“Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9 MSG
So in the rush of being in Paris for only two days, I didn’t find the time to blog. And then there was the long trek home (7.5 hr flight from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to Newark, New Jersey; 2 hours to kill; 1.5 hrs flight from New Jersey to Pearson International in Toronto). And then an overnight at my condo and a drive out to Belleville (reunited with Koski! Yay!!!) and then I’ll to the farmhouse. Our friends from Oshawa arrived a few hours after me, and last night was the first dinner of their visit here.
In all of this there have certainly been free moments in which I could have written about my time in Paris. What there hasn’t been is enough emotional and intellectual energy to put together my blog about Paris.
But now it is just a little after 5am and I have been woken up by the gift that keeps giving after international travel – jet lag. So, in the quiet of this Sunday morning, I write.
Erin Brewster, my friend and roomie during the Wales tour, and I began our trek at Heathrow airport. The tour bus dropped everyone off there and along with a couple of other Wales tour participants, we headed for the Underground station. With the help of a kind attendant, we found what line we needed in order to get to Kong’s Cross/St. Pancras where we would catch the Chunnel to Gare du Nord (a hub station in the Paris Metro system). Lucy and Joan had to be on the same line, but we’re hopping off a few stops before us. It was nice to have a final bit of time to hang out with them.
We made it to our station without incident, and as we tried to get our bearings and find the Chunnel, two lovely English gentlemen ask if they could help us. They escorted us to the ticket area for the Chunnel and helped carry our (ridiculously heavy) suitcases up a couple of flights of stairs. Turns out one of them had lived in the Beaches area of Toronto for a while and was considering buying a house outside the GTA. It’s a small world sometimes.
I remember how helpful the Londoners were the last time I was there. All one needed to do was look a little overwhelmed and someone would stop and ask how they could help. Random citizens, usually. I was struck by average, people taking the time during their busy lives to help out others. It was the same way this time, even though I was only in London long enough to transfer to another city.
Our Chunnel ride was uneventful. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and it was good to have some time to rest.
When we arrived in Paris, we had to navigate the metro system, find our keys at a little cafe that also housed some lock-boxes, and then find our way to the Airbnb address. It all went smoothly until we couldn’t figure out how to work the front door. But even that was fairly easily overcome (though we laughed about it every single time we came or went for the next two days).
After getting ourselves settled and running to the grocery around the corner for a couple of things, we slept. It had been a crazy, wonderful, exhausting day.
The next morning we took our time getting ready and headed out around 10:30am to walk to the Eiffel Tower and then to the Hard Rock Cafe. Erin loves Hard Rock and does her best to visit locations wherever she travels. I was happy to go along.
Our Airbnb was only about a 15 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, and we were glad to get to see it up close. Lots of pictures and exclaiming done there. Then we continued our walk to the Hard Rock. It was about an hour from our Airbnb and we took our time, walking along the Seine and taking photos of the bridges and other sights.
We were glad to arrive at the Hard Rock and sit down for some lunch. Fajitas were GREAT after a long walk. We shopped and got some great tees and a fridge magnet for my collection in the shop there.
Then we left and headed towards the Louvre. Without any plans, we wandered around The Tuileries Garden, enjoying the sculptures.
And then the oddest thing. It began with what seemed like a commercial plane escorted by two fighter jets. It was loud, and low, and surprising. I said to Erin, “that’s someone REALLY important to have that kind of escort.” And she agreed. But then more planes with more fighter jets came. After about the fourth or fifth one, I started filming some of them. We began to be uneasy. Erin asked if we could head back to the Airbnb. I agreed and we set off. It seems silly, now, but in those moments we were truly unnerved.
On our own in a foreign land, without a guide or group, we didn’t know what to think or who to ask about what was happening. On the hour-long walk back to our place, we saw military boats on the Seine, heard an abnormal amount of police and ambulance sirens, and then a whole bunch of helicopters flew over in the same direction as the planes and jets had gone. I posted about it on Facebook when we were back at our place and discovered that it was most likely practice maneuvers for Bastille Day (July 14th).
We spent a couple of hours at our Airbnb – Erin napped while I updated Instagram and Facebook – and then we decided to book a nighttime cruise of the Seine. We hit the grocery store for croissants, bread, cheese and wine and enjoyed a feast on our balcony before heading out for our cruise.
It was a rush getting to the cruise (too much lingering over wine and cheese – but when in Paris, do as the Parisiennes, right?). But we made it an enjoyed the sights from the water as the sun set.
Afterward, we stopped at souvenir shops and got a few bits and bobs.
By the time we were back at our Airbnb we’d walked 31,000 steps. What a crazy, phenomenal, beautiful first day in Paris!
I am absolutely delighted to have shared this time with Erin – to discover real friendship where before there had been more of a friendly acquaintance-ship. Traveling together (when it goes well, as it most certainly did throughout this entire trip), has a way of forming a unique and strong bond. What a blessing!