Day 30 – Going Home 1/13/15

Got up at 5.30am to fly out at 10:30am.

This is our times, but it’s best to allow more time, because you never know what to expect – longer lines due to popular events or problems or seasons when people travel more. Also, taxi strikes are always possible, so we prefer to use Uber (go to www.qsfo.com for details … and to sign-up for a free or almost free first ride).

– Get ready, last minute packing, ordering an Uber (Town Car) and checking out of the hotel: 1.5 hrs.
– Ride to the airport – W Hotel Opéra to CDG (Charles De Gaulle, the main Paris airport: 30 minutes
– Handle VAT Tax Refund: 45 minutes
– Check-in for flight and deal with extra bag: 15 minutes
– Security: 45 minutes
– Coffee and food: 30 minutes
– Boarding process: 30 minutes

All-in-all, we cut it a little close and didn’t have much time to fool around. We weren’t stressed, but security took the wind out of our sails a little, due to crying kids, stupid people in front of us with tubes and liquids all through their carry on luggage. We prefer to fly Air France in Premium Economy, so you have early boarding and premium security check-in privileges. This trip was Economy with better seats and legroom, but nothing else was included. It’s OK, the flights were free using points, so it’s OK, but we have definitely outgrown regular economy. Not being a snob, but it’s just a little tougher on long-haul flights, like this one – 14 hours, due to the stop over in Minneapolis. There’s a plus and minus to using non-direct flights. On the plus side, it’s nice to break-up the flight, stretch and maybe hang out in the lounge for a little free R&R (Delta’s lounge will let you in free with an Amex Platinum card.) The down side is that coming back to the US, you have to get your bags and go through customs, because it’s your first stop back to the US. It’s a bit of a hassle and means there’s little or no time to go to the lounge, but it is a break from sitting. It you have a Global Entry card, you’ll whisk though the process and eliminate standing in the long customs line. Amex Platinum pays for the cost of getting the card, which is great. Airports that accept it are expanding, and when you fly out, you can also use it in the “fast lane” at TSA, which is another big plus. A little downside on this trip to having an indirect flight? On International flights, drinks and food is free. After you board the domestic leg of the flight, nothing is free, except sodas, coffee, pretzels, peanuts, etc. (the same things on most flights).

I had purchased salads from the Paul shop in the Paris airport, which I’d planned to eat instead of the food served on the plane, but the light lunch was actually good, so we saved the salads for later, which didn’t come until the next flight. After 9 hours in the air, I didn’t think they’d be any good, but fortunately it wasn’t warm on the plane and the salads were mostly sturdy greens – endive, radicchio, pears and foie gras, so they were still good.

We arrived, gathered out luggage, ordered an Uber, made our way home, took baths, got into bed, watched a movie and fell asleep.

The end of another amazing trip! Now … to get over jet lag!

(Tip from a flight attendant: Fast for 14 hours after getting back to the US. AND, use Melatonin for 5 days after (to go to sleep.) Since our last meal was on the plane (the salads) at 2pm, we could eat as early as 4am. We woke up about 3am, watched some videos and TV shows and went for a coffee at Peet’s and an early breakfast at the W Hotel at 7.30.

Now we’re getting back on track, sorting mail, unpacking and taking it easy.

Life is grand, and I’m so grateful we are able to make these trips!

Randy

 

Day 29 – Paris 1/12/15

This is always the day we hate … prepping to leave. We don’t buy souvenirs, we don’t buy gifts for everyone, in fact, we don’t buy much at all, but it tends to accumulate. We have a collapsible bag for extras, but Seb had a major “haul” of fragrances this trip, which made it a bit more challenging. We had to purchase a bag, but it wasn’t much, and I’m sure it will come in handy next time too. All-in-all, the things we like to take home are things we can’t get otherwise – Fluer de Sel, good Herbs de Provence, and a few shower gels … things like that.

One funny note … I’ve made at least 12 trips to France and have never had onion soup. We both started feeling a bit run down, so we both had the soup and it was the best I’ve had. It was fragrant, not salty, and just the right about of everything, including the cheese. Frankly, we could have stopped there, but had already ordered chicken roti with a small piece of steak and ever so light and fluffy mashed potatoes with a perfect brown mushroom and thyme gravy. The whole meal was so tasty and hit the spot perfectly. The Burgundy we had with it was also stunning. What a great last meal in Paris – typical bistro food, but such a great choice.

Day 28 – Paris 1/11/15

Sunday was the perfect day for the rally. We had reservations to visit the Picasso Mussé at 9.30am, which was a little rush, but the sun was out (kind of) and we also had plans for lunch at one of our favorite places for a big midday lunch – Chez Janou. I always have the duck, which is one of the best I’ve had anywhere. Contrary to some beliefs that it’s greasy and gamey, have it here and you’ll change your mind instantly.

After lunch, we went out and people were heading to the rally, so we joined in. It was such a moving experience and I was very emotional. The mood was sad, but still upbeat. This is the first rally for a very long time that was for something, not against something. I’m reminded of Mother Theresa’s comment about protesting. She felt it was better to support something, rather then fight or be against it. I think that’s why I was emotional. I felt I was helping to stand up for freedom, even though it wasn’t my own country. There were people from all over the world. The people sitting next to us at lunch came from Normandy. Wow. A long trip for a few hours of support, but that’s how important this was to so many people. I was so glad we attended this global event and was able to support the people of Paris, France, Europe and the whole world.

Day 27 – Paris 1/10/15

As you can tell, I’m taking fewer and fewer photos. Paris is so busy and it always takes more energy to get places, so having time to take photos gets diminished a little more.

Today we had a meeting at the hotel, so prior to that, we decided to rush out to see our good friend, Marié Nadine Ramond at Annick Goutal on the Left Bank near St. Germain. She runs the shop there and is such a special person to know. She is very smart, speaks great English, has a wonderful sense of humor and it’s always difficult to leave her. We could talk for hours and hours. Actually, we have. Our interests overlap a lot – food, movies, art, fashion, fragrance and music. We all love talking, and if you are every in Paris, I highly recommend you go to her shop and say HI.

Day 26 – Paris 1/9/15

More milling around and meeting with Thierry and Sorya, our French partners and reps. It’s always fun meeting with them to get the real scoop about all sorts of things – restaurants, the latest buzz, the music scene and this trip of course the tragedy. I’ve mentioned how we’ve talked to a lot of people here about the whole thing and still, the general consensus is that the French will not give in and allow the terrorists feel they won. There is a very subtle difference about the upcoming rally that sets it apart from demonstrations in the past. This is the first one that’s for something, rather than against it.

Later, we made out way to Christian Constant’s resto, Les Cocottes. It’s another one of our favorites here. The food is amazing, fun and not over the top expensive. No reservations needed either. The people speak a variety of languages and are very laid back and fun. Some of the means are served in Staub iron “pots” or cocottes. I had a piece of fish in a small pool of balsamic vinegar. Seb had the cod in a light cream sauce. They were both amazing.

Day 25 – Paris 1/8/15

I followed Seb to several more fragrance shops and lingered here and there. We went to lunch at a favorite place for steak tartare – L’ Entract (the intermission). It’s across the street from the Opéra. The other food is good there too. For bistro food, it’s a bit expensive by a few dollars, but it’s reliable and close and always tasty.

Outside Printemps, one of the main department stores, we saw military with machine guns, but we kept our pace to have fun, as recommended by the people we’ve talked to. The fragrance area in the Galeries Lafayette is always so beautiful. The glass dome can also be viewed from on top of the building, which most people don’t realize. It’s not nearly as beautiful from up there, but the view of Paris is really nice and worth the trip.

Serge Lutens is a great little perfumerie to visit. It’s in the Palais Royal, a beautiful spot with shops, a big fountain and rows and rows of trees. Take it all in and enjoy the beautiful shop of Serge Lutens. Maybe it’s time to pick up a new scent?

Going back to the hotel is always nice and this time, I snapped a few pics. The building used to house a birdcage elevator, which Paris is known for, but this one is no longer there, unfortunately. The circular stairs are there and the caging for the elevator is too, but that’s it. There’s more to shoot, but I was tired and ready to relax. More on that later.

People are holding signs and saying Ju Suis Charlie. Charlie Hebdo is the name of the paper that printed the cartoon that started the trouble. The people have decided that the pen is mightier than a gun and they refuse to be quiet over this. Saying, “Ju Suis Charlie” is like saying “we are ALL Charlie, and you can’t stop us all”. This is a very clever thing that’s gone viral here. Pass it on. We are all Charlie and no terrorists can stop us.