Saturday, October 6, 2018


Now that I retired I figured I would have time to do what I wanted and one of the things I wanted to do was to travel. Like everyone I have places I wanted to see and two items were as follows: Visiting Giverney, home to my favorite painter Claude Monet and seeing the beaches where the Normandy invasion occurred during World War II.

Yes, a bit diverse, but I read a great deal of non-fiction and have read extensively on World War II since it affected my parent's generation so much.

I found this trip through a travel company my brother has used. First I could get to both places I wanted to see on the same trip AND the company does not sock you with heavy payment for traveling and requesting a single occupant cabin. I combined the main trip, a cruise down the Seine with both a pre and post trip extension. I figured, go big

So I actually got the trip set up with the company in September 2017, nearly a full year before I would depart.

So researched the places I most wanted to see, when they were open and what I could fit into a day based upon what the company was offering in terms of optional tours. Plus I made contact with Virginia K, fellow cat mom and resident of France. We made plans to meet for lunch.

I also tried to learn a bit of French, but my brain and other languages don't mesh well. I did Duolingo on line, bought a used French language kit at my local library and also another online class through our local library system. I think that part of my issue is that I had no one to practice with!

Updated my camera with a nice Leica C as my old point and shoot camera was falling apart. I also bought enough memory cards to take around 10,000 pictures. I wasn't going to run out of memory as I take lots of pictures and edit out later!

Figured out what clothes I might need and purchased a few new things, but not much. The trip is not a fancy trip, even though it was partially a cruise, they tell you it is more casual. Nice without being fancy.

As my departure date approached I figured out what I needed to take with me in terms of clothes, got some cash in Euro and a credit card through my bank which wouldn't sock me with currency conversion fees.

Final packing on August 31 for a blast off on Saturday September 1.

Day 1 - Saturday September 1

Day 1 -  just a day for travel. Getting me from home to France. My friend Lynn picked me up and then dropped me off at General Mitchell Field in Milwaukee.
 The only pic I took at the gate in Milwaukee. It was a dull, rainy day and I tried to watch/listen to some of the McCain funeral while I waited.
 Once in Detroit I found my gate and at the next gate was an earlier flight to France on the same type of airplane I would be flying a Boeing 767.
 The Detroit airport has an elevated tram to get you along a long terminal, but my gates weren't that far apart to warrant getting on it. It shuttled back and forth every few minutes.
 Other flight getting ready to leave and a storm moving in. Brief heavy rainstorm.
 Storm through and bright sunny conditions. My flight left pretty much on time. I had an aisle seat with the person next to me who pretty much slept the entire flight. Plus I don't think she spoke much English. Accent seemed to me to be eastern European.
Flight was a little bumpy and meal service was delayed due to turbulence. I didn't sleep much and watched a bit of the videos available. Wasn't impressed with the offerings.

Day 2 - Sunday September 2

Arrival in France! I swear we were deplaned at the gate farthest from everything! The walk to get to passport control took at least 10 minutes, and then you ended up in a long series of switch backs for queuing up to get your passport stamped.

Then another hike to get to baggage claim and miracle of miracles my bag was just popping up as I got there, so no wait to get my bag. Another hike to get out of the baggage claim area and to the area where non-screened people can meet you. Unlike in the US, baggage claim is not an open place for any one. At this point I am having to handle all my own baggage.

I passed down the line of people waiting to meet family and tour reps waiting to meet passengers. Found my tour company and she got me to a quiet and cooler place to wait. Shortly after two more people arrived and based upon arrival times the three of us were sent off with a driver to the hotel in Paris. It took about 30 minutes from Charles De Gaulle airport to the hotel.

When we got to the hotel we were met by our program director Anne who let us know our rooms were ready, so we could rest! Yipee. I was tired and looking forward to a nap. 

Typical European windows, no screens and they fully opened with just a bit of iron work outside. They warned you about not letting your kids get out. I was on the first floor, keeping in mind in Europe the floors are ground floor (0), 1, 2, 3 etc.

Little spiky things to keep the pigeons from roosting!
Hotel was on the Place de la Republique.This open air plaza we were told is a place where Parisienne's gather to protest, but no protest while we were there. Also a subway stop right there to hop on to get around the city.
The art in my room, must have know a cat lover was coming to stay!
Didn't do much during the day, took a short nap, then did a bit of a walk on my own with lunch sitting outside at a cafe. Later our program director took us for a walk to show us the immediate area, how to use the subway, even where a local grocery store was in case we wanted to purchase food to eat in our rooms versus eating in a cafe.

Day 3 - Monday September 3

Up on time and had breakfast at the hotel which was included. Got my direction for the subway to get to the Musee de l'Orangerie. Exiting the Metro at the Concorde station, I came out and turned the corner to see an iconic sight, the Eiffel Tower, yes I really was in Paris!

The Orangerie has impressionist paintings, the most significant are the eight large canvases that Claude Monet painted of the various water lily paintings. I thought I had seen one of these panels in 1997 at the Art Institute in Chicago, but I have a book on that exhibit and no one was not included. It was another large panel painting. To see them all at one time was amazing. I managed to get there early enough to be able to take pictures without a huge number of people. I walked through again later before I left and the rooms were crowded, so glad I got there early.

 The lower level had more paintings. The Orangerie has housed the Paul Guillaume collection of 19th and 20th century modern paintings since 1965.

Just outside the Orangerie, a small version of Rodin, The Kiss.
After a few hours in the museum, I had time to people watch, traffic watch on the Place de la Concorde, lots of chairs to sit and wait. Then a familiar face from Facebook and The Poupounette appeared. #1, Virginia Kouyoumdjian in person!
We had a lovely, leisurely lunch together in an outdoor cafe in the Tuileries Garden. We talked cats, horses, blogs, Facebook and lots of other topics. I was so happy we were able to make this happen. Goody bags were exchanged for the four footed gang.

My day was far from over, after Virginia and I parted I continued walking through the main walkway of the Tuileries toward The Louve. I didn't go into the Louve as my interest in art is more current, but did take pictures of the outside.

So after this I kept walking, hey, so much to see, not enough time. Next stop was Sainte-Chapelle, filled with glorious stained glass. My pictures do not do justice to this building.
 Last official stop of the day was Notre Dame. I did not see the hunchback and I did not do the stairs to get to the upper level view. I didn't think my knees could handle it and I didn't want to wear myself out the first few days in Paris. I still had lots to do.
On the walk back to the Metro station on the I found a shopkeeper who had gotten tired of answering questions as to where people could find Notre Dame. If you wanted to by flowers in the flower shop they would be happy to talk to you.
Made in back to hotel, tired but pleased with all that I accomplished in one day. I checked my fitbit this day, over 13,000 steps and nearly 6 miles!