Well I haven’t finished last year’s Colombia trip, but somehow this got written up and the next day of Colombia isn’t, so here goes…
Eric had let me leave my bagged up bike at his place the week before, so I just had to get myself and my regular luggages there on the day of our flight to France. I decided to public transport so my vehicle wouldn’t be taking up a San Francisco parking spot for two and a half weeks. My intentions of packing lightly didn’t quite pan out, so I had a wheelie bag and backpack, which I decided to not attempt with the Brompton. I know, where’s my sense of fun and adventure?!
So there was a walk from my house to the SMART train station in Santa Rosa, the train (which was surprisingly busy for mid-day on a weekday) to San Rafael, and a bus then walk to the Larkspur ferry, which had much orange from fans on their way to a Giants game. When we landed I had a brief moment of disorientation, it was so warm and sunny. “Is this really San Francisco?”
From the ferry building I had a couple blocks walk to BART, and on the walk from the station closest to Eric’s I picked up burritos for a last fix of Mexican food. (We did actually see signs for restaurants with taco and burrito in the name while we were in France, but did not try them. California sorta spoils you that way.) We ate and hung out at Eric’s until it was time to head to the airport. The taxi sounded like it had had better days, in fact it made some rather disturbing noises, but it got us to SFO.
Checked in. Eric could have gone carry-on, well except for the bike, but I had a luggage so he checked his backpack. There was a surcharge for the bikes, the woman said how much it would be in that sort of “you do know” tone as if maybe expecting some surprise or indignation. (As if we aren’t going to pay…) Yep, (we know we have to pay) – “well unless there’s a special today?” I ventured. She didn’t play. “It’s already in the computer.” Well you never know if you don’t ask.
Then the security charade. Both of our bags got flagged for special attention. Ah, the second halves of the burritos we each had. Fortunately they didn’t confiscate and destroy them, just swabbed the outside and tested the swabs. They passed.
The travel hurry up and wait. And wait. There was no word about a delay but it got to be after the originally stated boarding time and then the flight crew came through the waiting area. “Yeah, we’re not going anywhere without them!” It turned out we were about an hour late. But it did give us the opportunity to see MOON (almost?) full rising amidst the planes on approach. I was happy to see other travelers also noticing and enjoying the beauty.
It’s always kind of hard to believe that all the people in the waiting area will fit in the plane, but slowly the room emptied, and no one came back, so they must have been. We waited almost until the end – no rush, we’ll be on there for long enough as it is. Woohoo! Lanterne Rouge! It turned out we were almost all the way to the back of the plane – and the 777-300 is a loooong plane. But we had our own rowlet of two, which was pretty sweet.
The Air France safety video was a campy bilingual production that I couldn’t imagine an American company running. Like the taxi, the plane also made some not the greatest sounds, but we got off the ground and into the air. WE’RE ON OUR WAY TO FRAAAAANCE!
As we got to cruising altitude, the flight attendants come around with a cart offering aperitifs. The attendant in our aisle first asked in French and I probably could have done it but got flustered and ah/um-ed so he switched to English. I stayed a “Madame” though. Then there was dinner, which Eric slept through. The flight attendant asked about waking up my husband… Er, assumemuch? After dinner I watched a movie. There was a pretty good selection of movies on the individual seat back screens. Then I tried to sleep, utilizing the provided eye mask. I had a bit of a go settling down and getting comfortable but did eventually doze off.
I woke, and pretended I’d had a good night’s sleep. It’s tomorrow… There was breakfast and then about an hour to FRAAANCE! Well, to landing in Paris anyway. The flight tracker showed Great Britain out the hublot gauche, but we couldn’t see land. We did see ships outside the harbor at Le Havre, and the silt plume from the Seine, and then we were over France! Eric zoomed around on the flight tracker map and picked out some of the control towns we would be riding through.
There was a short line and no questions at passport control, so we were quickly on our way with a new stamp in our passports! All our luggages AND the bikes arrived as well. WHEW!!! We chatted briefly with another person retrieving a bike from the oversize luggage area. Yep. PBP!
The information for the car rental Eric had reserved said it was at a different terminal from where we were, but we noticed a sign for the company at same terminal where we had arrived and figured it was worth a try. Indeed, we were able to get a car there, which was nice. Even with the airport carts the bike bags were a bit unweildy. In several books I’d read or listened to in the lead up to the trip the French Paperwork had been mentioned, and indeed, there were three copies of the form – separate copies, not a muliplicate – that needed to be signed.
And then, WE WERE IN FRAAAAANCE! Just like that. And people were speaking French. And the signs were in French. Fortunately they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the US. But of course it’s not all the same – roundabouts, sequential flashing arrows in a tunnel highlighting the direction the road bent toward. The traffic signs denoting road conditions as “fluide.”
As we skirted Paris on the way to Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines there was a glimpse of the Eiffel tower, and the quintessensial Parisian rooftops. We crossed the Seine. The sky was filled with dramatical clouds. I kept giggling and bouncing in my seat. We’re in FRANCE!
We scored a parking spot right in front of the hotel, and went to check in. The hotel conference room had been converted to The Bike Room, and already had a large number of bikes and bags. The hotel nothing fancy – I was going to liken it to Motel 6 in the USA, but it was a bit more than that. The rooms were pretty much just functional, but there was a nice reception/lounge area and a restaurant.
Once we’d found our room and gotten our stuff in, I realized that oh yeah, I did have some hunger. We ended up meeting up with RBAoA Rob, Anson, Brian Koss, and Roy who were going to dinner. With all those people there was the decision thing, but it pretty much ended up being what was open. Which was a New York themed restaurant. Go figure. I had a good pasta, several people get the lasagna, which also looked really good. I had a nice mocktail, and got my choice of bubble size in carbonated water (who knew?). The waiter seemed excited to use his English.
We walked around a little bit and then all of a sudden THETIREDS hit me. We headed back to the hotel and hit the hay. IN FRANCE!!! les foins?
August 14/15, 2019
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