PP and Champagne in the Airport Lounge
CS and PP made it comfortably to the airport Friday morning, braving heavy winds that had descended on Brisbane overnight. Check-in was predictably and straightforwardly slow and then we were tucked into a pleasant corner of the Qantas lounge for and hour or two.
First leg to Singapore could have been better. The large noxious man in front of PP after having helped himself to the remaining exit row seat, reclined his seat, which appeared to be broken anyway, right into PP's face, where he left it pretty much the whole journey despite promptings from PP and every passing steward. This procedure tended to contradict one of CS's immutable laws (more about those later) in that she is usually the one who gets to sit behind the only jerk who takes advantage of maximum incline. Consequently PP was a tad stiff and sore on arrival and was wearing parts of his in-flight dinner on his shirt.
But the next leg made up for it in spades. Having purchased the exit row seats (two of three on the 747) we were alone in the row for the leg. Clearly the window seat is not an attractive proposition because of
What a temple
the bulbous window frame that sticks out in front of it, but it was useful when CS moved there for a kip because it allowed her to stretch her legs in a horizontal position. The highlight was when, after chatting to the steward who sat opposite us during take off, it seems he took a shine to us and we were treated as first class passengers for the journey. We were gently plied with first class's wine (delicious) and head-sets as well as cheeses and other snacks. Thank you whoever you are! It certainly made for a pleasant flight. We read, ate and drank, watched movies and landed in London in rather better shape than we had anticipated.
Heathrow, as always, was an experience. Having walked what seemed like several miles we then had to catch a bus to the relevant terminal and then catch a train to the gate. No time to enjoy the Qantas lounge facilities.
Charles de Gaul remains the rattiest airport in Europe but customs was a cursory affair. Who would dare test the rules with so many young men (and women) (they cannot have been more than 12 - isn't there some NATO
View from the top
rule against child soldiers or is it simply a matter of looking through the lens of the age telescope the wrong way) in battle fatigues and carrying heavy arms, most overtly wandering through the crowds?
Our ever sensible cousins had of course worked out which opening we would emerge from and JJ awaited us. Taxi to Hotel Duminy-Vendome an easy transit. CS was very pleased that her accommodation choice lived up to expectations. A charming little three star in a five star location!.
We discovered an interesting phenomenon when we looked out the windows of our respective rooms. There on the sheer wall of the building a large clock proclaimed the time as three minutes past five. When IJ and EB checked in later we found they too had a similar clock, yes, another clock, perched high on a blank wall, proclaiming the time as 7 minutes past five. For us therefore, for years to come it will always be just past five in Paris.
Then to exploring. JJ and CJ's first visit to the city of lights meant they intended to 'consume' as much as possible by foot in the smallest time. See picture highlights. Friday
A back street - quiet.
and Saturday saw us doing all the things one does in Paris, despite poor weather in the latter stages. We made the utmost of our opportunities, including getting to the Louvre early and avoiding the worst of the crowds.
Our other cousins IJ and EB arrived a bit shell-shocked from Denmark (having experienced a 12 hour wedding celebration and still gone home early) on Sunday night and we had our first dinner together, appropriately pictured herein.
Monday also involved Parisian things like a ride on the Metro, a walk down the Champs Elysee, finding a laundromat near the Place de Vosges, seeing “that” tower (the cousins' objective) and a wonderful dinner (in a French/Italian restaurant).
Tuesday promised fine weather rather than the wet days we had just been having but it did not quite meet expectations. No matter, we were off to Versailles in a big bus with a tour guide (all an elaborate mechanism to avoid having to queue when we arrived - it worked).
A stroll in the magnificent gardens complete with French classical music and fountain display was followed by our group venture into the palace. It is truly splendid but we suppose
that the other several thousand people who were there at the same time also thought so even if most of us could only see what extended beyond human shoulder level because of the crush of humanity. Our guide, Vincent, was charming and informative. We hoped he was on some pleasant substance because otherwise it would have been unnatural for him to sustain his high level of enthusiasm. As we 'sortiered' from the palace we noticed the queue to buy tickets - followed by the queue to enter - had both snaked around several loops in the forecourt that was once the sole domain of Louis XIV. One wonders what the Sun King would have made of it all. We were grateful we were coming out not lining up to go in.
Back to Paris along the Seine and another cheery lunch in one of the many cosy little brasseries five minutes from our hotel.
Tonight Moulin Rouge! Tomorrow the train to Vermenton and our barge. Oh what a wonderful life!
Avast ye lubbers, the jolly crew are away on the Spanish (or maybe French) Main again!! Watch out all ye landlubbers - we are on the
Fountains dancing to French Classical Music.
rampage (looting and pillaging!!?? Maybe not.........) again. Our scurrilous Captain seems to denigrate his sobriquet (CJ: Captain John) as being too tame for one of his villainous level - maybe “SS: Scurrilous Skipper” might suit him better?? Temptations ashore seem to beckon even before such a frightening cruise, it may require the services of those who ply unsuspecting crew members with firstly drink, then with the cosh to get this unruly lot aboard to sail into the adventure. A keelhauling plus time in the Brig will sort them out!!
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