France May 26-June 8 2017

Day 1 of our France Trip

(or really, Day 1 + Day 2 since they just blurred together)

Saturday May 26

France! We went to France! Our trip was tres magnifique!

People start the “we are on vacation” clock at different times: when they leave the house, when they arrive at the airport, when the plane takes off. For us? The fun officially started an hour before we headed for the airport when Dobie decided that would be a crackin’ good time to escape, climb a tree, and refuse to come down. All, we posit, in order to make sure that we would not make it to the airport in time. Despite His Naugtiness’s best efforts, we managed to foil his plan when he realized Dave was coming with a ladder. He leapt from the tree, froze, and we pounced. Tables turned, we put irked him back in the house and made it to Logan with time to spare. We felt fully deserving of the celebratory drinks we had as we relaxed in the Admiral’s Club before the flight!


The picture of innocence

Until he has his opportunity to flee

Victorious in the end

We took a redeye with a flight time of a little over six hours. This gave us just enough time not to sleep before we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris. Turns out the Charles de Gaulle airport (or CDG as we international travelers like to call it) looks pretty much like every other airport we’ve ever seen - except that the ads were subtly not-American. Not anti-American, just not-American. They were bright, cheery, a little goofy-ish, a little whimsical, all of which gave us that creepy feeling of being in an alternate universe of … happy people. People who didn’t have to say the words “President Trump” and know that they had direct application to one’s life. People instead who joyously joined in celebrating the Paris Climate Accord on the day that President Trump pulled us out of it. But enough about Trump. It was actually quite nice to get away from the endless, depressing news US news cycle and enjoy another country and its culture. And enjoy we did!

Outside the terminal, we ran into the first rule of France, which is that no one pays much attention to the rules (except, apparently, for parking meters which are zealously enforced in the towns of Provence). We ended up taking a private limo on offer by a pleasant fellow who was nervously glancing around because he was at the front of the taxi queue in a lane that was marked “Taxis Only.” Alison had read ahead of time how much the flat fare to Paris was from the airport so we didn’t get totally ripped off but it was indicative of a subtle disregard for petty laws that permeated the culture. For instance, it’s a “walk-across- the-street-when-the-cars-are-clear-even-if-the-light-is-against-you” and “take-your-petit-dog-everywhere” kind of place. We liked it.


The ride into Paris was a little disappointing, though. Never having been to France, we had the romantic vision of berets, men in scarves, narrow cobblestone streets and accordion players in our heads. Instead, we found a packed freeway fit for LA, passed an urban landscape that looked like the outskirts of New York City, and the cars were mostly Mercedes and Fords (Peugeot, hello? where were you?). We even passed a big blue Ikea store on the way in that looked like every other big blue Ikea store we have ever seen. To our delight (and mild relief) Paris proper looked more stereotypically European, albeit more modern than we expected. The buildings were all the same height (clearly no skyscrapers allowed in central Paris!) and pretty much all the same color (off white or, stylishly, light ecru – it was homogeneous, soothing, but weird to the American mind used to the chaotic visual discordance of our cities). In that landscape, big major landmarks like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe stood out like jewels in light ecru velvet.

We arrived at the Renaissance Paris Le Parc Trocadero Hotel (which sounds super impressive but is actually part of the Marriott chain) so early that we expected not to get a room for over six hours … except that we did, with a double upgrade for no apparent reason which started our trip off with a wonderful bang! Our room actually had 2 floors, a comfy loft bedroom and nice adjoining bathroom upstairs and a large sitting area downstairs. Plus the French side-by-side windows actually opened to let in the fresh Parisian smog-ish air – when does that (openable windows, not smoggy air) ever happen in a U.S. hotel any more? – and we overlooked a pretty interior courtyard. Needless to say, all of this made us pretty happy. Since the couple we were traveling with, Carmen and Steve, were arriving from LA later in the day, we dropped our stuff in the room, took a quick shower, and set off for the Arc de Triomphe on foot which was less than a mile away. Oh, wait? Did we mention that the hotel also had an ideal location between two nearby subway stations, and was within easy walking distance to both the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower? Yes it was!


The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Below its vast vaulted arch lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. Its plaza is in the middle of a gigantico moat of a traffic circle that’s literally eight lanes wide all around. This baffled us for a minute but then Dave spotted the hard to spot and poorly marked stairs to a passageway that runs under the traffic circle and leads you to the plaza. Which explained the surprising number of people running across the eight lanes of circling traffic (although “lane” is too strong a word, it’s more like quantum physics where each location is just a probability of where a car might be going next) to get to the plaza without paying. Alison and I noted as soon as we got there that the majority of people were walking up the “sortie” (exit) staircase past the bored looking guard who was supposed to be preventing that, and we followed suite (which was actually fair, because we had bought expensive general access passes to most Paris sightseeing locations and museums, but we didn’t bring them since we didn’t know there was an admission fee).


After being impressed by the Arc, we wandered down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, about which Wikipedia states “the French proudly call this world-famous boulevard ‘la plus belle avenue du monde’ (‘the world's most beautiful avenue’), mainly as a gimmick in TV news”, which seemed pretty accurate as it was wide and full of expensive shops but otherwise nothing special.

Then we jogged sideways and wound our way back to the hotel in time to meet Carmen and Steve as they arrived at the hotel. After they dropped their stuff off, we did the “discover the charms of the Paris subway system” thing (they really do have a nice setup, by the way), purchasing three day passes, and headed for Notre Dame Cathedral via rail. Notre Dame was spectacular. It was “get in for free” day, so we did not need our passes, but the line to climb to the top was very long, so we stuck with wandering around the massive interior.




Who knew Uncle Fester was a saint?

We had some lunch and then visited Sainte-Chapelle, which is only a few blocks from Notre Dame. Neither Alison or I had never heard of it, but was in some ways more impressive than Notre Dame. It is a royal chapel in the Gothic style, built around 1238 and consecrated in 1248. Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. The main attraction is the enormous upper chapel, which seems like it is made entirely of stained glass. The secondary attraction is the huge number of creepy gargoyles carved into the outside of the church.


We headed back to the hotel, where we left Carmen and Steve, who were too tired to continue, and walked down to take a look at the Eiffel Tower from across the Seine. There’s a park with a huge fountain, and after some wading Dave managed to get a good shot of Alison with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Then, for our first dinner in Paris, we found a nearby restaurant, the Café Du Trocadero, where we had really awesome Gin and Tonics and great tasting Beef Tartare. All in all, a terrific day. Well, almost terrific: that beef tartare gave us food poisoning that made itself intestinally apparent for the next couple of days. But really, what’s a trip without a little food poisoning? Us international travelers take that stuff in stride and it didn’t really slow us down. The only modification to plans was making sure we had quick access to bathrooms at all times.


First pic of Alison with the Eiffel Tower

What Dave had to do to get it

The required Eiffel Tower Selfie

Our first dinner in Paris... food poisoning gratis!

Day 2 - Sunday, May 28

Despite having Carmen along, who was reasonably fluent in French, we found fairly quickly that you could get by with a few simple words/phrases such as “Bonjour,” (good day), “Merci” (thanks), “Je ne parle pas de Francais (I don’t speak French), “Combien?” (how much is that?), “flash a 20 Euro note” (I will pay 20 euro for that), and “Trump est un sac de douche et je n'ai pas voté pour lui” (Trump is an embarrassment and I did not vote for him). Unlike when Dave was in Paris thirty years ago, when it was de rigueur (French phrase meaning “Americans suck”) to pretend not to speak English and to interpret every attempt at reading French from a traveler’s phrase book to mean “I am looking for my lost dog,” the Parisians of today were friendly and helpful (and we would stick something in here about “when helping you find your lost dog,” but they really were). In fact, the shoe was on the other foot this time, because pretty much without exception the French were thin, attractive people that spent most of their time eating seventeen course meals that took twelve hours if they rushed it a bit, which made us hate them since both of us can gain two or three pounds just by looking at a pastry.

So after breakfast at the hotel, which was included as part of the stay and had eggs done fourteen ways, an assortment (meaning more than we could count) of baked goods, plates of meats and cheeses, and then a few dozen other things that defy description but were all delicious (what is called in France a “light breakfast,” “pre-breakfast-snack,” or “course one of seventeen”), we headed out for Musee d'Orsay.

Musee d’Orsay was the best art museum we visited the entire time we were in France. It is on the bank of the Seine river and is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography and has the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. You wouldn’t know it had been a rail station by looking at it; it just looks like someone did a fantastic job with architecting the place, with a huge central room with cathedral ceilings showing off an incredible array of sculptures, with side rooms dedicated to specific painters if they were famous enough (Van Gogh and Gaugin, for instance). It also hosted an exhibition titled “Beyond the Stars. The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky,” sort of a history of transcendentalism in painting through a number of artists and dates. Part of its charm was just the feng shui setup; wall colors picked to accentuate the paintings and phenomenal lighting made the pictures seem to glow with a mystical power. Part of it was just the mix of paintings; where the collections of one painter (even a good one) tended to overwhelm you with too much similarity, here the diversity made every section seem fresh. And the topic itself, with the descriptions (done in French and English), did seem to tie everything together neatly.


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After lunch, we walked to the Musée national Gustave Moreau, an art museum dedicated to the works of Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. The museum was originally Moreau's dwelling, transformed by his 1895 decision into a studio and museum of his work with his apartment remaining on the first floor along with all the furnishings and knick-knacks. The upper floors contain Moreau's drawings, paintings, watercolors, and sculptures; We are not sure how long those are going to last, because it had to be well over eighty degrees and humid enough that I was expecting rain. We kept our tour short as a result.



Then we hiked to Sacre-Coeur, a basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in Paris. It’s not ancient, having been finished in the early 1900s, and it’s not as spectacular as Notre Dame or Sainte-Chapelle, but it’s a landmark because of the views of the city. We climbed the narrow curved stairway for about twenty minutes to get to the other stairway that climbs along the roofline to the top of the dome, from which truly spectacular views of Paris spread out in all directions. The thing that was most apparent was that Paris is a very homogenous city; architecturally and color-wise, there’s a consistency that makes it all blend in together.


That was followed by a short walk to Paroisse Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, which was ancient, a 12th century Catholic church literally across the street from Sacre-Coeur.

Then we did the three and half mile walk back to our hotel, ignoring the subway we had free passes for, which turned out to be fortunate because coming down the ancient, curved streets of Sacre-Coeur and crossing over a bridge, we looked down to find not water, but crypts. We had accidentally discovered Montmartre Cemetery, a cemetery dating from the early 1900s that is a tourist site because of a number of famous people interned there. It was closed, but we resolved to come back before we left Paris.


We made it back to the hotel to meet up with Steve and Carmen (who took the subway back) and Ubered down to the Seine in order to do the evening sightseeing cruise. Leaving just before sunset and returning well after the sun was down, we had a chance to see many Paris landmarks from the water and enjoy watching Chinese tourists spend the entire two hour cruise taking selfies of themselves sitting in their seat (seriously, a woman in front of us spent at least an hour taking selfie after selfie about 10 seconds apart with the seating area and us in the background).



The bridges were magical when they were lit up

Notre Dame from the river

We found out that there are hundreds of house boats moored along the banks of the Seine

And that a common end of day routine for many people is to gather along the quays for dinner and dancing

A (very) late dinner afterwards and we walked back to the hotel in the warm, dark night enveloping Paris and went to bed. I think we probably walked ten miles during the day.


Day Three - Monday, May 29

After a breakfast where we did not eat enough to make ourselves sick (through uncompromising will power and a stomach still feeling full from the prior day’s breakfast) we headed out for the Louvre, the world famous (and largest in the world) art museum, housed in the old palace of the French Kings, back when nobility meant something and peasants knew their place. With 7.4 million visitors a year (which averages out to around 200,000 a day), you’d think they would have a few bathrooms in the place. When the urge hit (thank you, food poisoning), we were in a section of the Louvre that connected to other sections of the Louvre in an incredibly convoluted way, with walled off sections and staircases that went in random directions and occasional signs that said “you are here” but didn’t have a map, making them accurate but useless. That’s pretty incredible given the place is essentially a square building with a courtyard in the middle, but somehow the architects managed to make one of the simplest building layouts possible into a rat maze where the rats usually starve before they find the food pellet. At one point we honestly followed some signs and escalators that looked like they took you up to a different level of the building and ended up getting deposited out on the street, where we had to wind our way back through the half hour line to get into the building again.

We managed to find the rest room using the postage-size map on the welcoming brochure (“I think this purple splotch looks vaguely Egyptian, and there’s a sphinx over there, so…”)… and it was one toilet, missing the seat, and had last been cleaned when Napoleon was still in residence. Lest you think that, perhaps, focusing on the bathrooms is not a fair way to evaluate the sight of more than thirty thousand works of art, it was also hot and humid in most of the building, the famous pieces had crowds around them that were so thick it looked like a “where’s waldo” drawing, and in the few places where they had multi lingual placards (which were in slotted boxes so you could pull them out), the ones in English were invariable missing. All of which is to say, it was still an experience, but not what you’d expect from one of the most visited art centers in the world.

To give the Louvre a break, the preserved apartments of Napoleon III (He was the nephew and heir of the Napoleon you are thinking of, voted into office of the President, then grabbing power when his term was up to become Emperor) were very impressive and our favorite part of the tour (plus… AC worked there), with the residence and rooms full of artifacts and art from Louis XIV (who left behind everything when he moved the palace to Versailles in 1692).

There was also an interesting history lesson buried under the Louvre proper, the remains of the original castle that eventually was built out into the palace that stand there today.

After the Louvre we went to a multi-hour lunch at The Grand Vefour, a famous restaurant that Kings and Queens ate at back in the day and that, as the French say, “sucked.” Then we did window shopping for a few hours, had a fantastic meal at a little Indian restaurant, and crashed for the evening.


The sort of cool dug out moat of the original castle

All these people are looking for a bathroom

Day Four - Tuesday, May 30


The day started at the Parc De Bagatelle, one of four botanical gardens in Paris, which includes famous rose gardens that were randomly closed the day we visited (which turned into a recurring theme for the trip; the French economy moves in mysterious fits and spurts and businesses and attractions can apparently decide they are not open on arbitrary days just to frustrate tourists). But the rest of the park had a huge variety of gorgeous flowers in full bloom, along with peacocks and a funny rooster that Alison found endlessly entertaining. We decided to hike to the Louis Viton museum, which was in an adjoining park (we think… it seemed like there was a huge cluster of parks all connected together), and after Google maps took us in many random directions (“Warning… this area is in beta on Google Maps. Do not trust your directions. Watch out for tigers and velociraptors”) we finally found it and discovered it was also randomly closed on Tuesdays. But the building was very cool looking.


With that a bust, we headed back to Montmartre Cemetery and wandered the acres and acres of fancy (and sometimes fanciful) crypts, looking for specific celebrities and generally enjoying the macabre and fantastic streets of the dead. The place is, in fact, called a necropolis (like a metropolis, but full of dead people).


We took the subway back to the hotel, had dinner, and decided we would try to get a shot of Alison and the Eiffel Tower from the Eiffel Tower side of the river for her father. Subwayed down, took the shot, and on a lark decided to climb the tower fifteen minutes before it closed. The view was spectacular and the platform was almost empty. We walked across the bridge and back to our hotel and finally got to bed around midnight.



Day 5 – Wednesday, May 31


We flew out of Charles De Gaulle airport for points south, landing at Montpellier airport, grabbing a rental car (an Audi A6), and heading for Mas Mauleon, a vacation house in Tarascon, a town in the south of France. Except “house” is too weak a word. Estate? Palace? It was a five bedroom mansion on several acres of land, surrounded by olive orchards and sunflower fields and duck ponds, with three-century old antique furniture, foot thick stone walls, a private pool, and most important, four separate Wi-Fi zones (apparently thick stone walls and Wi-Fi don’t mix well). This was our home base for investigating southern France with its numerous Roman ruins and ancient walled cities. We arrived late enough that we didn’t try to do anything other than settle in and try to adopt the attitude of 16th century French nobility before the French Revolution went and ruined it all.

The sunflower fields, as it turned out, were not there to look spectacular, but are part of a sunflower oil production business, but they looked spectacular as they changed from a sea of green bulbs to bright yellow sunflowers over the week we were there.

The only thing that wasn’t quite perfect was the duck pond. As it turned out, had been infested with crayfish from Louisiana, an invasive species in France, leading to the owner trying to get rid of them, leaving strange piles of dead shellfish lying around the pond. Along with the skulls of small animals that just happened to die there. We decided not to do any swimming.



Day 6 - Thursday, June 1 and Friday, June 2nd


The next morning, we headed for Les Baux-de-Provence, an ancient city and Chateau/Castle (or the remains of one) built into a limestone plateau that looks over the nearby countryside from the has a spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains. Les Baux was interesting enough that we decided to return the next day, mostly because we missed the firing of a Trebuchet (which is an ancient siege machine built to throw massive stones over the walls of fortified castles). Of course, the day we returned was the day they didn’t fire the Trebuchet (although now we wonder if they just change the signs each day so every day is the day they don’t fire the Trebuchet).

The two most interesting things about Lex Baux were (a) the four giant heads created by the American artist Philip Haas. More than five metres high and weighing over 400 kilos, each of the sculptures of the giant heads are inspired by The Four Seasons paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, which we will come back to in a moment, and (b), the history of the Chateau. In the Middle Ages the area became the stronghold of a feudal domain covering 79 towns and villages. The princes of Baux controlled Provence for many years and they gained a formidable reputation. Their motto was: "Au hasard, Balthazar" (At random, Balthazar), which would obviously strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. But when the last princess of Baux died in the 15th century, the castle went through a number of nefarious owners until finally Louis XIII agreed to have it demolished just enough to have really cool ruins as a tourist attraction.



We had lunch at Oustau de Baumaniere, a nice restaurant with views of the surrounding cliffs, and then went for something completely different. Carrières de Lumières Is an old limestone quarry carved into the hillside that the French have completely enclosed and turned into, for all practical purposes, an hour long MTV music video. They have giant projectors that project the works of Bosch, Brueghel, Arcimboldo on the walls while they play various classical pieces (along with Led Zeppelin's “Stairway to Heaven” at the end for no obvious reason). In most cases, the works are just static versions of the original paintings, but in many cases they are enhanced to make objects move. Given the disturbing images painted by Bosch, that ended up being kind of creepy. But it was also cool, and by that I mean the temperature, which given the continuing heat wave in southern France was a welcome relief.


We had dinner at Mas Mauleon, and given the average dozen or so miles of walking we were doing each day, drove out to Pont du Gard for an evening show just to make the day go a little longer. The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard. The Pont du Gard is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts, and, along with the Aqueduct of Segovia, one of the best preserved. In this case, it was the backdrop for a huge multi-media show that included live actors dressed in lights, live bands, fireworks, sets of computer-controlled flamethrowers, and giant projectors that lit up the bridge, cliff along the river, and buildings with set of images that went from fanciful to disturbing.


Day 8 - Saturday, June 3 and Tuesday, June 6th


Friday we headed to Arles, France. The city has a long history, and was of considerable importance in the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis. Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles from 1888 to 1889 and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there. This was another spot we did not finish in one day and returned to for another pass three days later, mostly because Alison and I went to the fabulous Musée de l'Arles et de la Provence antiques, a museum housing a large collection of antiquities, including monumental Roman sculptures from the local region, while Carmen and Steve shopped the farmer’s market (except it wasn’t, really; more of an ad hoc walmart selling everything from cherries to vacuum cleaners). So we returned Tuesday so Steve and Carmen could visit, which happened to be the day the Musée de l'Arles et de la Provence was randomly closed. But that was fine, because there were a huge number of attractions, including:

  • The Roman Amphitheatre
  • The Roman Arena (which we want to call the Coliseum except that’s reserved for the one in Rome)
  • The Roman Alyscamps (Roman necropolis) (which unlike the cool one in Paris was just creepy)
  • The Roman Thermae of Constantine (which we missed)
  • The Roman cryptoporticus (which we went in and we still don’t know what it is)
  • The Roman Arles Obelisk (ok, to be fair we thought this was just a random monument until we looked it up later)
  • The Roman Barbegal aqueduct and mill (which we missed)

And, perhaps you noticed a recurring “Roman” theme there, so we should add “And a Van Gogh memorial at the insane asylum he was locked up in that we walked by. And some cats. And streets that looked like what we expected Paris to look like. And a giant-assed Meringue that was very tasty.”

The Roman Amphitheatre was mostly destroyed, but there was a video that showed what it looked like when it was first created, and it was visually stunning and matched anything we have today. Between that and the Pont du Gard, we have to say the Roman Engineers really rocked.


Above and lower right, the Arena; lower left, the Amphitheater

The creepy cryptoporticus

You want a flashlight down there...

The Archeological museum had a full sized barge

Why, yes, I do look like Julius Caeser
Above, the Necropholis; below, a random street in Arle that looks exactly like what we expected it to

On Tuesday, we left a little earlier than the first day and drove down to Parc naturel régional de Camargue (Camargue Natural Regional Park), a wildlife preserve that has honest to god wild white horses and flamingos (which are a lot more widespread that we ever would have imagined). There were also wandering cattle, which seemed to be all bulls, which was a little suspicious.

Day 9 - Sunday, June 4th

Sunday was Avignon, an ancient walled city, and the Palais Des Papes, the not-so-ancient seat of the alternate Pope located in Avignon. There’s an entire confusing description of this, but apparently at a conclave somehow they voted some random French archbishopdukedom guy in as the Pope. But the Italians were kind of pissed, because, you know, it’s the POPE. He belongs in Rome, or the Vatican City at least. So, for a while, there were two Popes, one in Avignon and one in Rome, and the one in Avignon would have their own conclaves where all the bishops were locked in a chamber with no bathrooms until they agreed on another French Pope, usually someone like Innocent VI, who kept trying to sneak out a back door and wanted to be a baker. Kind of like an old-style EST session. There were nine French Popes before someone said enough is enough and they pulled the plug on France’s short stint as the seat of some portion of the Catholic church. But while they ruled, this is where they ruled from. The place has been stripped of most of it’s trappings, but they’ve made up for that by filling it with random modern art and hiring people to be pretend to b creepy statues in alcoves that turn and stare at you when you wander by until you give them money.

We walked over to Pont Saint-Bénézet, an ancient medieval bridge that went half way across the Rhône, which made it not particularly useful as a bridge (apparently it kept falling down when the Rhone flooded and they gave up after a while). It sported awesome views of the ancient walls surrounding Avignon.



Day 10 - Monday, June 5th

Monday we visited Nîmes, a city known for its… wait for it … Roman ruins. It included:

The elliptical Roman amphitheatre, of the 1st or 2nd century AD, is the best-preserved Roman arena in France. It is still used as a bull fighting and concert arena.

The Maison Carrée (Square House), a small Roman temple dedicated to sons of Agrippa was built c. 19 BC. It is one of the best-preserved Roman temples anywhere.

The 18th-century Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens of the Fountain) built around the Roman thermae ruins and scented by the French Lime tree, which is not a lime tree at all but has a wonderful smell. And has angry, angry swans in small rivers that run through the garden.

The temple of Diana, which is a small temple ruin in the Jardins de La Fontaine that has a placard that says “no one knows if this is actually a temple to Diana or not.”

The Tour Magne, a ruined Roman tower that has awesome views of all the rest of Nimes.

Porte Auguste, one of two remaining gateways into what once was a walled city. The six kilometer ramparts that surrounded the city were built by Augustus some two thousand years ago.

A bunch of other stuff we didn’t get a chance to see.


The Maison Carrée is one of the best-preserved Roman temples anywhere

We learn that "two" and "a dozen" sound very close in French

The gardens were very extensive

If a swan is doing this... run

Day 12 - Wednesday, June 7th

Wednesday was a travel day back to Paris. Carmen and Steve were staying another two days to see the coast (Montpellier is very close to the Mediterreanian coast of France), so the plan was to drop Alison and I at the airport, so we could fly to Paris and stay in a hotel at the airport to make it easier to make our 10:30 flight (Charles De Gualt was in heavy security mode, and American Airlines had suggested getting there four hours before the flight, so even that meant arriving pretty early in the morning). We drove away from Mas Mauleon with the intent of having a couple of hours leeway just to be safe. Which turned out to be a good thing, as they were doing construction on the A-9 highway and had closed off all the exits from the express lanes for 40 kilometers, which meant we overshot by 20. Then we ended up accidently getting back on the expressway in the opposite direction, which meant we overshot 20 kilometers that way, and finally took back roads to the airport, getting there about 30 minutes before our flight. But we made it, and the trip to Paris was easy enough.

There was one other task that we needed to accomplish, however. When we had done a little window shopping around Notre Dame our first day in Paris, Alison had been taken with a Marrionette in a Marrionette shop nearby. But it was a bit pricy, as they were all custom, one of a kind, and so she decided to be pratical, and then spent the rest of the vacation talking about it. So we checked in at the hotel and took light rail into Paris (which we should have done when we arrived, it was cheaper and faster than a car), which popped us out at Notre Dame, and scurried to the shop and made it there a few minutes before it closed. So now we have a Marrionette named Yvette that everyone we’ve shown universally agrees is creepy and will probably kill us in our sleep. Dave has taken to locking the draws with knives in them at home.

   

The flight back to the US the next day was uneventful other than a two and a half hour delay due to a piece of faulty equipment, but otherwise went uneventfully.