Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 6 - Trip to Paris

Another travel day dawned bright and early and your Ramblers started out by driving to Caen, turning in the rental car and catching the train to Paris.  Checkout was quick and seamless and after loading the car with luggage we pointed Gabrielle at the Hertz location in Caen, which fortunately was located right next to the train station.   Although we had prepaid for fuel, we could get a credit if we returned the car filled. So, as we neared Caen, we asked Gabrielle to find us a petrol station.  The first try ended up being a big hole in the ground that might have been a BP in a former life. Who knows?  The next spot was near the train station but when we got there, BP was nowhere to be seen. C’est la vie.  Since the petrol was paid for, it was a small loss in a grand adventure and we attempted to find Hertz.  Lets just say inner city rental car offices are similar to their hotel counterparts, which is to say nothing like their airport cousins. We finally located the office on a little back street where we turned into what looked like a service station bay, handed them the keys and setoff down the block to the train station.  We're convinced that Gabrielle and her GPS cousins are not reliable when it comes to navigating near airports and to rental car returns, since this is the second time we've had trouble relying on them to gas up and return a rental car.  One positive, the price they charge for petrol is the same as local service stations, unlike the highway robbery that is charged in the U.S. (I’m talking about you, Boston, and your $9.72/gallon).  We had prepaid the train tickets and all we had to do is go to a kiosk and print them out. However, kiosks, all in French, can be quite hard to decipher so Rambler Hance joined the line to talk to a human and quickly got the tickets and instructions.  After grabbing lunches to go (Coca-Cola Zeros in plastic bottles (boo), two baguettes sandwiches and some yogurt--not bad for train station food) we made the train with no problem. The train was a good chance to catch up on blog posts.  We arrived in Paris in less than two hours (passed by lots of graffiti again), hailed a cab, found the hotel and checked in. With dinner reservations procured it was time to hit the town.

Paris St Lazare Train Station

What to do when you get to Paris? Head to a cafe for a drink of course!  After a little libation we did some scouting around our hotel, which was about 200 meters from the Arc de Triomphe. After a few pics we moved two streets over to the grand avenue, the Champs-Elysées.  The preparation for the Tour de France was already underway with barriers in place, the army and police forces visible and the video boards going up.
End of Our Street, Avenue de Wagram

Our Hotel, Emeraude Plaza Etoile

The Champs-Elysées has some premo shopping so we stopped at the Louis Vuitton store.  Hokie colors are "in" this season, with orange and maroon purses, scarves, wallets etc. distributed through the store.  Nice to look at but will leave the buying to others for now.

After shopping, we wandered back to our hotel and learned the first lesson of navigating Paris near the Place Charles de Gaulle, which is basically a bicycle wheel with 12 spokes--always take the non-linear angles into account and thus lean the way you want to go rather than going straight.

We ate dinner at a small cafe (12-15ish tables total) around the corner from and recommended by the hotel called Chez Gabriel. It was ok (or maybe we have gotten spoiled).  Rambler Hance grants 3 stars while Rambler Jane's scallops rated 4 stars.  We will split the difference and rate it 3.5 stars.  By the time we finished dinner and made a short run to the market for some bottled water, it was 10:30.  It was still a little light out but after a long and satisfying day, it was time for bed.

Tomorrow is tourist day in Paris.

Until then au revoir, and keep rambling.

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