During the last few days we were in France several people expressed concern for us because of "what is going on over there," but for the most part we weren't really aware of anything special going on. We did see a couple of peaceful demonstrations, one in Paris and one in Sarlat, but didn't see or hear about any violence while we were there. We had English TV while we were in Languedoc and the Dordogne, but didn't get much news. We didn't get any sound bites from either BBC or CNN -- most of the time they were either talking about rugby, the economy, or running an all-day story about something like the rescue of the miners in Chile. We just looked at talking heads on French TV without understanding anything being said. While we knew that the French were unhappy about the proposed change to their retirement age, we really didn't know any more until we read yesterday's "Seattle Times." We did, however, see some long lines at gas stations (and did wait in one of them), and we did experience a slow down on the autoroute when we drove from the Dordogne to Normandy. However, we didn't realize either was related to the demonstrations until we read about it in the "Times." The French call the slow downs "escargo," because the truckers deliberately slow traffic down to a "snail's pace." We were slowed down for about 30 minutes, then everything opened up with no further problems. At no time during our entire trip did we feel threatened or unsafe.
We both woke up a little after 4am Tuesday morning. The alarm was set for 5:30 & we'd ordered breakfast to be delivered to our room at 6:15. A little before 7, I called down for someone to come help us with our luggage, but ended up having to do it myself. We got everything down to the lobby and waited for the shuttle, which is free and runs between the various hotels (we were at the Best Western) and the terminals at Charles de Gaulle Airport. When the shuttle arrived, Mom tried to get on, but the step was too high for her. I looked at all of our bags (4 to be checked plus our carry-on's -- what happened to traveling light?), and said "let's call a taxi." The front desk called a taxi for us.
The taxi arrived -- a station wagon type to handle all of our luggage and Mom's walker -- and the driver was a young woman in her 20's. She wrestled with our bags and got everything in and delivered us to Terminal 2E with no problems. The cost was 25 euros and I added a nice tip since she had all the baggage and got us a trolly for our bags. It was worth it.
We checked in at a self-service kiosk, then dropped off our bags. Fortunately, our Premium Voyager tickets on Air France allowed us 2 bags each and they were within the weight restrictions. We had to check Mom's walker at the counter, though, and had to wait about 20 minutes for the wheelchair. The wheelchair driver got us quickly through security and to our gate where we were to board at 9:45. However, the flight was delayed due to schedule changes in the US - at least that is what they told us. We finally got boarded and took off about 45 minutes later than originally scheduled.
I will say that CDG is a lot easier to manage than Heathrow was when we flew through there 5 years ago. That is why I was happy when Air France started non-stop Seattle-Paris flights. Ten hours seems a lot longer when you're on a plane than when you're driving and sightseeing. Every time I went back to the restroom, I was so happy we had the extra room afforded in Premium Voyager as the coach section was packed and cramped.
Our arrival in Seattle went very smoothly. We were met with a wheelchair for Mom, which meant we were able to get through passport control and baggage inspection pretty quickly. Since we had some dried herbs and canned foie gras, we had to go through agricultural inspection, but got through with everything we brought home.
It was nearly 2pm when we got home, and after I got all of the luggage inside, I went to get our mail at the post office (3 shopping bags full and most of it ended up in the recycle bin), the grocery store, and to pick up Simon from the Adorable Pet Lodge. He was glad to see me and headed right up the walkway to the car with no urging.
Neither of us had slept much on the plane, but we stayed up until a little after 8 when Mom announced that we had been up for 24 hours. I slept for about 3 hours, then got up and read & watched TV for about 3 hours before going back to bed for another 3 hours. We were both pretty tired on Wednesday, but slept pretty good last night, so I think we'll be back to normal by tomorrow.
It's always good to get home, and now I'm trying to assimilate everything we saw and did during 5 1/2 weeks in my mind. I'll read my blog, look at pictures and maps, and try to put everything in perspective. I took more than 1,000 pictures, and Mom took a lot, too, so I'll need to weed them down to a manageable number. We covered a lot of territory and had a lot of experiences to reflect on.
This is my last post on this blog. If you've followed it, I hope you found it interesting. Please feel free to add your comments.