Saturday, June 23, 2012
Woke up at 7AM. The sun is shining!
Today we leave the Cotswolds. We will miss the quiet. It will be our last breakfast of Eric’s eggs and bacon – we will miss that too.
Here is what we need to do today:
- Drive to Bath, return the car.
- Take taxi to the train station in Bath to catch 12:13PM train to London (Paddington Station)
- Take London tube to St. Pancras Station to catch Eurostar to Paris (3:47PM).
The drive to Bath to return the car and catch the train to London was uneventful. The sun came out. It got cloudy. It rained. Repeat! The wind whistled as it played with our Purple Pooper. I really should not complain about the rain. The rain is the reason for all the lush greenness of Britain. The wet weather gives people something to talk about at the pub. It is not a bad thing, just inconvenient (much like the DMV).
What have we learned about the Cotswolds?
- As my DH puts it, “this is not reality”. I guess it is that fact that makes the Cotswolds such a special place. At any moment you expect a woodland gnome to jump out of a bush of roses and hollyhocks and say “Buy me a pint at the pub?”
- Driving is a challenge but worth the price of the car rental! Really, there in no other way to see the Cotswolds . The narrow roads are nothing more than paved sheep paths (if you are lucky). The hills are steep and numerous. The cars are tiny and have steering wheels on the right. Traffic flows on the left. Each on its own is no big deal. All together, they can create a nerve-racking experience for both driver and passenger. Our Purple Pooper was so light that driving down a hill seemed like falling – in a bad way! But hey, we would do it again.
- There are lots of sheep. There use to be a big wool trade here but we are told there is no money in wool anymore so sheep are now raised for their meat. But as a knitter I find that hard to believe – wool yarn in wildly expensive in that states! I guess we just need more knitters — the world would be better for it, I think.
- The people are fantastic! Instead of just honking their horn when your car has stalled, they actually get out of their car and ask “Can I help you?” It was the lady at the tourist information office that told us to “pump the clutch twice to put the car in reverse” and she was right!
- The Cotswold villages look just like they do in the movies!
- The Cotswolds also looks a little like Wisconsin, without the sheep. Still, don’t let that stop you from visiting Britain. I come from Wisconsin and I can honestly say that Wisconsin will not offer you the same experience.
- Stay left.
The train from London to Paris was also uneventful. When we got the St. Pancras station, we had 13 British pounds to spend. I bought two ham and cheese baguettes for the train, and an airy orange scarf for myself at one of the shops (I had a hope we would find warmer weather in France and everyone wears these scarves there).
The train left on time and it was packed! Once we surfaced from the tunnel under the English Channel, we watched the French countryside go by. It was sunny!
We arrived at Gard du Nord on time. We made our way to the Metro (subway) but our credit cards would not work in the ticket machines, we had to go to the ticket office. We were told that our cards lacked the proper smart chips – it wasn’t like that in 2009!
It was a Saturday so the Metro was not as crowded. We made our way to the Wagram stop without a problem. When we emerged from the Metro, the sun was shining – and it was warm! We found an ATM without a problem. We got cash without a problem. We also found the apartment without a problem. When we rang the doorbell to announce our arrival to the landlord, Naomi, there was no answer – we had a problem!
Not knowing what else to do, we dragged our bags back down to the street and looked for somebody who might let us use their phone for a local call. Right next door was an art gallery with a number of people milling about. We went in and the first person to approach my DH became the person we would bother– a petite women, nicely dressed, who happen to speak english. After explaining our situation, the hostess of the galley was gracious and allowed my DH to use her phone. Soon we were offered drinks – I took a beer! While my DH spoke to the landlord, I looked at the art – oil paintings and photography. It was amazing work! The oil paintings were a series where the artist painted figures emerging from gloomy backgrounds – which is sort of how we felt at the moment. Our landlord arrived a few minutes later.
It took my DH months to settle on this apartment. It is in a residential district, far from the tourist sights and crowds so that we could experience Paris more as residents. This apartment is on the third floor of a large stone apartment complex that looks like it is hundreds of years old, but it is probably not . It has 3 rooms and a small kitchen and is owned by a lady who spends most of her time in Corsica (Naomi manages the property as a rental for her). The rooms have cream-colored walls and high ceilings edged in a heavy crown molding. Tall French windows in the living room and bedroom overlook an internal courtyard. Wooded floors, wool rugs, wooden tables and upholstered chairs add to the light and airy French feel of the place. It is lovely! Naomi estimates that his apartment, located the 17th Arrondissement goes for about a million US dollars today.
Around 9AM, we had dinner at a local brassiere named Le Place where locals were watching a World Cup soccer game. The food was good (I had a Tomato Tart and salad, my DH had a chicken salad) but it was the atmosphere that was really the star! We sat at a table near an open window so we were able to watch the sun go down over the city. My DH loved to watch the people and their dogs go by. He is impressed that most dogs here are off leash yet they stay on their masters heels. We also noticed many dogs in restaurants patiently and obediently waiting for their masters to complete their meals. Apparently the French take dog training very seriously.
We left the restaurant around 11:30PM, I am not really sure. As we walked back to the apartment, I peered down Wagram Blvd. and saw the Arc de Triomphe — one of the most famous monuments in Paris! We made it there by midnight!
Since this monument flanks the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, we took a brief stroll to down it to see its lights, its cinemas, cafés, luxury specialty shops, and clipped horse-chestnut trees. The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets and one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world. It was busy and noisy with tourists, strutting young men, cars with honking horns, and French police. My DH asked me, “Why are all the young men here and all the young women in restaurants?” “I don’t know,” I said, “It is a mystery.”
We made it back to the hotel around 2AM. The GPS in pedestrian mode succeeded at taking us home — the long way.