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Day 5: On the Road Again

Monday, July 07, 2014

Time to move on to our next destination. I was very impressed with how clean London was. We saw very little graffiti, and when we did, it was impressive. Here is an example.

I had hoped we would take the Chunnel, but instead we drove under the English Channel through the Black Water tunnel. We were on our way to Dover to catch the ferry to Calais, France, where we would proceed to Paris by Coach. At first I was completely enamored with the castle.

But soon I was equally impressed with the white cliffs of Dover. The view from the ferry was breathtaking. I had never ridden on a ferry before, and was surprised at the size of it. There were around 100 coaches, and numerous cars below deck. There was plenty of room for everyone to roam the deck, entertain themselves in the arcade or casino, grab a bite to eat, or take a nap in one of the many lounges. We spent most of our time on the deck enjoying the view and watching kids feed the seagulls. Many of them had never seen gulls before and they were having a blast. It was amusing watching them try to get the seagulls in position so they could take a selfie with them.

A large portion of the day was spent in the coach. I tried to stay awake, but it was difficult. At one of the rest stops I bought what I would describe as chocolate covered waffles. Don’t know what they were called since no one was speaking English, and everything was written in French. They were quite tasty and very filling. I was still pretty full from breakfast, and these held me over until dinner.

We arrived in Paris in the evening. Our first impression was not good. It was not at all the romantic place I had seen depicted in the movies. Every place we visited in London was so clean. Our first sight of Paris was filthy at best. The traffic was insane, and that is probably an understatement. The streets are not laid out on grids. When we would come to an intersection, there were 4-6 choices of directions to turn, some of which required a wide u-turn. There were no lines on the streets, and in what I would think of as four lanes were crammed about 6 -10 vehicles facing various directions. Traffic was bumper to bumper, and when I looked down from the bus window, I couldn’t see the street because the cars were so close. Motorcycles and bicycles were weaving in and out of the cars as well as on and off sidewalks, and police officers were stopping and giving right-of-way to the motorcycles. It was mind boggling.

We were taken straight to the Restaurant Le Saulnier for our dinner. We were nervous getting off the coach, and wondered if there was a mistake, because it felt like we were in a ghetto. Trash and graffiti (not the pretty kind) were all over dingy walls. Trashy half torn off posters were hanging everywhere, and there were people begging and sleeping on the sidewalks. We hurried inside a restaurant which was being renovated on the outside. Inside was a pleasant and much needed surprise. The tables were set and waiting for us. The walls and ceilings were a beige/yellow. There were huge brightly colored paintings all around. The skylights were painted with vines and flowers. Quite beautiful.

Supper was “pretty” too. It was all arranged very pleasingly on the plates. It began with some kind of ham quiche. Not sure what else was in it. Next came turkey cutlets smothered in mushroom sauce served with rice, green beans, and French bread. Dessert was an apple tart. I scraped the sauce off of everything, and managed to eat enough of it to not be hungry. Nothing I would ever care to eat again though. Hubby wouldn’t eat any of it but the bread and a bit of the tart. I was at least willing to try everything. Our server did not speak English, but was very witty. He would tease us about not cleaning our plates, and pretend we weren’t going to get our dessert. It was fun communicating in a joking manner without speaking the same language.

After dinner we were off the Saphir Hotel, which was about 30 minutes out in the country. It was a sight for sore eyes.

Our room was nice and comfy, and we were ready to turn in for the night, but…Murphy decided to bring the law down on my hubby. (Possibly for his unkind remarks about the food. He’s a very finicky eater.) I had changed for bed, and he still could not get his suitcase open. Something had happened to the lock, and it would not open no matter what we did. I got dressed again and went looking for our one of city coordinators, who speak English, for help. I also wanted to escape the foul mood his frustration was bringing about. I found one in the lobby, and she translated to the guys at the desk what we needed. The boy she wanted was on break. She calls him her magician, because he seems to be able to fix whatever needs fixing. We had to wait a bit, but he popped in, and had me bring the suitcase down. I wanted it made clear I didn’t care about the lock, but not to break the suitcase. He took us to the kitchen, and managed to get that Samsonite combination lock off with a table knife, with no damage done to the suitcase at all. I was most impressed. That young man is indeed a magician.

Back to bed for a wonderful night’s sleep. Our bed was very comfy, and also very low to the ground. It was the first time ever that I could sit on the side and have my feet touch the ground.

Funny that our coordinators must have understood our 1st impression, even though we didn’t say anything, other than comment on the traffic. They kept reassuring everyone that tomorrow we would see the part of Paris that causes everyone to fall in love with it. At this point, it was hard to imagine.
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