Arc de Triomf

Nadia’s family are really very special people whom we have visited twice since. We would love to have them visit us here in South Africa.

Although they are not wealthy, they insisted on donating a tankful of diesel for our car. Yes, diesel cars were really popular in Europe but not with Trevor! I understand that this is beginning to change now in line with CO2  fumes and climate change.

From Kappel we travelled West to Basel and then into France where there were no tolls until we got close to the city. Then we did our getting lost action again. We had the directions to the place where we had made a booking and they started with us being directed on to the Ring Road around Paris, the A86, aka the “Paris super-périphérique“. I am the navigator and usually do pretty well even if I occasionally mix up left and right turns. We were not prepared for the traffic and number of lanes on the A86 and before we knew it the off ramp that we were supposed to take had been passed. The circular route is 20 kms so around we went but moved over to the right hand lane as soon as possible. Not sure that the other regular motorists appreciated our ambling along in a great big Peugeot 607 but we were determined not to miss the off ramp this time.

We got off at the right place but now we had to find our first left and we were in the right hand lane of 3 lanes filled with traffic. With a bit of careful manoeuvring we got through and found the address of the B&B but there was still a problem – it was on the 22nd floor of a block of flats and we had to wait 5 minutes while our hostess came down and unlock 3 doors to get to us. Talk about security in South Africa! First she told Trevor to take the car into the garage and park in bay no. x which turned out to be just big enough for a mini!  Somehow he managed to park it at an angle for the night. This shows why it is so important to be clear with regard to the make & size of car you wish to rent. The B&B turned out to be a 2 bedroom flat where we were given the Master Bedroom as it was en suite. Every time we wanted to go out or get a cup of coffee (we had been told to help ourselves) our hostess and her husband were around. Again, what one sees on the internet is not necessarily what one can expect. There was one very welcome action though – our hostess insisted on doing our washing and ironing. That we had never experienced before.

Arc de TriomfThe Arc de Triomf on the Champ Elysses

The next morning we drove out to Charles de Gaulle airport to return the car and I saw Trevor visibly relax. Suddenly I realised how stressful the past couple of weeks had been for him. From there we took the train into central Paris and spent the day as tourists should – the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomf. This was the most fascinating place to stand and watch vehicles go round and round and somehow successfully take the exit they wanted. There was one small accident in the middle lane and, with the police permanently present, it was cleared in less than 5 minutes! Unfortunately it got too late for us to visit Roland Garros Tennis Stadium so we were really pleased to find a River Seine Cruise Boat which gave us an hour on the River sailing under 24 bridges and passing many of the famous buildings of Paris. We found a restaurant with a combined French/Chinese name, Chez Tang, but served only Chinese food. The more we have travelled the more we have discovered that if you want local cuisine you either have to pay a hefty price, go to the smaller towns and villages or go to another country!

Eiffel Tower from downtownThe Eiffel Tower from downtown Paris

Trevor in front of Notre DameTrevor in front of Notre Dam Cathedral

Having been given the impression that the buses and trains ran all night we walked to the bus stop only to learn that buses stopped running at 8:30 and it was now 10pm. We were lucky to catch the last Metro and arrived on an empty platform and with no idea as to whether to turn left or right. We worked it out finally and arrived home safely. After a really good breakfast our hostess insisted on taking us to Gare du Nord train station in her tiny little Fiat. Remember, this was our first trip and we had not learnt the act of ‘travellinlite’. It was a tight squeeze but we got there.