[For those of you just coming on board with this, I'm finally blogging the pictures I took on vacation in November of last year. Read on...]
Day 9, 11/11/2006, was the day we went home. How sad! We had just a couple of hours left in Paris before we had to catch the train back to London, then our plane back home. It was raining as we set out to find a cafe for breakfast. Paris in the rain is absolute poetry.
There were a lot of cafes to choose from so we just walked into the one that seemed the most inviting. Our breakfast was the classic petit dejeuner: for me, brioche au chocolat and chocolat to drink, for Pat, a croissant and cafe double. I don't know if it was the rain, the atmosphere or the food itself, or maybe just a combination of the three, but I believe it was the most delicious breakfast I've ever eaten. Pat said so too. It was so simple and lovely. The day before we had eaten a similar breakfast at the hotel, again very delicious (pain, beurre, confiture and chocolat -- bread, butter, jam and hot chocolate made with steaming hot milk), but the breakfast we had at the cafe on the morning we left was superlative. It defied all description so I'll stop raving about it now.
We had about another hour before we had to leave, so we decided to go shopping. I didn't want to buy any clothes because our luggage was so jam packed that I couldn't fit one more item of clothing in there. But I wanted a memento of Paris. Eventually we came upon a chocolatier, and oh man the chocolates in there were like nothing I've ever tasted. We just about died when we tasted one, it was insane. So we bought some! A secret stash just for us, not to be shared with anyone! And in that same shop I found the coolest teapot ever. It was really kind of a splurge for me but I just could not walk out of that shop without that teapot, it was unthinkable. The very nice lady packed it so well for me that it made it home perfectly with not a scratch. She was also very appreciative that I tried to transact everything in French. Honestly, going into this trip I really had my doubts that I would be okay speaking French in France, after all it had been years since I'd had to converse in the language, but it's amazing what total immersion can do for your memory! Even after only two days in Paris I was able to get along fairly well. I'm confident that if I'd had a month there I would have been practically fluent. Maybe next time!
Alas, the time finally came for us to leave Paris. This time there were no crazy ideas of walking to the train station -- we called a taxi and he dropped us off right at the curb. After going through security we had a short wait before boarding our train. By then we were such old hands at this that we were very blase about it, no more wide-eyed wonderment I'm afraid! I think Gene fell asleep the minute he sat in his seat. This time the TGV did indeed go very, very fast and in about two hours we were in London again, at Waterloo Station. One more train to catch: the Heathrow Express to the airport. "Express" is really kind of a misnomer because it was a rather long journey. The train stopped at every single station along the way. It felt more like we were on a city bus stopping every block to pick people up.
Once we made it to Heathrow it was late afternoon and the sun was down. We still had about a three or four hour wait before we could board our plane to Toronto. Heathrow is very strange in that they don't tell you what gate to go to until you're practically ready to board, so you just sit and wait in this large common area. Consequently there were people everywhere, some were camped out and sleeping on the floor so you had to step over them, and it was just crazy and loud. It's not like any other airport I've been to. Also, I had a little moment where I accidentally spoke to a sandwich vendor there in French; we both thought it was pretty funny when I burst out with "oops" in my American accent.
The flight to Toronto took about nine hours. Unfortunately there was a Yemeni family seated behind me, and their son, who was about eight years old, apparently couldn't sleep unless he had his bare foot jammed into the gap between the seats in front of him. This meant that his foot was practically in my left armpit. I did everything I could to avoid making contact with it but it was impossible! Changing seats wasn't an option because the plane was full. I summoned the flight attendant twice and she admonished him and he removed his foot, only to put it right back after a couple of minutes. This was truly dismal. After a couple of hours of this misery I finally realized that I could put the armrest up, yaaaaay! He didn't like that one bit but thankfully I got rid of that disgusting foot.
I was really looking forward to our layover in Toronto because I was finally going to meet an e-mail pal, fellow photographer Christine Kufske! She and I had been corresponding for a couple of years but had never met. (She lives in the Toronto area and is a wonderful photographer.) By coincidence we both have the same business name, Click Photography, and that's how we became friends. I can't remember who e-mailed whom first but it's been so much fun being her e-pal. Our flight arrived in Toronto at midnight and there she was to welcome me and give me a big hug! She and her husband Rich hustled me off to an all night diner and we sat and had some coffee and chit chat. Bear in mind that by then I had been traveling for probably about 18 hours, some of that with a stranger's foot in my armpit, and I was beyond exhausted. And poor Chris was really sick with some kind of bug! We made a pretty pair, I'm telling you. Rich took a picture of us and it's hilarious.
When Chris and Rich dropped me back at the airport it was after 3:00am. Our layover was eight hours so there was a lot of time to kill before the flight. I had planned to find Pat, Gene and Chuck and we'd all hang out together and try to get some shut eye. Unfortunately the terminal was closed and I couldn't get past the open area to where they were. So I was all alone, wandering around an unfamiliar international airport, desperately tired. I found a bench and tried to sleep for the next couple of hours. At 4:30am the customs people arrived and the travelers started queueing up. Thank goodness for cell phones because it's a really big airport and I had different information than the guys did regarding what gate our flight was to take off from. Eventually we were reunited around 6:30am after many frantic calls. I was so happy to see their faces!
The last leg of our journey, Toronto to Denver... I don't remember much because I think I was completely passed out. Jenn picked us up at Denver International Airport and drove us back to her house in Englewood, where we jumped in the Volvo and headed back down I-25 and home. We stopped in Castle Rock because we had a sudden craving for McDonald's! Yes, after all that wonderful French cuisine we couldn't wait to stuff our faces with Big Macs and Egg McMuffins. Hilarious.
We did the math and according to our best calculations, the journey from Paris to London to Toronto to Denver to Colorado Springs took 31 hours. I was never so happy to see my bed. But I wouldn't change a thing, I had the time of my life and I can't wait for our next adventure.
Pat took this extremely cool picture of me walking in the rain in Paris.
The Cinema Beverly was right by our hotel and it was strictly adult entertainment.
In the taxi, leaving for the Gare du Nord. Au revoir, Paris!
Here's what it looks like inside the Gare du Nord.
Here's what it looks like inside Heathrow.
Here I am with Chris Kufske. I was so happy to finally meet her in person! I was exhausted and she was sick, so we look really pretty here don't we? Ha! According to the data on the file this picture was taken at 3:25am, so there's our excuse for looking a little rough around the edges.