The lights at night are quite lovely as are the arbors of branches and bulbs decorating some shops.
The local church, St. Germain des Pres,  was having a thousand year anniversary. We couldn’t get into the church itself for the service, but the block around it was filled with stalls selling everything from monastic goods-like chartreuse-to nougat. We walked all the way to the Champs Elysee. It was raining sporadically. We could see the Eiffel Tower and its lights between buildings and along the Seine. I kept pressing David to continue, thinking we were closer than we actually were. We cut through the Tulieries as they were locking the gates. There were a lot of joggers out, considering the hour and the weather.
At the Ferris wheel, the crowds were growing heavier. The Christmas market was open. The little stalls, resembling white washed chalets sold pretty much the same wares. Scarves from India, nougat, Russian nesting dolls, magic coil necklaces, fuzzy hats. The food vendors offered a little more variety. It became horribly overwhelming very quickly. Crowds pushing and shoving, the rain, the endless rows of chalets. Not one stall sold any products from Germany you would expect to find. No pickle ornaments, nutcrackers or gingerbread hearts. We became separated at one point in time. Thank god for cell phones! Dinner consisted of a sausage sandwich and pommes frites at a food stall. When we finally reached the end of the market, we were too tired to enjoy looking at the lights and promenading to the Arc de Triomphe. After looking in vain for a loo, we gave up and grabbed a cab back to the hotel and made an early night of it. I finally figured out the popularity of dropping into cafes and bistros-they are the only places that have toilets!

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Bye bye Sri Lanka

The Colombo Airport

There is so much we didn’t do in Sri Lanka. The airport was our last experience.

There was lots of x-raying of luggage and three metal detector walk-throughs. Removing liquids? Not necessary. Oversized carryon? No problem. No “Ebola-have-you-traveled -to-West-Africa” posters anywhere. Even Cairo Airport had them. Not exactly 3rd world, but sure wishing our upgrade had gone through.
There was a huge Buddha you can have your picture taken in front of while christmas carols are blasting and trees and decorations are festooning every inch of the airport. Children can sit in the Christmas Toblerone plane or Santa’s sled. Shop assistants are dressed like Santa’s elves. It is a bizarre parallel universe, considering there are very few christians in S.L., the country has managed to totally embrace Xmas without any references to X.
The plane itself was fairly new and comfortable and was only an hour and a half late in leaving. As a nice final touch, they served free wine in economy, and the inside of the plane was decorated for the holidays with wreaths and decorations dangling from the ceiling. Go Sri Lanka Air!