French is a beautiful language which I started studying in third grade and continuing through college. I even got a 1 on my AP exam (I am sure my mom is glad I shared that with the world!) My husband also studied the language for many years. This was one of the places I definitely wanted to visit while living overseas. When the opportunity arose for Matt to go for work, the baby and I decided we would tag along. It was all her idea!! We were SO excited to go to Paris and practice the language and see the many wonderful things that Paris has to offer and see who was better at the language! What? Aren’t all married couples competitive about foreign languages?
Matt’s conference was Tuesday and Wednesday so we got an early flight on Monday so we would have time to explore the city together. Matt checked in 24 hours prior to departure but could not get the baby or I checked in. He wanted to call the airline in Germany to find out the problem but I told him it was not necessary. So, we got up at 4:00 AM so we could leave at 4:30 to make our 6:40 flight. (We are that amazing; we got all three of us ready in 30 minutes!) I got the baby undressed, and changed her diaper before she even woke up! This will probably never happen again!
As we were driving the airport and discussing how lucky we are because we live in Italy and are going to Paris, it started to rain. This changes the game plan a little bit because we now have to drop the luggage and the baby off at the airport before parking the car on base. The final plan was that Matt would run into the airport and check in quickly, while I watched the car, then he would go park the car and run back to the airport while I watched the bags. Plans. They never work like you think. Because it was so early and raining, there was no security so the car was not a big issue. This does not mean that I worry less about “breaking the rules.” Matt walked the baby and me into the airport and then went to get the bags. Then he went to stand in the long line to check in while I stood and watched the car. When he finally got to speak with an agent, we learned that there was a problem with the tickets and we could not be checked it. Matt was going to have to speak with the ticketing counter (a different counter on the other side of the airport) but he couldn’t leave his bags at the desk and they couldn’t be tagged and checked in because of the issue. And we still had the car. So, Matt finally agreed to let me park the car (he is a TRUE gentlemen) while he dealt with the tickets. On the way back from the parking garage, I was trying to keep the umbrella from blowing inside out, trying to hurry, and trying not to get wet, which meant of course that I slipped and almost feel twice! For your knowledge, cross walks in the rain are VERY slippery! I finally got back to the airport and go to the counter where all our bags are left unattended!! Matt is not in view but I figured he is still at the ticketing counter. The Lufthansa agent gave me a speech about how with a baby we really must arrive 2 hours prior to the flight and that they were doing everything they could for us but if we had gotten there 2 hours before the flight, there would be more they could do. While I am nervously waiting for this situation to be resolved by my husband, I am watching all the other “late” travels. One couple comes in at 6:20 for a 6:40 flight but they don’t get a lecture about arriving 2 hours prior to the flight! Then another man tries to check in a UM 20 minutes before the flight departs. I am standing there trying to figure out what a UM is and listening to the ticketing agent yell about how much paperwork a UM requires and it is not possible to check on in 20 minutes before the flight when the man drops to his knees and puts his hands in a praying position and literally begs this woman to let him do it. (This is when I figure out a UM is an unaccompanied minor). As this man is on his knees begging, the agent just says “No. Stop it.” After watching this spectacle, I decided I wanted to find Matt and find out what was happening. I left our bags unattended and headed towards the other side of the airport to find the ticketing counter. When I got the Matt said “These ladies are working very hard to figure this out but bottom line, Expedia sucks. Will you go back and wait with the bags?” In a couple of minutes, he comes rushing over with boarding passes, the agents quickly print bag tags and then send us running to the gate. We get to go through the “fast track” of security, which of course with a baby and a stroller is only so fast! We then continue our run, me carrying the baby in my arms as she laughs hysterically. We get to the gate and make the last shuttle to the plane. Phew! Then I get the story.
Matt called both Expedia and Lufthansa on Friday before our Monday flight to confirm the baby was ticketed and ready to go. He was told her ticket cost 21 euro and everything was taken care of. This was a big lie. Expedia put the baby on the reservation but never issued a ticket so Matt had to buy a ticket the day of the flight which was 145 euro. Yep. The baby cost $189 to sit in our laps. And she didn’t even earn miles! We should have seen this as a bad sign for the rest of the trip.
The baby required a lot more attention on this flight than on the trip to Venezia but she eventually fell asleep for about 30 minutes. When we landed in Munich, we had to go to the Lufthansa counter to get a boarding pass printed for me (flashbacks to our trip over from America!). While we were there, we tried to see if there was anything these agents could do to help us since we weren’t rushing for a flight. Of course the first lady was super kind and helpful and seemed like the kind of person who would figure out a way to give us our money back but didn’t work in the right department to help us. The second lady was not nice and pretty much told us we were stupid. And out $189.
We were surprisingly in good spirits still, laughing about how much this sucked but still excited about our trip to Paris. We had enough time before our next flight to go and get a nice German breakfast (omelet for me and white sausage for Matt). The second flight was uneventful (thank goodness!) and the baby did better than the first one even though she didn’t sleep. Matt asked the flight attendant for a piece of bread and a cup; between those two things she was entertained the entire flight!
We landed in Paris and started practicing our French! The airport in France is ridiculous!! We were on the way to baggage claim and we came to an escalator and stairs so we started looking for the elevator and couldn’t find out. After looking around for a few minutes, clueless, there was someone to ask and he looked at us like we were stupid! Apparently, what we thought was an escalator was in fact a “rolling carpet” or people mover!! So we got on the first of several different rolling carpets. At one point we were on one and looked up to see 8 more going in all different directions, like a major city freeway!! Baggage claim was uneventful (thank goodness!) so it was on to car rental.
Now, you might think, why are they renting a car in Paris?? Because of the business trip, Matt gets a rental car to provide transportation to and from the airport and as needed during the trip. He was told that he should get the rental car by others who had made the trip before. The rental car is booked by the Navy travel agents. First problem, they have the dates of the entire trip, not just the portion of business. Matt tries to explain we only want it to the 17th and not the 19th. The lady says no problem. Then they do not have the size car that is reserved so she has to put us in an upgrade. Matt emphasizes that we cannot pay for the upgrade and the Hertz lady says no problem. Then she says we have to wait 30-45 minutes for the car to get here. Finally, the car is here and the Hertz lady assures Matt we can return the car on the 17th and we will not pay for the upgrade. She gives us the information to find the car and get out of the parking deck. The parking garage is very well planned with each spot labeled, each rental car company clearly marked, so finding the car should be simple. For whatever reason, the identifying information we are given is the license plate, not the parking spot! So after a few minutes of wandering around and not finding the appropriate labels, we realize we are looking for the wrong thing! We find the car, which is a very nice car with a FULL moon roof (baby loved this), navigation system, satellite radio, and a bunch of other things we do not need!
We get to the hotel and park in the parking garage next door (58 euro a day). We go and check in and ask for a crib. He has cribs available but he does not think it will fit in our room. We tell him we will make it work. Being the prepared mommy, I brought a pack and play sheet thinking pack and plays are pretty standard. Ironically enough, they are not. And surprisingly, the European pack and plays are significantly larger than the American ones! Everything else is smaller in Europe but the portable cribs!
After all the drama it took to get here, we are finally in our hotel room in Paris! We load up the baby in the stroller and decide to go stroll the streets of Paris and find a bite to eat. We walked for 30-45 minutes enjoying the stroll, the sites, and people watching, and just being together. Finally we decide to pick a little sidewalk café and get a bite to eat. I am SUPER excited because I have seen lots of people eating salads. I am talking real salads, not lettuce. I know what I am ordering before we even find a place to eat. We find a place and get tables moved out of the way to make room for the stroller and get situated before I looked at the menu prices! WHOA! Paris is expensive. Matt says we can just keep looking but I feel guilty because we made such as scene about getting seated and I think it would be rude to just leave after all that. Silly I know. So we order two waters and a salad to share. After our 25ml waters are gone (in pretty much one sip!), we see the table has a big one and we ask for that. And Matt orders a glass of wine. Our bill was 42 euro. WHAT!! Our salad was 16 euro, one of the small bottles of water was 4,80. We spent 18,60 on water alone! At this point, we were not shocked that yet another thing did not go our way. Later, we learned that it is okay to drink the tap water in Paris. After living in Italy for six months where the water was not safe to drink, I just assumed!
After our snack, we “window shopped” some more and eventually went back to the hotel to let the baby have a little time out of the stroller. Matt’s co-worker was arriving that evening as well so we made plans to go to dinner with him. When it was time to go to dinner, we loaded the baby back into the stroller and met our dinner companion. Of course, no one wanted to pick the restaurant or the type of food so we asked the front desk and the recommended a restaurant around the corner, which had meals starting at 27 euro…we passed! Next door to this fancy restaurant was a Subway (I seriously wonder which has more locations, Subway or Starbucks?) and a sushi restaurant. I of course want sushi because I have been craving it for 17 months! It is definitely different than American sushi, still good but different. There was no crab in any of the rolls and there was no seaweed salad. Also, no spicy tuna. So I finally got sushi but it made me miss American style sushi even more. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel so we could put the baby to bed and Matt could make sure everything in ready for his meeting the next day.
We have shared a hotel room with the baby a lot but now that she is a little older she doesn’t seem to think she needs to go to bed until we do! She was so tired (we got up at 4 AM, she napped for 20 minutes on the first flight, and maybe an hour in the car/stroller) but she would not settle down. Eventually she fell asleep next to me in the bed while Matt was ironing (cool press thing) and emailing.
The first full day in Paris!! It has to be better than the trip getting here, right?? Matt had arranged for free breakfast to be brought to the room (breads, jam, yogurt, coffee, and juice) but of course it was late and he didn’t get any before his meeting. He also decided that he would return the rental car during his lunch break. Oh, it was raining as well. Right after Matt leaves for his meeting, breakfast is delivered and the baby and I enjoy fresh squeezed orange juice (I do not usually like juice!) and croissants. And café. It was quite pleasant. She took her morning nap while I showered and checked my email. And guess what, more bad news!! Monday was just a crummy day for Matt, the baby, and I and I found out on Tuesday, that Monday was crummy for Lucy and our friends who were dog sitting! The two dogs had a squabble of food and Lucy was able to protect her food from the other dog but not her face! So she had to go to the emergency vet and get stitches. That dog is mine first baby. She is so spoiled (by me and EVERYONE else) and just the most awesome dog ever. So when she is hurt, I am a mess. When she tore her first ACL, I think I probably cried more over that then the fact that Matt was leaving for deployment (sorry honey!). When she tore her second ACL, I was really worried because I wasn’t going to be able to carry her to the bathroom or sleep on the floor next to her since I was pregnant. Seriously, she is spoiled and I love her. Most people probably think that I would freak out when something like this happens to my dog (I was not a happy camper when a stranger’s dog at the dog park bit her for NO reason and then the lady took her dog and left without checking on my dog or giving me any of her information to sue her!!). I did not freak out. My friend sent me about five emails updating me on every detail. First when it happened, then that they were going to take her to the vet, then how the vet trip went, then a picture, then how the wound was infected, the second set of stitches, etc. I was very relieved to know that the dog was being well cared for and I was being kept informed! (In case you were wondering, after the initial injury, Lucy still managed to eat all her food while her face was bleeding and the dogs acted like nothing had happened the rest of the week!) So Tuesday was not looking much better than Monday for the Langley Clan.
After the baby woke up, I bundled her up in all her warm clothes, loaded the stroller and set out to explore the city. Big round of applause!!! Despite what you may think since I moved to Italy with a newborn, I am not an outgoing and adventurous person. I lived in North Carolina my whole life, until I was engaged to Matt. I actually went to college in the same town I grew up and after college moved two hours away. Vacations (before Matt) were trips to Litchfield beach and they were awesome. Unfamiliar things make me nervous. I always think of what could go wrong. I like doing and seeing new things but I like to have other people with me. It would not have surprised anyone if I found some reason to just sit in the hotel and wait until Matt came home instead of wandering around France. But I did it! I walked out of the hotel and it started to rain…great. I decided I would still walk and find a little café for lunch and people watching. I put the rain cover on the stroller which is the most awesome thing (Thanks Suzy and Doug!!) and got the umbrella out of my diaper bag. Of course I didn’t wander too far because of the rain. I found a very cute little café with lots of different delicious treats! I even used my French to order!! Mrs. Caviness would be so proud! I had a Quiche Lorraine, l’eau, la salade, et crème brulee! The value meals in France are way better than America (burger, fries, and soda…I mean in France combo meals come with dessert!) After my delicious lunch, I decided I would go back to the hotel and see if Matt was there and let the baby nap. She was a mess after the day of travel and really needed to sleep, plus it was raining. And my mommy code decided that to wander around in the rain was a bit selfish. Matt had been in the room, I got a nice little love letter from him, but he was on his way to return the rental car.
The rental car return should be easy right? We are returning it early and should just pay for 1.5 days. I do not think I can truly explain what happened and maybe I can convince Matt to write the story for the blog but I will give you a brief overview. Matt asked the hotel for a Hertz rental car location and he was given directions to les Champs Elysees, near the Louvre. After driving around for 20-30 minutes where Hertz should be, in traffic for the new President’s speech, he returned to the hotel to get better directions or a different location. He had to pay 4 euro just to park the car to find the new location…which was 200 meters down the road. Yep, he spent an hour or so driving to the other location to find out there was one literally down the street. As you can imagine, it just gets worse. Apparently the Hertz agent was not able to work the computers. And he didn’t know how to return a car early. And he insisted the tax payers must pay for the entire reservation (if you remember we explained at the airport that we only wanted it to the 17th not the 19th and we wanted the basic car), and that we must pay the upgrade. After several hours, yep HOURS, of trying to find someone who could work the computers, explaining why we didn’t want the upgrade and therefore should not be charged for it, and why would shouldn’t pay for the days we were not using the car, he finally gave up. At this point he just wanted a receipt saying when he returned the car (which was surprisingly still too difficult for the agent) and that he paid 458 euro for a ride from the airport and to get out of that stupid place! As you can imagine, we are not very impressed with Paris yet. And Matt learned that for travel, Paris is a place you take the metro, not rent a car. After all that crap, he missed the entire afternoon of meetings.
He got home from Hertz Rental Car and found me in the lobby. He shared the story over a glass of wine and tried to get all his frustration out. Then he had to go and call the Navy travel agency to give them a heads up about what happened to see if they could fix it and to make sure we didn’t have to pay. And then I had to tell him about our dog. Tuesday was terrible too!
We decided we would salvage Tuesday by strolling on les Champs Elysees and getting a nice dinner. I got to see le Place de Concorde, l’Arc de Triomphe, and le tour Eiffel (from a distance of course!), and le Louvre. We stopped for a chocolate and banana crepe before going into the Jardin des Tuileries. I loved walking through all the different little gardens. They were very beautiful and very well maintained. People would literally sit in the garden and have a picnic lunch, read a book, drink a glass of wine, or sketch. I would say the French really know how to slow down and enjoy things. And relax. But I guess they need stress relievers since they people who work in all forms of travel seem to just be a big pain in the rump! In the garden, we saw some sculptures that I thought were beautiful and the baby had her first carousel ride. Our mood was improving. We continued our stroll and ended up at the smaller l’Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. Then we started to walk over then Seine, which was really really windy to find something to eat. Things started to deteriorate quickly (which happens with food and me!!). We were trying to find something to eat but it was all too expensive for me. I went from needing to eat, to starving, to grumpy witch; to I just wanted to go home. Fun for Matt, huh? So we started walking back towards our hotel and finally found a place to eat. I had a bowl of French onion soup (YUMMERS!!), an escargot (not yummers), and a steak with French fries (yum-I like French fries here way better. Maybe this means I will not want to eat fries when I come home and I will magically be skinny and no longer have to work at my weight-a girl can dream!). Matt had salmon and a really good glass of wine and the rest of the snails! The baby had baguettes! We had a nice dinner and returned home.
Wednesday was the last day of Matt’s meetings and much better weather day. We both had free breakfast in the room and Matt said he would be home around 4. After the baby’s morning nap, we set out to explore the streets of Paris again. I found a place to eat (it was not memorable), and I got my husband a baguette, an éclair, and I got meringue. We explored for three hours or so and I think I saw 6 Starbucks, got asked for directions, found a really cool park that had something to do with Marie Antoinette, got lost once, and found the largest mall ever. I am not a shopper but after passing the 17th entrance for this mall that took up a very long block, I decided I would go in. All the stores were high end (Prada, Chanel, Coach, Louis Vuitton, may others that I had never heard of because I am not high end!). But they weren’t really stores. It was more like a bunch of counters and alcoves like a department store but each was a different retailer. The mall was also 8 floors. And had a fancy restaurant in the middle.
After “shopping” I decided to head back to the hotel to let the baby have a nap and check email. Matt actually got home early from his meeting which was AWESOME!! See, something awesome did happen while we were in Paris. When we were planning the trip, I decided I wanted to do the L’Arc de Triomphe at night and the Eiffel Tour during the day so we could see the different views and get to see what Paris looked like at night. This did not happen because it does not get dark until 9:45. Instead we went to the L’Arc on Wednesday. We strolled down the street and watched all the street performers. We saw the world’s biggest Louis Vuitton store and went in so my friend Anna didn’t defriend me!
To get to the L’Arc, you go under the street (just like how you get to Groves Stadium for the Wake Forest football games!!). The ticket counter is underground and then you emerge by the l’Arc. Which is pretty amazing. The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is under the L’arc and details are just unreal. The elevator was broken (which we were not going to take anyway!) so we climbed the spiral stairs. NOTHING like the spiral stairs of Pisa. I was a little nervous about how it would be on the top with my fear of heights and after my mild meltdown on the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But there was a nice big safe fence and it was perfectly level and the views were AMAZING! We probably spent an hour looking at Paris from every angle. The city is enormous. I don’t think you could see open space at all, just city followed by more city. When we came down, the French Army was setting up for some kind of assembly. So of course we stuck around to see it. We waited and watched. And waited some more. It finally started and we couldn’t really hear, or understand what was happening so we decided to find something to eat. Repeat every other night, we wandered and I said no to most restaurants because they were outrageously priced until I was too hungry to care. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to put the baby to bed and pack our stuff since we were doing the suitcase shuffle the next day!
Since the meetings were over, we had to pay for the hotel ourselves we were moving to something cheaper. While we were checking out, we found out that the free breakfast in our room was actually 14 euro (times 5 breakfasts, 70 euro for bread and coffee). Matt explained that one of the employees told him it was free, even told them which person it was, and that we would not have ordered it every day (it was 14 euro to eat in the dining room with a MUCH better selection). The one agent literally just said “no, it was not free, it was 14 euro.” Finally Matt found another hotel employee who agreed to split the price since we were given false information (the girl apparently was telling us it was free to bring it to the room). I have experienced that in Europe, if you are told wrong information or something bad happens, the company does not really care. You are still required to pay what they think you should pay, not what you were told or what you think.
Our new hotel was the French Officer’s Club which has discounted rates for military. The hotel was very nice and beautiful and we had the exact same room number!! This hotel room was much larger and had the crib already set up (pillow and blanket and all!) but our bed was tiny. In this room, we had a view of the Eiffel Tower. Thursday was our day to go to the Eiffel Tower. After getting all the bags and stuff settled in the cloak room, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. The baby was in the ERGO, which was a good thing because there was only one lift working. And there were SOO many people. The lines were out of control and wrapped back and forth under the tower. I stood in line while Matt went to figure out what I was actually standing in line for, how much it would cost, and about the stairs. Now, I am not in good shape but I am the type to take the stairs instead of the elevator (before strollers) or park farther away. I had told Matt that I wanted to walk the l’arc but use the elevator in the Eiffel Tower before we got off the plane. I thought the heights plus the stairs would be too scary for me (plus it’s a lot of stairs). After accessing the situation, Matt discovered that the shortest line by approximately 800 people was the one for the stairs. You can only take the stairs for the first two levels, to the top you must take an elevator. So of course, I choose the stairs. I changed lines and Matt went to find food. After 1 hour and 15 minutes, we finally were ready to start the climb. For the first half, I carried the baby. For the second set of stairs, Matt carried the baby. Now, I know I am out of shape and overweight but I get so frustrated at things like this. I was seriously the only person who was huffing and puffing at all. And even if I was not overweight (there was a time!) I would have still been huffing and puffing. I get so mad at myself because of this and I just can’t seem to understand why things are always more difficult for me. I do feel a sense of accomplishment for climbing the 669 stairs. (No, I did not count, they were numbered every ten steps and the last step said 669!). I just wish I didn’t feel like the only person who gets out of breath.
At every level we stopped and took a picture or two and I actually looked over the edge! So after exploring the second level (and catching my breath) we got in line for the lift. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, there is a little wax museum which was a little apartment that was used for entertaining during the World’s Fair. When the tower was first built there were 10,000+ stairs. And they had many major cities and how many kilometers to the city. It was really very neat…but also very windy and cold!
After we finished with the Eiffel Tower, it was time to eat. We of course tried to find something that was reasonably priced, which was another fail! Eventually we found a cute café . While we were waiting to order, I started to feel a little ill. I got a hot chocolate to warm up and ordered a “French” chicken sandwich. I decided to be brave and try something that was a bit more local and therefore more scary and weird. It was a chicken club sandwich but it had egg on it. And it was not good. Matt got another sandwich and I think his was better than mine.
After we left the café, we wandered a little bit but I was feeling ill and needed to go back to the hotel. When we got to the hotel, I was going to sleep and hopefully wake up feeling rested. Which of course, I was not able to sleep. After a few hours, Matt decided to run to the grocery store to get some water and other snacks while I got the baby settled for the evening and hopefully fell asleep. And Matt came back to the hotel with the best meal of the trip. He apparently got a sandwich from some street vendor or something like that. It was some kind of meat and had a good spice to it. And delicious french fries! We split this sandwich and made plans to find this sandwich shop again!
Friday was the day the weather was supposed to be the worst so it was the day we planned to go to the Louvre. We took the metro, which has a stop that is the Louvre. The underneath part of the museum is UNREAL! There was a mall and guess what else, Hertz Rental Car! Yep, the hotel guy sent Matt to find a Hertz that was underground with no car access. Seriously. Also in the underground shopping area, there were three Starbucks. You read that correctly, three! There is also an entrance to the museum.
I know the Louvre was large, but I had NO IDEA!! This thing is enormous. My mother-in-law sent us a DVD of the Louvre and told us we needed to map out what we wanted to see so we would be able to manage. I of course never had time to look at the DVD and didn’t really know what was in the Louvre besides the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. My art history teacher would be mortified! I wish I had done more research to see what things were in the museum so I could have made a plan of attack. Matt and I both felt overwhelmed with the size and quantity of art in this museum…oh and the stairs! I thought we were planning ahead to bring the stroller because it was a museum and you could stroll between artwork casually. I didn’t realize that there were tons of stairs and very little lifts. We actually brought the Ergo as well and part of the time I ended up carrying her in the Ergo and Matt carrying the stroller. This was after about 10 sets of stairs of Matt carrying the front end of the stroller and me the back end up endless marble stairs. So-if you are going to the Louvre with a small child, use your baby carrier and leave the stroller at home.
Matt and I spent at least 5 hours in the Louvre and probably saw 1/10 of it. We saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. We saw lots of other different art and got lost a lot. The most memorable thing we saw was the apartments of Napoleon. There was a set of magnificent stairs and lots of beautiful furniture. He had these really cool sofas that were like two chairs together but joined at the arms with the chairs facing the opposite direction. You could sit next to a person and not have to turn to see them. Other memorable things from the Louvre, the café is expensive, there was a HUGE dust bunny on the floor in one of the atrium type things, there were thousands of people, the map is vague and unhelpful, the docents are helpful, the Venus de Milo was cool, I would never want to take a class on a field trip here, the people around the Mona Lisa are selfish and rude, it is easy to get lost, and you could easily spend days in this museum. If we were bigger lovers of art, I think we would have been disappointed that we left at 5 PM.
While waiting to get tickets to the Louvre, we realized that if we could do it all again *highly unlikely* that we would buy the three day museum pass. It allows access into any and all of the museums and costs about the same as going to three museums. There is no waiting in lines (which we waited an hour or more at each spot). So tip to all those traveling to Paris, buy the pass!
After the museum, we wandered around the streets and tried to find the Metro. Instead, we found Thomas Jefferson. Matt, a lover of all things UVA, was excited to see his man TJ. We even had the baby’s UVA blanket with us so we took a picture to submit to the UVA alum magazine (this is the second picture!).
Walking a bit further, we found a Metro and were going to go to the Latin Quarter. Matt was told this was the cheaper section of Paris and had really good food. When we got in the Metro and studied the map and then asked some one for help, we realized it was two stops down the Metro so we would walk it. Of course two stops on the Metro is not necessarily two blocks, it was two miles. It was a good walk but I was a little hungry and therefore grumpy. We found a cute café which was in front of a fountain which I think was part of the Sorbonne. My brother studied abroad at the Sorbonne so we took a picture of the baby and I in front of the fountain and then the camera died!! For dinner, I had another “French” meal. I had a coquette, which is an open faced turkey and cheese melt. And French onion soup. We started talking to the table next to us and this couple traveled every year. Typically they go to Naples (every year, WHY??) and actually stayed in the town we live (Pozzuoli). They recommended a restaurant and if we ever get to go out to dinner, we are going to try it!
Saturday was our last day in Paris. We packed everything and got ready for the day. After checking out and putting our stuff in the cloak room, we decided to wander. We had to be back by 1:30 to head to the airport for our 5:30 flight (yes, 4 hours ahead of time). So we explored the church across the street from our hotel. And then we wandered back towards the Latin Quarter so we could see the Jardin de Luxembourg. We stopped and bought some meat, cheese, and a baguette and had a picnic in the park. There was soo much cool stuff in this park. There were sailboats to race in the fountain, there were pony rides, there were big wheel race tracks, playgrounds, tennis courts, and great people watching! We hung out for a couple of hours and then had to head back. I definitely enjoyed the jardin.
|Channeling my inner Clark|
The journey home, I did not enjoy so much. Getting here was a big pain in the tush and we did not want to have the same issues getting home. We allowed four hours to get to the airport and get checked in. The train ride took about an hour. I had the baby in the Ergo for the train ride and I was carrying the stroller and diaper bag. Matt was carrying both suitcases and the backpack. The train station was supposed to be a block away. Unfortunately, it was more than a block and there was construction making the sidewalk very narrow. This makes rolling two suitcases very difficult so we backtracked and crossed the street. Also, one of the bags has a broken handle. We finally get to the station and have to go down escalators and through several different turnstiles. Luckily, there is a special turnstile with a luggage space right next to it. And there was a lift down to the actual train. It was a very large train station with some many different trains and levels it was a bit overwhelming. The track we were supposed to use actually had at least 5 different trains running on it. Luckily a man on the bench told us the first train was not the one we wanted because instinct was to jump on it!! After the first train left, we realized how to read the sign and actually got on the right train! Problem was, we didn’t get off on the right stop! There are two stops for the airport but no signs on the train to tell you which airlines are at which stop. Matt’s instinct was to get off on the first one and some stupid man on the train told us to get off on the second one. So then we had to figure out how to get from terminal two back to terminal one. So we got back on a tram and took about 20 minutes to get to the other terminal. I am getting nervous since things are not going smoothly but we allowed lots of extra time. Time to check into our flight and guess what?? It is STILL messed up. The agent is not able to print a boarding pass for me (shocker) and we have to go to the ticketing counter. This agent is not able to print the boarding passes for the baby and I even though we have the ticket and the boarding passes from our first flights. She calls her supervisor who can’t get it to work. Apparently the agents in Naples did something incorrectly which was messing up the system. I literally looked at Matt and said “I am going to sit on the floor.” I am surprised to say I did not cry. I still have it together. The supervisor comes back and actually has boarding passes and is going to help us get our bags checked. We are moved to the front of the line and given to the world’s most annoying and hard-headed agent. We told her we wanted to make sure our seats were together (which they were because Matt moved them the night before) and to check the car seat. She told us we had to take the car seat on the plane. We tried to explain that we did not purchase a seat for the baby and therefore would not have room for a car seat. She insisted. Matt and I just bit our tongue. She also gave us a ten minute speech on ‘gate checking’ our stroller. She gave us the slip of paper and said we must give this to the flight attendant and a bunch other stupid directions. Finally, she did give us the gate checking slip for the car seat as well as the stroller, but we would have to bring the car seat to the gate, she would not allow us to check it all the way through. At this point, I don’t care. Give me boarding passes and send me to the gate. This airport almost had individual security, the security screening we went to covered about 8 gates. We were those slow people with lots of stuff because we had the car seat, the stroller, and two carry ons. And the French TSA agents do things a little differently. We apparently we supposed to show our IDs again and our boarding passes. So I go through the metal detector and the lady tells me to “Stand Here.” Then Matt goes through he they tell him to stand next to me. Then they just stand there for a minute looking at us, getting mad. Apparently, the directions of “stand here” meant “I need to search you and I need you to stand here until your husband is through the metal detector so he can hold your baby while I make sure you are not a terrorist carrying weapons in your bra or your pants.” The stupid Americans did not understand. So after I was cleared by security, we get to our gate. I put myself back together and find a bathroom to change the baby. Then Matt goes to the bathroom. Then we get a sandwich to bring on the plane and then the plane boards. Yep, we got to the gate about 20 minutes before boarding, even though we allowed 4 hours!!
We get on the plane and find out our seats are the very last row. This is the last straw for Matt and the flight attendant asks him how his day is going and he tells her the whole saga and how much the traveling has really stunk (he was not rude and did not curse-mainly complained that we went from row 9 to row 35 because of the stupidity). The one guy is speechless and starts trying to look busy in the back of the plane. The lady tells us that we should contact customer service and she is very kind about the whole situation. And she starts flirting with the baby. We fly to Frankfurt and alternate trying to entertain a tired baby who wants to move. In Frankfurt, we have an actual frankfurter!! And a pretzel. And I have about 8 mini cups of hot chocolate because they are “free” and since we have gotten screwed on every other part of the travel, I want to get my money’s worth. The baby has her peaches and a few bites of pretzel (which she loved) and we decided to get her in her pajamas so that when we get home around 10, she will be ready to get in the crib.
All that separates us from home is one two hour flight. The plane starts boarding and we go to our seat all the way in the back. Luckily the flight is not full so we have an entire row to ourselves. We get settled in and the baby is snuggling with me. I look out of the window and see a few raindrops and I think nothing of it. Matt looks out of the window and sees lightning. He tells me that we will be delayed at least 30 minutes if we can’t take off in the next five. And guess what, he was right. The plane seems like it is going to take off but we are just going to the parking lot. And then the storm is rolling in and we are told we will be delayed for an undetermined amount of time. The flight attendants start serving beverages (wine) to the passengers. The baby is still snuggled up and finally sleeping on my chest. And we wait. And wait. And wait. At 10:40 Matt tells me that this airport has a curfew and that no planes can take off after 11. At this point, I start crying. I just want to get home. I don’t want to spend the night in Frankfurt. Apparently, if your flight gets cancelled for weather, the policies are not the same as in the US. All I know is I want to get to my home in Naples. Matt starts texting with his brother and tells him to start searching for hotels near the airport. At 10:50, the pilot comes on the air and tells us the soccer scores. At 10:55, the baby wakes up and I trying to soothe her. And soothe myself. And then it is 11:00 and we are still on the ground. The flight attendant tells the people in front of us that this airport is really strict about the curfew because of political issues but he thinks there is a chance they will let us go. And THANK GOODNESS HE WAS RIGHT! We finally were approved for take-off 3.5 hours after our original time. I have never been in a weather delay where you have to just sit on the plane for hours and hours waiting with no idea if you will get to leave. And the first time I get to experience this lovely event is with a tired 8 month old. I will say, I must have done something right because I have the world’s greatest baby who slept through most of the rain delay and then slept most of the flight, I even got to take a little nap. While we are waiting for our luggage I am thinking that it would not surprise me if our bags were lost. They finally both come out and we gather all our stuff and start walking back to the base to our truck.
At 2 AM, we get home and this horrible trip is over.