Just to keep up our perfect record it rained today for about 1 minute. Things seem to be improving slightly weather wise as we are down to 1 minute of rain from 24 hours when we were in Cornwall. It was overcast most of the day but generally quite pleasant weather.
We left Fontainebleau this morning and decided to go to Versailles on the way into Paris. It seemed like a good plan at the time but by the time we got to Versailles the millions of tourists to France had already beaten us there. The good thing was that the GPS directed us right to the front gates of the palace and I wondered why no one else was parking there. In fact, why did nobody drive up to the gates like we did? When we figured out that wasn’t the access to the parking area and sat in the queue for the parking for about 10 minutes we decided to ditch the plan and head into Paris.
My prayer was that the GPS would do nothing funny in directing us to the hotel. It had earlier in the day directed me off the motorway and through a picnic area (not kidding). Our faith is limited in the GPS. Driving in the French countryside on good quality motorways (their road system in the country is excellent) and an altogether different experience driving in Paris. Especially when you come off the motorway and straight past the famous Arc De Trimophe and around the famous traffic circle at the start of the Champs-Élysées. No lanes, cars and (more importantly) buses driving in every direction and the GPS tells you to the take the 5th exit (there are about 20 exits). I know the suspense is killing you but if you remember point 1 from 2 days ago, I am an excellent driver, unflappable under pressure. When in Paris, do as the Parisans. Change lanes frequently, ignore the guy behind you hooting and try not to turn left into the oncoming traffic (only did that once and the kids were already out of the car Sharon).
The GPS did lead us directly to the hotel but of course no parking in front of the hotel at all. Round the block and we luckily found a spot we could dump the luggage and kids out (they are trained at it now having done is a few times) and off Helen and I set to find the Hertz Car Rental return which was apparently very close by (in the same road as the hotel). After having driven past the place twice that the GPS directed us to we realised that it wasn’t there. We pretty much drove around for 20 minutes until I suggested phoning them. Helen did that and got a French pre-recorded message. Helpful! Then I had the brighter idea of calling Stephen and getting him to ask at the hotel. And they told us where to go. Of course it was the place Helen told me to go about 15 minutes earlier but who knew she would get so lucky. Seriously, the Hertz drop off was inside the Parkade – no signposts though until you enter the Parkade. COULD THEY NOT PUT UP ONE SIGN AT LEAST ON THE OUTSIDE?? And it was the weirdest drop-off ever. No office. Just drop the keys and contract in a box and off you go.
The hotel was close by and only about a minute walk. We are staying at the Saint James & Albany Hotel (www.saintjamesalbany.com). If you never click any other link, click this one. It really does look as good as the internet pictures. It is right across the road from the Tuileries’ Garden. You could not get a better location. Across the road and you’re at the Louvre, across the bridge and you’re at Musee d’Orsay. They allocated us rooms next to each other 218, 219 & 223. French have a strange idea of ‘next too’ – 220, 221 and 222 are between 219. As it turned out Helen and I opted for 223 and then I realised the aircon was not working and they installed a portable aircon which just blew the air around (we call them fans in SA). My staff say I am fussy and quick to complain. They may be right but given what I am paying per night I expect the aircon to be working. So I headed straight down and complained. And guess what – they upgraded Helen and I to a Junior Suite on the 6th floor. It is worth complaining.
After settling in we headed off to find lunch and after that was secured 5 people went off shopping and I headed to the Apple store (to get an adaptor so I could connect to the internet in the room – the expensive hotel doesn’t have Wifi!). I love Apple more and more each day. Brilliant experience. Got the advice immediately and they guy who helped me also then turned to be the check out point and he didn’t bother to print my receipt – he just emailed it to. I am going back tomorrow to see what else I can buy from them (Bose headphones were half the price of what I can get them for in London even). The other bunch went clothes shopping. And I got constant updates about how cheap everything was (sales all over at the moment). And yes, Michael did buy himself a pair of green pants.
At dinner time we walked/wandered down the Seine on the left bank in the St Germaine area. Then we walked up to Notre Dame and found a bistro near Notre Dame and enjoyed dinner. Over dinner I asked Lara what she thought of Paris and she said ‘Beautiful but really busy’. And that it is. There are people everywhere. Even now at 12:05am I can hear people outside making a huge noise. I can only imagine what it will be like on Saturday – it is Bastille Day for those of you who didn’t know. But despite the millions of people, Paris is charming, lovely, clean and romantic. We’re here for the next 5 nights so you’re going to hear a lot more about Paris.
(More photos coming when I can figure out how to post vertical photos without them becoming horizontal!)