Saturday, October 18, 2014
Day 4 and 5........How time flies.
So, here we are, almost at the end of our Parisienne experience.
I have had some issues with transferring my writings to Facebook, hence the delay, but I went a-finger walking online just now and have found another escape route in which to transfer the words so, here I am again.
This is almost the end of our Paris time, but the beginning of our sojourn alone the Seine River (once the boat gets started).
We were to experience a full 24 hours of climatisation action to the watercraft before we left (which incidentally was half an hour ago) and unfortunately our initial view from our cabin was that of a similar boat, although, if we stood on tippy toes and leant out our window we could see Le Tour Eiffel so, me no complain.
I just could wait to get going.....
Yesterday was initially pack up day and even though we had bought nothing of substance it was a bit difficult to do the zips up already on the suitcases. Bit like our tummies at the end of the cruise I suspect.
We bid a fond farewell to the staff at La Citadines (especially Elizabeth who plied us with food at the petit déjeuner) who ordered us a taxi and we were off. Our taxi driver is a Cambodian gentleman who has lived in Paris for 20 odd years. We learnt that with him not speaking English and we not speaking much French but we all got by and fortunately he was able to find the park where we were to board....
Marc Citröen Park which is well known for its atmospheric balloon rides if you like.
With many a merci from us and countless au revoirs from him we climbed from Le taxi and stood outside our new residence.
Once we had boarded and were shown our palatial cabins...a king sized bed, lovely ensuite with rainbow coloured shower, L'Occitane toiletries (my favourites!!!) plus a mini bar with wine, spirits, soft drinks, chips and chocolate that is all part of the deal! Plus we have a balcony were we can sit and enjoy the passage of time and river if we so choose which is more than enjoyable. The crew on board here are great so far. Respectful, polite and welcoming which must be a bit difficult for them time after time. This is the last cruise in this season here on the Seine as winter will set in soon and they all plan to return to their home countries...Hungary, Spain, Croatia to name three we know of so far.
We were given a 'light' lunch once on board....which was amazingly good healthy food, then we went for a walk in the afternoon, through the helium filled balloon park to a school district with lots of shops. We are looking to purchase a SIM card for the iPad as the wifi is a bit iffy and also to see if we can purchase something to download photos from my camera.....
That is the reason this is a dialogue only n'avec pas de photography. I have taken lots and lots of pics of course but unfortunately I have no way of downloading them onto the iPad at this time, but maybe in Florence we might find someone willing to help us.
We are told Tabac shops will sell them but no.... pharmacies...no. Papier librarie mais non.
Never mind. Just means a BIG influx of photos somewhere along the line or maybe when we return home! Regardless, the stroll through suburban streets is lovely and when I smile at strangers, they return my joy at being in the place I have always harboured a joy to be.
Our walk ends soon enough and we are back on board the boat and it is time for a meet and greet situation.
The average age of people on here it seems is around the 60+ mark with a few younger and a number older. We met Ginny and her husband Bob from Boston! They appear to be what I believe are typically refined gentry. Bob worked in business until retirement and Ginny (short for Virginia) worked in education and language for children with learning difficulties. Ginny herself was apparently dyslexic but was not aware of this until much later in her life, hence her passion for children with learning issues. Just to set the mood, she told us of a girl she went to school with who bore the same name but for some obscure reason had to put up with Virgy which was apparently quite unpopular!
We meet many others whose names for now escape me. We met our 'butler' and our stewardess Ramona who are apparently here to cater to our every need, but, we are simple folk and at least, our demands will be minimal. Of this I am sure.
I find these meet and greet things a little daunting for I am shy, even at my age. What I need to remind myself of is that there are others who are similar but there also seem to be others in groups...friends on the cusp of retirement, others experiencing a girls holiday away....for this is definitely not a blokey treat.
Mind, there is so much food and alcohol available it wouldn't matter who or what you are.
I just know I will have to pace myself as I have to fit into my work clothes on my return!
Following the ad hoc cocktail party (1st. night, informality is the go) it is dinner time, with a sumptuous banquet.... A smorgasbord of local delicasies with a never ending platter of food, and waiters offering any choice of wine left right and centre.
Following this sumptuous meal, we stagger home with very full bellies and it is time to sleep on our new beds.
The bed as mentioned before is king-sized and sumptuously comfortable. We each have our own doona/duvet and before too long we are asleep.
Next morning we arise and stare out at the view of the boat next door, wondering what it'll be like once we have left this Quai de Marc Citröen. This will happen this afternoon, but first we have a breakfast, walking tour of Paris and yet another meal, this time lunch, to contend with.
Did I tell you about the mood enhancing shower with its array of psychedelic lights? Did I also tell you dear reader about the toilet system that runs on a vacuum? Every time I go to the loo it makes me think I am on a plane as they both use a similar system.
Breakfast was had following as mentioned before a mood enhancing shower. Another variety of food I would never contemplate in my normal everyday existence.
It was then time to board a bus and return to the heart of Paris for a guided walking tour with two local guides who are obviously very passionate about their city.
The girl ( who is possibly around 25) , we shall call her Mathilde....is typically French. She is lithe and agile and wears her trench coat with much aplomb. Her hair is long and it is worn carefree and loose. She reminds me of a current French actress whose name escapes me right at this time but she is softly spoken, but also very articulate as she describes the history of this place.
The male guide, Luc, who is our alternate tour guide is also quite handsome of face. Initially I suspect him to be of a similar age to Mathilde with dreadlocks that are reasonably short. His skin colour is a little darker than Mathilde's peaches and cream complexion. Whereas Mathilde is soft, pleasant and knowledgable, he is animate and passionate and commands attention when he speaks as he makes you laugh with his explanations of the gypsy tricks and how to be so careful when out and about.
They take us on a walk around Le Jardin des Tuilleries (Tile Garden), so called because this was once a Tile Factory. The garden is amazing for its uniformity and formality which is the French way apparently. You are also not permitted to sit on the grass, so there are seats everywhere with a number of people already occupying them, talking, resting, reading newspapers as we stroll by. Next we are off into the city and gaze with open mouths at the high class jewellery and perfume shops. We stroll past the Ritz where Princess Diana spent her last few hours.
We have accessed the tunnel twice now where she with her lover Dodi El-Fayed and their driver were killed, once with our taxi driver and once with this bus trip. Both times we are shown the exact spot where the accident took place, so even now, some 14 maybe 15 years later, this woman remains very much in the minds of the French.
We stopped by what appears to be a blank shop window with a little inset and inside that inset there is a colourful pottery pig! Our tour guide tells us this shop is so exclusive that you need to ask someone rich and famous (Angelina Jolie is mentioned) where the actual shop is in the square as they do not want the riffraff coming in.
They still even utilise the garrets at the top of the buildings for these more than exclusive shops where the jewellery makers work. It is all under camera surveillance as theft is quite common here so it is said.
We then stroll from Napoleons Square which is all under renovation (yet another excuse to return to view it all completed) and wonder at the Opera District with its magnificent buildings and tiny little opera houses all still very much the go here.
So much to see.....
Our time is up eventually on this walking tour and we soon return to the boat for lunch, then a talk about emergency procedures "Just in case", where our lifeboats are and where our life jackets are (2 in every room). Jackets that is, not lifeboats.
It's then free time to mingle or become reclusive again as we take off on our voyage or even check out what is available on the boat, or eat yourself stupid if you so desire until lunch time which was a very formal sit down affair with three glasses for wine and a fine array of cutlery. This is a buffet and there are specialty foods which I have never tried before and so I had truffles for the very first time in my life. Not sure if I will be a fan in the future, but it's all part of the experience.
I do not want to regret not doing anything whilst on this trip so I will try 'almost' anything as I go....
Have I mentioned much about the people on board?
Such groups remind me of people in antenatal classes which I did for a number of years a while ago now.
You have the 'quiet' ones, ,the people who do not like to mingle, you have the 'loud' ones,...those that like to be heard at the expense of others, you have the 'funny' ones....those that tell jokes constantly and you have those that just sit back, take it all in and then over time choose which people to sit with. I mentioned Ginny and Bob initially. We have since then met others of a similar age...Peter and Karol who are both teachers and Anne and Dom who are Peter and Carols friends. Anne is a primary school principal and Dom was a university lecturer in art who retired a few years ago and now purely paints for pleasure.
They are lovely people as are many others we chat with and its nice to share experiences, lifestyles, work ethics and even politics. Most have grandchildren (we don't at this time...hint hint), some are couples, some are girlfriends as I mentioned before and some are singular doing this Normandy tour for their own personal reasons.
We are here for our own personal reasons...my turning 60 just one of those reasons and it's always an interesting topical point to discuss.
It's now time for our formal dinner on this first night aboard and it's apparently The Captain's Dinner, although the captains sits in an enclosed area away from his passengers and I can hardly tell you what he looks like other than his being half my age!
It is an a la carte dinner with appetisers, entree, sorbet, then main and then dessert with selected wines to accompany one's dinner. I will not bore you with every tiny morsel of food that passes our lips but rest assured dear reader it is delicious and we manage to eat every morsel!
I have already had one Long Island Iced Tea which I consumed on our first night on board and that was enough to ensure I had a good nights sleep.
Every day has a new cocktail theme and today's cocktail has a maraschino cherry in the base as well as lime and lemon. The flavour is unusual and contained gin, lemon juice and sparkling water, its name is French 76.
I plan to have the cocktail of the day every evening when I think of it.... One of my 'trying' experiences.
Following the dinner we all adjourned to the lounge for some music and it was rather pleasant just letting the world go by until bed time came around yet again.
Did I tell you we have celebrities on our cruise? Some of you may remember Judy Nunn who was on Number 96 some years ago and in more recent years, Home and Away. She is also a celebrated writer of repute nowadays also and both she and her husband are here with us more unrecognisable people. She is quite affable actually and we have chatted if only to say hello. Her husband Bruce Beresford is one of those loud people I was talking about earlier and he has already established to all and sundry that he is a singer, taking over the microphone a couple of times.
A couple of songs from Bruce, a watch of people dancing then it's time for bed for this old duck as there are more adventures to be had tomorrow.
As we return to our suite, I marvel at how smoothly the ship slips through the waters of The Seine River and long for the morning when I can see what we are passing.
It is very dark out there already and I am aware just how fortunate I am as I slip off to sleep.