I was going to post about all the pre-leaving the house brouhaha, but I can't remember all the specifics anymore, so I'll just briefly state that I did all the work and everyone else just got in the way (or got out of the way when I actually needed them) and so I was pissy and bitchy and cranky by the time we actually got in the car to drive to FIL's house.
My favorite moment, before we actually left, was when I went out to the car and packed all the dogs stuff - his food, bowls, treats, and a gate so FIL could cordon him off if he got troublesome. Then Loki got into the car and we started down the driveway. And then I realized that the dog was still in the house! Early onset Alzheimer's is not pretty, people. I keep asking the girls to reassure me that they will take care of me when I can't remember who they are anymore, but really, there's no way for me to ever know if they follow through, is there?
FIL was a little pissy and bitchy and cranky, too, because Loki told him we would be there two hours before we actually got there, and so FIL canceled a doctor's appointment. FIL should know by now to never trust Loki's assessment of when we will get anywhere.
We took the CT Limo bus from New Haven to LaGuardia. There was hardly anyone on the bus, so Loki sat behind me and stretched out to take a nap. But the ride was bumpy, so he woke up and started talking to the gentleman who was sitting across the aisle from him. This gentleman, Al, was a visiting professor who had just completed a brief stint at Quinnipiac College. He was going back home to Hungary, and he and Loki got started on all kinds of topics. Al spoke 5 languages, so he taught Loki some helpful French phrases and laughed when I told him we learned "nous ne soutenon pas le President Bush". Al said we should be careful anywhere in Europe because anti-American sentiment is very strong right now.
We said our adieu's when we got to the airport (Al was flying from JFK), and headed into the terminal. As we were sitting in the boarding area for our flight to Philly, the airline announced that the flight was oversold, and were looking for travelers with flexible travel plans - they offered a free round trip ticket anywhere in the continental US for travelers who were willing to give up their seat on this flight. The alternative flight would send you to JFK, and then to Philly, giving you 45 minutes to catch the flight to Paris. This will be heretofore known as "the deal". I said "No thanks," not just because of the too-brief layover, but because the thought adding one more airport (JFK) to our itinerary made me feel like puking. Loki pestered and pestered and tried to rally support from the offspring, but the girls chose to side with the practical parent instead, and I won the popular vote.
Our flight to Philly was lovely - it was dusk and flying over the NYC skyline is always kind of inspiring. The pilot told the passengers that we picked a beautiful night for a flight.
When we arrived in Philly, we found that the flight to Paris was delayed 2 hours. Cue the "I told you so" from Loki. "We should have taken the deal. We'd be no worse off than we are right now, and we'd have free round trip tickets to anywhere US Airways flights in the continental U.S. and Canada!" Except, of course, it took him longer to say all that and he repeated himself several times.
About an hour before the flight boarded, I took 2 Tylenol PM, so by the time we boarded, I was ready to sleep. The last time we flew overseas, I didn't sleep on the plane *at all*, and so I was seriously jet lagged for the first couple of days of our trip. I was not going to do that again. Monkey and I sat together towards the back of the plane, and Loki and Sio sat together towards the middle of the plane. I remember the crew announcing they were about to begin food service, but I was totally asleep by the time they arrived, so I never ate.
We landed at about 11:30 local time, and made our way through immigration, where Loki received applause from the clerk for his French. If you've never been to Charles de Gaulle, there are two terminals. We were in terminal one, which is a circular building that could have been in the movie A Clockwork Orange, a resemblence that conjures a sinister feeling in my mind, at least. Loki and the girls napped while I exchanged some traveler's checks - which took forever, because there were two windows open but only one clerk. He kept going back and forth between the two windows.
I had directions to the hotel, and we found it relatively easy to get around. We took the RER A to Gare du Nord. We had a little bit of a struggle figuring out how to get to the Metro from there, but Sio's French was quite good, and the young man behind the desk gave us a marked up map of the Metro system, so we took the Metro to Place de Clichy.
The place was hopping, and reminded me of Times Square, although on a smaller scale. We figured out where our hotel was and checked in. We stayed at the Hotel Beausejour Montmartre (which I can recommend heartily - inexpensive, clean, very helpful staff, free internet in the lobby). I took a much needed shower, and then napped for the hour Loki was in the bathroom. (Loki has ezcema, so he needed to moisturize). We got ourselves all spiffied up and headed towards the Sacre Coeur.
It was chilly and cloudy, but not unpleasant as we walked. We passed by the Moulin Rouge (or at least the road on which the Moulin Rouge lives) and the Montmartre Cemetary. As we headed upwards, Loki kept stopping to ogle the tiny cars.
It started to rain as we got close to the Sacre Coeur. Loki and Monkey dipped into a creperie to get some food (Loki had a panini and a Kronenbourg; Monkey had a chocolate crepe.) Sio and I went into a tourist shop and picked out postcards, and I bought a cheap plastic raincoat. I put the raincoat on, and an old, toothless French man started to talk to me:
"Vous regardez très joli. Le bleu regarde assez à côté de vos cheveux rouges."
Umm...je non parle pas francais?
"Vous regardez très joli. Le bleu regarde assez à côté de vos cheveux rouges!" At this point, he actually reached out and touched my hair.
Sio, can you help me here?
"Vous regardez très joli. Le bleu regarde assez à côté de vos cheveux rouges."
Mom, he's trying to tell you that you are pretty and blue looks nice with your hair.
I then skedaddled up the hill. It's international - old toothless men love me.
Sio and I checked out all the artists at the square at the top of the hill, right around the corner from the Sacre Coeur. Sio attracted a lot of attention from the men, who were clamoring to paint her, but we just checked out the menus at the restaurants around the edge of the square.
Loki and Monkey caught up with us and we went around to the Sacre Coeur. The building is recognizable to anyone who's seen the movie Amelie, and there is a spectacular view of Paris from the steps of the basilica.
We went inside the sanctuary, and I'm disappointed that pictures weren't allowed, because there was an impressive organ inside. I would have liked to share that with our organist, who lived in Paris for a year but never visited the Sacre Coeur.
It was evening now, and we took some pics from the hilltop in front of the basilica, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I will add one of those pics later.
This is also where we encountered our first impressive set of stairs, which, in a way, defined the city of Paris for me. I'm disabled, as I may have mentioned, and I walk with a cane. Paris will always be a Cite d'escalier in my mind - it's not a very handicapped friendly city, at least not by design, although the people I encountered went out of their way to be helpful.
We ate at Chez Eugene, near the Espace de Salvador Dali. The food was predictably good, including my vegetable salad of carrots, beets, and this delicious white vegetable that turned out to be a kind of radish. We had a bottle of wine with dinner. I'm not normally a wine drinker - I don't have the palate; to me, all wine tastes like bad grape juice. But it wasn't too bad. I had a lemon tarte for dessert, but it was way too sweet for my taste, so Loki ended up eating it.
We walked back down the hill to the hotel. Montmartre is charming and romantic in exactly the way I imagined Paris to be. Cobblestone streets, cozy streetlights, incredible views. We stopped at the Moulin Rouge on our way back, just for Sio, who adores the movie Moulin Rouge. It was pretty seedy. We went back to the hotel where Sio, Monkey and I crashed. Loki went back out to one of the Irish pubs we passed where he had a chance to talk to some people while enjoying a few beers. I was asleep when he came back, but he said it was 3am when he got back in. Apparently, the Moulin Rouge area gets a whole lot seedier as the night goes on - he said there were a lot of prostitutes in the area as he walked back to the hotel.
Next update: Ireland.