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Published: July 26th 2016
Today was the day of reckoning!
If we were to be able to continue our planned and booked travel to Ireland then I really need to be able to pick up the replacement passport somewhere we hoped that was in transit by courier from London.
It was another beautiful day and the morning temperature was already in the mid 20’s as we sat on our little terrace to have breakfast.
We hope it wasn’t an omen but as I was about to take a mouthful of muesli and fruit with yogurt a tiny baby bird fell out of the terrace rafters above me narrowly missing my breakfast bowl! It seems the baby bird was either dead in the nest or near to it and the parents decided to heave it out!
After this most upsetting incident we retired indoors to finish breakfast while we figured out how we were going to remove the body and then what to do with it.
The awaited email from DHL wasn’t on the laptop when we opened it for the day and we started to think about Plan B if we had to stay in France until it arrived. Today
was Wednesday and was the best day for it to arrive. Tomorrow Thursday could still give us an outside chance depending upon when the package arrived at the embassy in Paris as we also had to take the car back albeit to CDG Airport from our flight to Ireland departed.
Even if it was tomorrow we needed to have a contingency plan for accommodation overnight near the airport and also see what the chances were of getting our air booking moved to say Friday.
As we put all this together the cell phone rang and it was a very apologetic person from Loaded for Travel. They had claimed that they not been able to connect with the phone number we had given although we suspect it was more to do with the reason that the people at the call centre were blocked from making calls to International mobile numbers because in the end she said she was phoning from a private cell phone.
They had still not answered a number of questions we had posed them or said they had contacted their technology people to find out why the original block code on the primary card could
not be reversed a the correct one then placed so the secondary card would continue to work. Although in saying this we had proved that the secondary card was working and we had got the currencies topped up.
All very confusing and frustrating without answers.
They really weren’t listening to us telling them the secondary card was working, perhaps because they really believed it shouldn’t be, and they offered some service that VISA would send money to a Western Union office in USD and then we could pick it up with an authorisation code they would give us in either Euros or GBP.They would convert the monies in our Loaded for Travel accounts to USD to do the transactions.
In very uncertain terms we told them they were NOT to take the monies out of the accounts to convert to USD and the VISA cash idea was no good to us. They had offered to compensate us for any loss in foreign exchange but that was irrelevant to the small lifeline of the secondary card that was working for us.
As all this was happening the news we had been waiting for came through from the
NZ Embassy in Paris. The package had arrived! Whatever happened to the DHL track and trace we will never know but it now didn’t matter.
Five minutes later at 11.15am we were in the car with the shortest route to The NZ Embassy, Paris on Rue de Grenelle locked into the GPS.It didn’t really matter if we arrived before they closed for lunch at 1pm as we could have some lunch to fill in time and then on the return journey stop in at Monet Garden in Giverny which had been the original reason for staying at Connelles in the first place.
The closet car park to the embassy was at Invalides an area we were familiar with and the GPS had us there just before 1pm although that wasn’t taking into account city traffic.
The D20 took us up to a plateau and although there some fantastic views of the valley the Seine wandered through they would have to wait until later to stop and admire.
Up on the plateau there was a succession of small villages which were devoid of any life and then flat fields of golden wheat swaying gently in the light
breeze, ready to be harvested at any time soon. In the distance the colour of the fields of wheat about to be harvested gave the rolling hillsides the appearance of being in the Hawkes Bay or Marlborough in a dry summer.
The shortest route gave a chuckle as we drove taking us off the highway before taking us through an intersection and back up onto the highway again. We did this twice before we didn’t fall for it again.
Obviously by doing so we had saved a few metres on the ‘shortest route’ rather than following the highway around a bend making the journey a few metres longer!
We didn’t really know where this route was going to take us when we reached the outer suburbs of Paris and then how we would get through to the embassy. One thing was for sure was that Gretchen didn’t want to drive anywhere near the Arc de Triomphe!
With light rain falling and the temperature dropping quickly to 23C we entered what we understood to be the city suburbs on the A15 which would mean we would come through the area known as St Denis and then turn
south towards the Seine.
Our progress slowed considerably and the 1pm arrival time stretched out, not helped by cars double parked while their drivers were inside a kebab shop or whatever getting lunch. It seems anything goes in Paris.
The rain had stopped and the temperature went up again very quickly hitting 29C when the GPS said 8km to our destination.
Checking the GPS by taking out the reading to 2km and then 5km it appeared we were on a route that would take us through the A d T although Gretchen, who was now growing in confidence in driving in Paris, thought that there was a chance we could still avoid it by taking a road to the right before you get to the second most recognised monument in Paris. We have been here before but we have either arrived by train or on the other occasion returned a car to Orly airport well south of the city that we hadn’t driven through the city before.
Then before we knew it we entered a roundabout with unmarked lanes and ahead was the A d T and it was too late to avoid it.
camera at the ready and rolling and an instruction in my head that we exit at the 6th
exit to carry on our journey we plunged into what has to be the most chaotic roundabout of traffic in the world!
There is just one rule for this roundabout that encircles the very large monument and that is you give way to traffic entering the roundabout which is opposite to usual roundabout rules of giving way to traffic already in there.
We imagined that this could result in a start stop affair once you are in but reality was that the traffic flowed quite sweetly.
Next we had to count down the exits we passed. Most roundabouts for us on the BBA V3 we had exited on the 1st
exits but here we had a few more to count down.
As we entered I had looked ahead and quickly counted what I thought were 6 exits and I was spot on so I was able to tell Gretchen that we were going to go out of the A d T where such and such a car was now.
Next she had to get across
from our middle position in the unmarked roundabout to the right to be ready to make the exit or we would have to go with the flow and make it out on the next full circuit of 12 exits.
The only threat was a large truck that appeared on our right hand side at one point and then disappeared. As it wasn’t there when the time came to move as far right as possible we went for the gap and out we popped onto the Champ d’Elysee still in one piece and underwear still clean!
We bobbled down the Champ d’Elysee and turned right towards Concorde. We had actually put the open car park at Concorde in as a preference for parking as Gretchen is not keen on the tightness of driving in underground parks.
However we missed the left hand turn required and so the Invalides underground car park became the number one option.
Blocking the way to go underground were two vans that as we edged around them we discovered had no drivers and weren’t going anywhere. This confused us a bit as did the sign saying there were no car parks available and
we couldn’t turn around ending up instead in line for a car wash!
A woman from the car wash appeared and indicated it was OK to do a ten point turn to get back out rather than try and reverse through the gap that was hardly wide enough when we entered without taking the wing mirrors off.
The automated sign was clearly not up to date as we found a car park within a few metres of starting our search and we were soon above ground searching out the location of the embassy just a few metres away and then having lunch in a tiny coffee shop almost right next door to the rather nondescript building that the embassy was located in.
It was soon 2pm and we went next door and stood trying to attract the attention of the receptionist at a desk 30 metres away behind a glass door with a controlled lock. Twice she responded to the buzzer we pressed but both times we couldn’t make ourselves understood by simply saying NZ Embassy. Was it the English or was it the accent?
In the end we got in when a worker in the
building arrived with their swipe card and we bowled on in after her.
We got a swipe card from the receptionist, who it turned spoke fairly good English, and we entered the lift to the third floor and the NZ Embassy in Paris, France where my replacement passport was just metres away from being in my hands.
An embassy staff member who the name straight away and moments later was back with the passport.
I checked it for the dates etc being correct, signed it and we were on our way back out to the car park.
We had a little glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance but our focus was on getting back on the road towards Giverny to spend a couple of hours at Monet’s Garden before getting back home for relaxation and dinner.
Mission accomplished and I was no longer ‘stateless’!
The A13 was a more direct route out of the city and we were soon speeding on the highway past suburbs that this morning route took us through. Had we been able to set this route on the GPS this morning Gretchen would have missed her triumph of
driving in the A d T.
We arrived at Monet’s Garden in Giverny at around 3.30pm which was an ideal time as the crowds of the day and especially the bus tour groups had been and gone and there were only a small number of people walking amongst the most loveliest of ‘private ‘gardens that we have ever seen. The water lily pond which features in Monet’s most well known painting was just beautiful. The range of flowers and colours were amazing and we noted many plants that we wished we could grow in our garden at home.
After a quick walk through his home which has a first floor area that looks out over the garden and we were back in the car heading the last 20kms or so towards home. Although first we needed to find a car wash to make Peggy presentable to hand back at CDG airport tomorrow and we did this in Vernon visiting also a supermarket for liquor supplies to celebrate the fact the BBA V3 was back on track again!
Tomorrow what we have considered to be phase 2 of 4 comes to an end for the BBA V3 and
we need to be well rested for the drive back to Paris again, flight to Cork, Ireland and then a drive of about 2 hours to Castle Island and our stone farm cottage for the next week.
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