Monday, July 6, 2015

Shelley & Carol's Great France River Cruise Adventure! The journey begins....6/19/15

When the opportunity to sail on a River Cruise from Paris to Normandy came up, it seemed only fitting to ask my mom to go with me!  I knew this would be a trip that she would love!  Neither one of us had been to Paris before, and we both really enjoy this type of vacation.  One filled with history, charming shops, artwork, and of course some great food as well!  Keith was actually happy to sit this one out. He'd been to Paris before when he was in culinary school, and while he enjoyed his visit at that time, he agreed - take Carol he said!  And so the plan was set in motion!

Neither one of us had been on a river cruise before, and neither had been to Paris before either!  New territory! We would be flying into Paris the day before our ship sailed and spending a day enjoying the sites and then our cruise was Paris - Normandy - Paris.  We then would have another full day in Paris before heading home.  We really wanted to experience as much as we could in our short time there.  I do believe we truly did! 

Here we go!  We flew out of Philadelphia, leaving on Thursday evening for an overnight flight, flying direct into Paris.  We'd arrive around 8 am.  

We were all set for our flight.  Just under 8 hours.  My plan was to honestly get some sleep.  We were going to be going straight out touring when we arrived.  It's the only way to combat jet lag, so being up for 24 or 36 hours is not really fun.  So, eat my meal, watch maybe a movie and sleep. Hmmm....why wasn't my seat back entertainment system working?  Ok, maybe a blessing.  No distractions!  I mentioned it to the flight attendant.  After taking off about an hour late due to ground traffic, we were something like 30th in line for take off, once we were up in the air and people were starting to get into their movies - he rebooted everyone's system!  Well, that was super nice - he was trying to get mine to work.  But yes, everyone else's had to go off.  Mine still didn't work.  Oh well.  

Our in flight meal, can't complain about that!  When you get a free glass of wine in economy class - what's to complain about!  It was fine.  Plenty of food, took up some time to eat.  And then I decided to get some shut eye. Well, except for this poor little French girl in the middle set of seats in our row.  Apparently she was being tortured for the entire flight.  She cried, she screamed, she laughed, which sounded like screaming.  He sister, who I would guess was about 10 was cute - kept apologizing - trying to distract her. Poor kid.  Anyway - I maybe slept about 3 dozing type hours.  More than Carol, who I don't think slept at all!

Next thing you know, they turn the lights on, coffee is brewing, and the flight attendants are pretending it's morning.  We all know it's only midnight right?  But sure, we'll pretend it's 6 am!  Breakfast time!  Ok, feeling refreshed - let's have some muffin tops, yogurt, granola and coffee!  Let's land this plane and get moving!  Even leaving an hour late, we only touched down about 20 minutes late.  

We walked about 10 miles, or so it felt, through the Charles De Gaulle airport, zipped right through passport control, grabbed our luggage and if there was customs, I'm not sure that we saw it!  We were out of the airport in less than 40 minutes.  Sweet!

We pre-arranged a driver to take us to our hotel to drop off our bags and he was right there with the masses of people with our names on a sign.  I love that feeling.  Everything coming together - someone is there to meet you in a place you've never been!  It's so much more personal than just grabbing a taxi and hoping for the best!  Dan greeted us with a smile and welcomed us to Paris, took our luggage and fought our way through the crowds to his luxury Mercedes and we were swept out of the chaos and on our way into Paris.....Keeping in mind that it was 9 am on a Friday morning.  The ride was a bit slow!

We would be spending our first night at the Pullman Paris Montparnasse Hotel.  This was the hotel that Avalon Waterways uses for their "meeting" and departure hotel.  It made sense to stay here since the passengers for the river cruise depart from here the next day. This hotel is a business hotel in every sense. It's very corporate and while there's nothing wrong with that, and there is actually quite a bit positive to it, it doesn't bring to mind the charm of Paris that one may imagine when thinking about visiting! That being said, our room was very large, very modern and the staff were incredibly friendly and accommodating!  We did pay a small upcharge to be able to check into our room early, and even though we wouldn't be staying in our room, we wanted to drop our bags and spend a good ten minutes freshening up before meeting our guide for the day.  And that we did.  

Our room - large by Paris standards!

Nice, modern bathroom

And the view from our room - our first real glimpse at Paris! Wow.....not sure what to make of this whole thing!

So far, was this the Paris we had been expecting?  Well, it was only 10 am!  We had barely set foot in this city!   

One thing that I have tried to do when I've visited a new city, especially in Europe, is a private tour with a local guide.  A walking tour especially.  I've found that it's a great way to not only experience a city, or a part of a city, but it's a great way to learn from one another about the people of the city.  I searched high and low to find just the right fit for this trip and in the end I was lucky to find such a guide! We planned sort of a "Day in Paris with a Parisian" type of day.  Just strolling an area, seeing some not so common sites, and talking.  Enjoying lunch together, sitting in a cafe.  Really, the perfect way to fight jet lag, but still take in this amazing city!

Next up......our time with Justine in Paris!

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