Saturday, August 05, 2006

Paris 2003

9 Octobre, 2003 - We got up around ten and finished all the things we had left to do. Geoff came up at one and we left for the airport. We checked our bags and, after a thorough security check which included having to remove our shoes, walked to the terminal gate for our US Airways flight to Philadelphia. We got there just as they were boarding Cynthia's flight to Philadelphia, so we said our hello's and goodbye's and watched as their plane taxied away. Robb was feeling hungry. We found a pizza place where he ordered a slice and a drink. I was going to wait until we got to Philadelphia and have a cheesesteak, but his pizza looked so good that I decided to have a slice also. I should have waited for the cheesesteak. Oh well. We boarded the A321 Airbus and headed to Philadelphia around 3:45 PM. I like the Philly airport, although it seems like you walk forever when getting from one place to another there. Left Philly for Paris on a A330 Airbus at about 8:00 PM.

10 Octobre - The whole of Europe seemed to be covered with thick, fluffy clouds. We never saw the ground until the pilot broke through them on his final approach to Aéroport de Paris Charles de Gaulle. As usual, there was no problem getting through immigration or customs, and we sought out an ATM to get some euros. It was now about 9:30 AM, Paris time. The original plan was that we would meet Cynthia and Ana at the airport and then taxi to the hotel, but after searching the airport lobby, we did not find them and assumed they had already left. We noted with satisfaction that once we entered the city, the clouds were gone and there was nothing but blue skies and sunshine, though it was cool. When we pulled up to the Hôtel Williams Opéra, they came running out to the cab to greet us, saying that they were soooo glad we had arrived and that they should have followed our advice. We had told them before leaving Fort Lauderdale that when they got to Paris they should forego the airport shuttle and take a taxi to the hotel, because the shuttles drop off their passengers at specific points and if it's not near your hotel, you have to get a taxi anyway. They didn't heed our advice and, since neither speaks French, had a difficult time getting a taxi and telling him where to take them. We checked into the hotel, got our key and went up to our room (51). It was a typical French hotel room, clean but tiny. We were amused at the thought of Cynthia and Ana staying in the same room because Cynthia is a large girl (probably around 200 maybe a little over) and Ana is a HUGE girl (probably close to 300).

After getting settled into our room, I went down to C & A's room to see if they wanted to check out a few things with us. They were both getting ready to go to bed, but when I told them Robb and I were going out, Cynthia jumped up and asked for a few minutes to get dressed and then she would join us. Ana remained in bed clothes (which was a harbinger of things to come, if only I had known).

The three of us walked down to Boulevard des Italiens. We stopped at La Taverne to make a dinner reservation, then walked to Opéra Garnier. The last time we were here, they wouldn't let us inside, but there was no problem getting in this time. Then we took off looking for rue Sèze and a shoe store named Finsbury's. We found both and Robb purchased a pair of shoes. Off again to Robb's favorite Parisian store, Springfield, where he bought a belt to match his new shoes which he was wearing in order to break them in. Robb and Cynthia were complaining of hunger pains, so we stopped at a corner bistro for a "jambon de Paris" sandwich (ham and cheese on a baguette) and a glass of wine. We were just across the street from the Madeleine and Cynthia had never seen it, so we popped over and had a look around, discovering that a concert was scheduled for Tuesday night at 8:30. We made a date to attend. Ah Paris! So many things, so little time. The area around the Madeleine is chock full of great stores and bistros, among which is Hediard (wine, spices, cheese, gifts), Fauchon (famous for chocolate and fruit) and Nicolas (wine and spirits).

By the time we had inspected all these wonderful places, Robb had decided that he really didn't like the new shoes and they were uncomfortable anyway. So it was back to Finsbury's. The salesman there talked him into exchanging the shoes for a pair in black (the originals were a kind of bronze/brown), but we would have to go to one of their other stores (there are five in Paris) to pick them up. Now the way he explained it, it seemed like the other store was just around the corner, but it turned out to be quite a long walk. At any rate, he made the exchange and we headed back to the hotel. We agreed to meet in the lobby around 7:00 PM to go to dinner and asked the desk clerk to call a cab for 7:30. He told us there was no need to call early since it only takes a few minutes to get one. But when we came down and asked him to call, the taxi company told him they couldn't be there until after eight. Well, the maitre d' at the restaurant had already told us that if we were late for the reservation, we probably wouldn't be able to get in at all until much, much later. If we had known a bit sooner, we could have walked and arrived in time. C'est la vie. We decided to walk around the area of the hotel and see what was available. There are a lot of nice looking restaurants in the area but we couldn't seem to agree on one. Finally, we chose one and had dinner around 9:00 PM, late for the girls but early for Robb and me. I don't remember the name of the place but it was just across the street from one called the Blue Cafe. The food was not great but good and after a couple glasses of wine (for Robb and I, Cynthia drank water and Ana drank Coke [which would be the pattern for the remainder of our Paris dinners together]) it didn't seem to matter anyway.

Then it was back to the hotel and our first day in Paris ended about 1:00 AM, Paris time.

11 Octobre - We arose too late for breakfast in the hotel, which was served in a breakfast room they had set up in the basement. It was actually very pleasant.

The four of us walked to the Opéra métro station because we needed métro tickets (Robb still had nine from our last visit). There is a nice little bistro in the métro station and we decided to have our breakfast there (croissant and café for Robb and me, ham and cheese with a coke for the girls). After breakfast, we walked down rue de Madeleine, then down rue Royal to Place de la Concorde. At the entrance to the Jardin de Tuilleries, Ana stopped at a souvenir stand and bargained, in Spanish, with the owner. She actually got some pretty good deals. We continued through the Tuilleries, around the little boat pond, through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and into the Louvre by way of the Pyramid entrance. Inside we checked out the Winged Victory, Mona Lisa and, found quite by accident, a Hermaphrodite. Yes, boys and girls, they actually have a statue with male genitalia and women's breasts in the Louvre. Of course, I didn't have my camera with me! We left the Louvre and decided to cross the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay. Ana (as was to become her habit) announced that she was tired and returned to the hotel to sleep. Robb, Cynthia and I toured the Orsay and had a nice snack in the restaurant on the second level. The museum announced it was nearly closing time and we just managed to check out the impressionists before having to leave.

We caught the RER to St. Michel where we walked through the Latin Quarter, checking out some of the restaurants. The three of us decided that the Latin Quarter would be our destination for dinner one night. We walked down to Shakespeare and Company where Cynthia filled her water bottle from a Wallace Fountain, so named because fifty of them were donated to the city by an Englishman named Wallace. She was hesitant to use the fountain, fearing who-knows-what-kind-of-disease, but I managed to convince her that it was perfectly safe. After all, we're in Paris not Timbuktu or Mexico! We crossed the Seine again, this time on our way to Cathédrale Notre Dame We got there just in time for the beginning of the evening mass. All of the churches in Paris, in addition to being tourist attractions, are working churches and they perform their services just as though there was no one but church people in attendance. We left Notre Dame walking toward Hôtel de Ville, stopping at several souvenir shops. For whatever the reason, the souvenir shops near Notre Dame are the least expensive in the city. I bought several scarves for the girls at work. Cynthia purchased several post cards. Surprise! Robb bought nothing!

For a week or so, previous to leaving for Paris, I had been watching the webcam at Hôtel de Ville and saw that some sort of activity was happening there (As usual. There is ALWAYS something going on in Paris). When we got to the actual location, it was still happening. I'm not certain what it was really, but there were a lot of guys with painted faces and interesting costumes, playing very loudly on drums of various sizes. It was noisy, but entertaining. As we watched, the whole group (thirty or forty) walked out of the tent-like structure and paraded around the area, still beating their drums. We crossed the street (rue de Rivoli) to BHV because I wanted to get a watch like Robb had gotten on our last trip, but alas, no watch sellers were to be found. So we hopped on the métro back to the hotel where we rested until going to dinner at the Restaurant Victoria in the 13th (Chinatown). We started with a pre-dinner "Cocktail de Maison". Robb and I had an appetizer of "moules" (mussels), and for my main dish, I had "Fruits de Mer avec Sauce de Crevettes" (fish with shrimp sauce). For desert, Robb and I had "Pommes Flambé au Rhum" (flaming apples with rum). Our dinner wine was a bottle of Sancerre, which we have come to like very much.

Then it was back to the hotel, a little TV and bed.

12 Octobre - We got up in time to have breakfast at the hotel. It was quite nice. Croissants, muffins, cereal, coffee, tea, hot milk, cold milk and orange juice. Robb and I just had the croissant with coffee and orange juice. Though I didn't really expect them to be in their room since they were supposed to have gone to Versailles, I stopped down to check with the girls. They were still in bed.

Robb and I walked down rue de La Fayette to les Galeries LaFayette. I found a watch seller who had the same kind of watches that Robb had bought on our last trip and bought one. He decided he had to have another, and bought it. We walked down the street to Au Printemps, but it was closed, so we walked back to les Galeries LaFayette. I bought a leather belt for Cedric, a guy with whom I work . We were hoping to buy another electric razor, but couldn't find the kind we wanted. We came out of les Galeries LaFayette and, upon looking around, spotted a beautiful, old church just a few blocks away and decided to check it out. We stopped just across the street from the church at a sidewalk sandwich stand. I got a huge hotdog covered in a wonderful cheese. Robb got a Parisien sandwich, which as near as I could tell was ham and cheese on a baguette. There was a little bistro right next door and the sandwich guy said we could sit at one of their outdoor tables if we ordered a drink. And so we each ordered a café. The church, Sainte-Trinité was not open to the public when we crossed over to check it out, although I'm certain I saw the doors open when we were sitting at the bistro. But there is a very nice little park in front of the church where there is a lovely fountain reminiscent of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, though not as big (I assume). Then we walked back to the hotel to rest awhile before going out to dinner.

Although they had gotten up too late to go to Versailles, Cynthia and Ana had gone to la Tour Eiffel.

We all met in the lobby around 8:30 and walked to Métro Poissonière where we got the métro to Gare de l'Est (a train station). We caught the #4 métro to St. Michel and the Latin Quarter where we would have dinner. Ana wanted Italian so we stopped at the first place we saw that boasted of pasta. Robb and I had Veal Marsala which came with a large side order of spaghetti. OMG!! That was the best spaghetti I have EVER had! You may recall in my entries of our last trip to Paris, that I mentioned that the Latin Quarter was a place to get inexpensive meals. Our meal (for the four of us) with desert and two carafes of wine was less than eighty euros. After dinner, we walked around the Quarter for a while. Then we walked up to the Seine (only a couple of blocks) to check out Notre Dame dressed in its evening lights. It was beautiful.

13 Octobre - We got up at breakfast at the hotel for us today. Last night, Cynthia had told us that she and Ana were going to the flea market (located in the northwest section of Paris) today. I had heard a lot about it and considered going with them, but decided against it.

Robb and I walked up rue de La Fayette to a little bistro where we had our croissant and café crème. Then we hopped the métro to the 13th Arrondisement to Italie2, our favorite place to shop. We stopped at a parfumerie and Robb bought a bottle of Monsieur Givenchy. Went to Armand Thierry where he bought two pairs of jeans. I was tempted to buy a pair or two myself, they are really very nice, not at all your usual denim things (I'm not sure what material it is of which they're made).

It was getting late, so we got the métro to meet Cynthia at the hotel. Then it was off to Cour St. Emillion and our date with the webcam (which I've been told was not working at the appointed hour. Quel dommage!). After our futile waves, we walked over to Chai33 for a light snack. Robb and I again had the cheese tray with that great salad and café. Cynthia had a hot chocolate. We sat there for a little over an hour, just chatting and checking out the other people. The three of us caught the métro to the Madeleine area so Robb could once again go to his favorite store, Springfield. This time (with encouragement from Cynthia and me) he bought two shirts, two jackets and another pair of jeans (the denim kind this time). I got caught up in the buying frenzy and purchased a nice suede jacket.

One of the things we all wanted to do on this trip, was attend a gay club, so after Springfield, we walked to rue Montmartre to find the club I had linked to in my entry, Birthday and Football, Le Scorp (which apparently is no longer in business). I couldn't remember the exact address, but I knew it was near the Hard Rock Cafe. We checked out the area but couldn't find it. We saw a place called the Blue Grill which looked suspiciously like a gay establishment and thought that perhaps they might have changed their name. We went in and were met by a waitress. We asked her if this was indeed the place formerly known as Le Scorp. After several minutes of trying to get her to understand what we were talking about, she finally called over a waiter who was obviously gay, if you know what I mean. At any rate, he told us that Le Scorp was a few doors down on the other side of the street, but that they didn't open until midnight and no one ever really showed up until after 2:00 AM. That was a bit later than any of us had planned on, so we decided to skip it. Maybe we'll hit the club another time when we're going to be here more than a very short week.

We walked back to the hotel with the understanding that Cynthia and Ana would knock on our door when they were ready to go to dinner in Montmartre. By 10:30, they still had not appeared at our door. We had to go down and get them out of bed. Of course, that meant that there was no way we could have dinner in Montmartre. We found a nice little place on a side street, but they were just closing when we entered. The owner of the place, an attractive woman probably in her forties or fifties, recommended Au General La Fayette, which is just around the corner and down the street. When we got there, Cynthia and Ana met two women from Spain (Andalusa) with whom they'd become friendly. We had to wait for a table (the place was quite crowded, which is always a good sign in a restaurant) but had a nice chat with the two Spanish women. They informed us that the food was excellent but the service left a bit to be desired, which turned out to be quite reliable information.

While we were eating, we noticed a guy outside, pacing back and forth beside the restaurant, speaking and gesturing angrily to no one in particular that we could see. Suddenly, he pulled plants out of the planters alongside the restaurant and threw them into the street. That, of course, did not sit well with the waiters who took off down the sidewalk after him. They returned empty handed. We speculated amongst ourselves that he must have been a disgruntled former employee, possibly a waiter.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel where we sat in the lobby chatting until about 1:30 AM.

14 Octobre - We were up by 8:00 AM this morning, so naturally, we had breakfast at the hotel. Then Robb and I walked down to K-Deco, a home furnishing store just down the street. I wanted to see if they had one of the really neat shower heads we had used at the apartment on Avenue de Choisy. Sad to report, they did not. I needed to rush back to the hotel to use the toilet. Morning coffee almost always affects me that way. As if you really wanted to know that!

We caught the métro to the Place Monge station, from which we walked to Arènes de Lutèce, one of the two remaining ruins of the Gallo-Roman era in Paris (along with the Thermes de Cluny). It was built between the first century and the end of the second century. The location of the actors' dressing rooms, the platform of the stage and lapidary remains can still be seen. . Completely forgotten for 1500 years, they were rediscovered in 1869, when new streets were planned and excavations started. When you enter the arena (surprisingly enough, there is no entrance fee, it is open to public use (French kids actually play soccer there) and there is a good bit to see; statuary, animal cages, et al), you can feel the age of it. It's hard to put into words, but I was met with a sense of ancient times.

Afterwards, we walked down to rue Mouffetard, which is always touted as being THE place to go for fresh fruits and vegetables. It was very disappointing to find that it has become just another tourist street, full of souvenir shops and over-priced restaurants. The street market on Avenue d'Italie is much better. I bought a backpack at one of the stores.

We decided to walk to Place d'Italie and the Printemp's mall (Italie2). As we were walking along, I just happened to catch, out of the corner of my eye, the street sign for rue de Croulebarbe, and decided to see if I could find restaurant La Touraine, this time in the daylight. Son of a gun! WE DID!! It was just a little further down the street then we had looked the last time. Will wonders never cease? We will definitely have dinner there tomorrow night.

We continued on to Italie2. Stopped into a Go Sports store. Robb bought a few T-shirts. I bought a bottle of water (Vittel). Then we went over to the pharmacie and Robb got some hair stuff. From Italie2, we walked down to the Restaurant Victoria to check on Robb's scarf that he thought he left there the other night. They were closed, but in getting there, we passed the apartment-hotel in which we usually stay. I looked inside and saw Madeleine at the desk, so we popped in to see her and say 'hello'. She was very happy to see us. We asked about her baby (born in early April) and she became a gushing, proud parent. She insisted we had to see the child and, after asking us to wait a few minutes, made a telephone call in which she asked 'someone' to bring her to the hotel. A few minutes later, a handsome guy showed up with the child. Madeleine, when asked, told us the baby's name was Jade. Very pretty. We caught l'autobus 67 back to the hotel.

Cynthia met us in the lobby around 7:00 PM and announced that Ana was not going to accompany us to the concert. I'm shocked!! (Yeah, right). The concert at the Madeleine was good, even if it was nearly the same one we had attended last time. But for some reason that neither Robb nor I could fathom, the sound quality wasn't quite as good as the previous concert.

On one of our previous trips to Paris, we had eaten boeuf bourgignon at Restaurant Fregate on the Seine, well actually, just across the street, but close enough. The point I was trying to make, is that it was the only bad meal we had ever had in Paris. But being the kindly, generous, fair-minded guys that we are, we decided it was our own fault, because boeuf bourguignon is one of those things they start cooking first thing in the morning and continue to cook all day. And since we didn't even get to the restaurant until after 11:00 PM, it would very naturally have been the dried-out, tasteless dish which we were served. So we decided to give them another chance to prove that, unless you really try, you can't get a bad meal in Paris. We caught the RER to the Musée d'Orsay station and walked the two blocks to the restaurant. Cynthia had some kind of chicken dish (the only type of meal she ever ordered that we saw) while Robb and I had the Sole. It was an interesting dish. The Sole was in thin strips wrapped around another kind of meat (we're not sure if it was pork or beef) served around a nice helping of fettucine with a delicious sauce. It was scrumptious. Parisian cuisine has been redeemed!

We walked back to the RER/Métro station to get the métro back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the metro station is not actually in the same station; it's several blocks away. By the time we found it, the cleaning crew was busy in the billet office. One of them asked in which direction we were going. We told him and he said that if we hurried we could just get the last train. However, as soon as we got down to the track level, I realized that it was the wrong direction, so we hurried back up and down the other side. But we were too late. While trying to decide what course of action to take next, the security people came in and told us we had to leave because they were going to lock up the station. But one of them (female, about thirty) told us that if we ran to the station about four blocks away, we could still catch the last train. Well, we missed that one also. There was no other choice now, we had to get a taxi.

We stood on a corner on Boulevard St. Germain de Prés trying to wave down taxis, but though we saw several that had the "available" light on, none would stop. Thankfully, a guy came past and noticed our plight. He told us that in order to get a taxi, one must stand at the taxi station (which in this case was on the other corner, although there were no indications at all that it was indeed a "taxi stand"). We thanked him and crossed to the "taxi stand". Within minutes, we had our taxi and were on the way to the hotel.

15 Octobre - Up at 9:00 AM, in time for breakfast at the hotel. Cynthia and Ana had made plans to do something today, so Robb and I took the métro to Parc de la Villette. We had wanted to go before, but always seemed to opt to something else. Villette is a large place, both in area and activities. There are many things to see and do there; the Geode, the Cité des Sciences et l'Industrie, the Argonaute (with a full-sized submarine), other various museums and things, merry-go-rounds, walking paths in the park-like areas, and our destination: Cité de la Musique, which is located on the far side of the park necessitating crossing the canal and walking a bit. It was fantastic! The museum has instruments from the earliest times to the present. When you get your ticket, they give you a set of earphones. As you pass the various instruments, you can hear them played in the style that would have been popular at the time. The lute collection alone was spectacular. I had no idea there were so many different kinds, some with fifteen to twenty strings. At the end of the tour, a gorgeous young guy came out and began to play a cello. As he played, he chatted with us, telling us about the music he was performing and his instrument. He was very talented, and when he played you could see that he was very much into the music and the instrument. We passed through the gift shop on our way out. Robb bought a CD of music from the time when Versailles was THE place to be. It was very reasonably priced. CD's in Europe tend to be a little pricey. You can expect to pay from €20 to €30 for popular things. They also hold concerts at Parc de la Villette. There was a Pink Floyd movie marathon going on while we were there and a lot of their CD's were available in the gift shop.

We caught the métro to the Opéra area, stopping in the station for a sandwich and café. Then we walked to Springfield. Robb picked up the pants he had bought and had altered. Then he found a really nice leather jacket which, surprisingly, fit him beautifully. Of course, he bought it. We walked back to the hotel and rested until about 7:30 or so.

Robb and I caught the métro to Place d'Italie where we got the métro to Corvisart and rue de Croulebarbe. We walked to La Touraine for dinner. We started with Salade de Aspergere (asparagus, shrimp, eggs, tomatoes, three kinds of lettuce and topped with a brick of the most wonderful pâte!). The main course was Sole avec Champignons et Pommes de Terre (Sole with mushrooms and potatoes). For desert (which we seem to be having more and more), we had Pavé Chocolat avec Crème Café (a rich slice of chocolate [sort of like fudge but much better and smoother] with coffee cream sauce). Wine was a bottle of Sancerre. And, of course, the after dinner café. Everything was so good. And we were the only non-French people there. At the table next to us, were four guys and Robb insists that they were gay, but I couldn't tell.

After dinner, we walked to the métro Gobelins and rode back to the hotel too acutely aware that tomorrow was our last full day in Paris.

16 October - We were up by 9 AM and had breakfast in the hotel. We left a nice tip for the woman in charge.

Somehow, Cynthia had talked Ana into going to Versailles, so Robb and I decided to go to the Musée Marmottan. One of the good things about our hotel was that it was on a main street (rue de La Fayette) and that meant that we only had to step out of the hotel to get the bus (#32) that would take us across town to the Marmottan. It was another great sightseeing ride. Among the things we saw from the bus was la Tour Eiffel, le Trocadéro, Sainte-Trinité, l'Opéra Garnier, les Champs-Elysées, l'Arc de Triomphe and Place Vendôme.

From the bus stop, it's about a two block walk to the Musée Marmottan in a lovely neighborhood. A way upper-class neighborhood. There was a group of women apparently on a tour of museums waiting for their guide to escort them through the museum and, as women tend to do, blocking the entrance from anyone else who might want to enter. We finally got through them and paid our admission fee. I had to leave my camera case at the check room, but I didn't plan on taking any pictures and I was tired of carrying it anyway. Once inside, the first thing I noticed was that they had added an entirely new wing just for the paintings of Monet. Many of them had little placards indicating that they were donated by Monet's son. He had done this in order to pay his back taxes, although they don't explain that on the placards. I bought two small copies of "Impression, Soleil Levant" (Sunrise, An Impression), one for myself and one for Geoff. The last time we were here, I bought a tiny copy of the same painting with a little easel that now sits in the breakfront in our living room. Geoff has always admired that and I was hoping to get one for him, but they no longer sold them.

We caught the bus at the corner just outside the museum and returned to the hotel, where we dropped off our purchases and my camera case.

We took the métro to Gare de l'Est where we got the métro to St. Michel and the Latin Quarter. We walked around for awhile trying to locate the Musée National du Moyen-Age Thermes de Cluny. It's comprised of two important sites. One is a 15th century Gothic mansion containing a wide selection of medieval art, as well as a collection of original sculptures from the facade of Notre Dame. During the Revolution, the heads of the French kings were lopped off their statues located in Notre Dame. They were found during excavations and brought to the Cluny, where they can now be seen. Next to the mansion are 3rd century Gallic-Roman baths, including a "Frigidarium" (cold room). The medieval atmosphere can be felt as soon as you enter the courtyard. It simply envelopes you and draws you into the period and once you enter the mansion, it's even more intense. Robb and I loved it.

After the Cluny, we took the métro to Place d'Italie so Robb could pick up his jeans at Armand Thierry. We stopped into Brioche Dorée for an Orangina (orange soda-like drink) and to just sit for awhile. Then it was off to Au Printemps for perfume for Robb's co-workers and the métro back to the hotel.

We began packing everything that we would not need. It was quite a job, getting everything back into the cases, because mine were pretty full when I got here and Robb had bought much more than he had planned. But the mission was eventually completed, although Robb had to carry a few things in a bag he had gotten at one of the stores. I hate living from a suitcase, and that's my biggest complaint about staying in hotels, because they do offer some convenient amenities that you don't get with an apartment.

We joined Cynthia and Ana in the lobby at 8:30 and chatted for an hour or so. Then we went to eat at a very nice Chinese restaurant on the other side of the square. I remarked how it was sad that we didn't discover the restaurant sooner, because it was quite good and only a few feet away. But, though we actually had seen it several times, they always seemed to close before we were ready to go to dinner. Why they were open late this evening, I've no idea.

Then it was back to the hotel. We sat in the lobby and chatted awhile longer, then said our good night's and our trip to Paris was, for all intent and purpose, over.

17 October - We arose just in time to make breakfast. We were running a little later than we had planned, so while Robb was doing his toilet things, I carried our bags down to the lobby. In the week we had been here, we only saw two American couples, and one of those was not really a "couple", because the guy was obviously gay and they left the hotel separately after breakfast. Most of the other guests were English or German, with an occasional Swedish (Norwegian?) or Spanish group thrown in to the mix. It made for an interesting week.

Our plane was scheduled to leave for Philadelphia at 1:40 PM. We left the hotel around 10:30 AM. Once at the airport, we had no trouble checking our bags and getting our boarding passes, after which, we took the "people mover" to the departure level (at least two floors). There were shops of all kinds selling just about anything a last minute shopper might want on the departure level. But when Robb looked for a pharmacie in which to get eye drops, we were told that we would have to go to a lower level. We found the pharmacie, he bought the eye drops, but then we couldn't find the way back to the departure level. It turned out that we had to go all the way down to the very first level and use the people mover again. I didn't mind that because I thought it was fun. Back on the departure level, we ran into Cynthia and Ana. Evidently, we were on the same return flights. That was the first time I had ever seen two separate boarding gates for the same plane; one for first class and the other for the rest of the cattle (us).

On the plane I watched a couple episodes of Sex And The City and a movie, "Down With Love", which was a blatant Doris Day/Rock Hudson knock-off. But it was cute nonetheless, even if I did not get to see the last twenty-five minutes. I had started watching too late and we were landing before I got to see the end.

In Philadelphia, they have changed the bag handling procedure. We used to have to claim our bags, go through customs and then schlep the bags through the entire airport to re-check them at the airline-of-choice ticket counter. Now, as soon as you get through customs, the bags are placed into a chute and you continue on your way with just your carry on stuff. A much better system. Let's hear a huge cheer for the man who came up with that idea! We reached the departure gate but there were no seats available, so we walked back to a book store we had passed. Robb bought "Cry, the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton, and spent the next couple hours complaining and questioning whether or not he should have bought it. We walked back to the boarding area. All seats were still occupied so we sat in seats at the next area over. Cynthia and Ana showed up a few minutes later - they were eating pizza.

On the plane to Fort Lauderdale, we sat next to a guy who spent the entire trip talking about his cats. He even went so far as to ask his wife to dig out pictures to show us. But I was really good (I even managed to refrain from bursting into loud guffaws) and said nothing.

Once back in Fort Lauderdale, we collected our bags, gave Cynthia and Ana a hug and grabbed a taxi to our apartment. We arrived at the condo about 10 PM and had to rush out immediately to buy milk for our morning coffee. We went to Bona's Italian Restaurant for dinner. We both had Grouper New Orleans.

We're home.

A bientot, mes amis.

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