Carrie's Adventures

Friday, June 19, 2009

Paris in the Morning

I had great plans to be up early, out and being able to wander more. After our big walk the previous day, the body wanted to rest and rest it did. By the time we were ready to go, we only had a few hours before we needed to head to the airport.

We decided to head out for coffee and watch how the Friday mornings unfold.

After getting our fill of cappuccino, we wandered back towards the hotel and stopped at the local bakery to pick up a sandwich and some chocolate croissants. We continued on through the neighbourhood seeing all of the neighbourhood cafes getting ready for lunch. We also walked past the Brasserie where we had dinner the night before.

We ate lunch in the shadow of the tower ~ not a bad way to spend the early hours of the afternoon. What a great 24hr layover!


So when Akis and I decided to head to Greece to visit the family, a condition on us being able to do this was finding a cheap flight back to Vancouver. As it is, we wanted a One Way ticket as things can get a bit expensive if you are constantly changing your departure dates, so we were on the hunt. Similar to last year, we were finding that One Way tickets were more expensive than return... until we found Air Transat. I'm not sure if it was because it is the beginning of the season, because it is a charter, just because the stars aligned, but we found a flight back to Vancouver from Paris for 250 Euros. This was a smoking deal. We decided that this would be our return but we would need to get ourselves up to Paris. Looking at the connections, a cheap flight into Paris from Athens ~ courtesy of EasyJet ~ would bring us to Orly airport. This was 14km from the city and another 19km from the city to Charles de Gaulle. With only 3.5 hrs between flights and a drive across the city, we decided that we would stay in the city of 'love' for the night.

We arrived, grabbed our bags and it was then time to put my French into action. The challenge with learning another language is that some of the words are now getting muddled in my brain, and I found it a bit challenging not to mix the languages. So as I approached the man at the coach to ask him if the bus would take us to the area we wanted, the question sounded something like: 'Je veux aller edo' where 'edo' is the Greek word for here. Thankfully the pointing on the map let him know what I was trying to ask.

After making it to the main train station, we jumped into a cab in lieu of trying to navigate the subway with our bags. This turned out to be a good option. We checked into the boutique hotel which was less than 1km to the Eiffel tower and only about 3 blocks from the Champs de Mars which is the park adjacent to the tower.

Our hotel was just to the left, at the bottom of the park.

Once we checked in, dropped our bags, we were off to see the city. We wandered in the general direction of the tower, until we caught a glimpse.

We then spent a great amount of time trying to get just the right photo with the 2 of us and the tower. I tell you, good thing cameras are digital ~ not only do you get to see the photo to know if you head has been cut off, but you also have an unlimited number of do-overs.

We decided not to go up the tower at that point as the line was quite long and Akis wasn't thrilled with the prospect of climbing the stairs. Each corner of the tower had access to the 2 decks ~ only one of the corners was an elevator. Guess which one had the longest line! We opted instead to wander over to the river ~ le Seine ~ where we managed to find a kiosk that sold crepes. At that point, what can you do? When in Paris...

We then decided to take an hour long tour down the river and learn about the landmarks. The boat was equipped with handsets and commentary in 8 different languages. Unfortunately for us, the option to change the language from one of the other 7 was not available and my seat was in French. Akis' seat was German, and I wasn't fast enough with the translation to be able to tell him what was going on. In the end, we gave up and just watched ~ love the fact that you can sit with your open wine anywhere in the city and consume it. How incredibly civilized!

We then took our feet and walked out way to the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triumph. I can't honestly say that I remembered what it looked like from all those years ago ~ so I was happy to be back and it was like I hadn't been there before.

We wandered down the Champs Elysee, stopped for a coffee and snack and watched the world walk by.

We started to wander back across the river to Hotel des Invalides, we came across a number of bikes that were assembled together. Seems that in Paris, these are bikes for the masses. You register with the town hall, receive a card and when you need to 'borrow' a bike, you swipe your card, ride the bike to where you need to go and then park it at the nearest bike stand. You are not obligated to return the bike to the original location. It is apparently a very affordable form of transportation as the city attempts to promote alternative means of travel due to the excessive number of cars on the incredibly narrow streets.

Hotel des Invalides is located back off the water with a large amount of green space. It was fantastic to see so many people out in the evening hours playing soccer, gathering with friends for drinks and dinner not only here but in the Champs de Mars.

We found our way back to the tower as the sun was going down. We managed to get some 'evening shots' before heading to a near by Brasserie for something to eat.

We sat outdoors in true European style watching as everyone walked past. After being on our feet for the past 7 hours, it was good to sit and get a bite to eat. I know in Europe that drinks can at times be pricey, but it never ceases to amaze me that the 1L of water is 6Euros, and the .5L of wine was only 5. Good thing we only needed to eat out once. Maybe this is why everyone sits on the lawn with their bottle of wine and picnic basket.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel. We would have the morning to explore a bit more, but even if we didn't see anything else, we managed to see a fair bit of Paris in a short period of time. Next time: Moulin Rouge!

Hanging in Athens

Our trip to Greece was primarily to catch up with family and friends ~ and to have some souvlaki of course. Knowing that Akis would be starting school, it will be more challenging for us to go back to visit as he will be limited to the 10 days he has between terms.

We managed to catch up with a number of folks for coffee in the evenings. We were lucky that the hot weather had yet to strike Athens, and was amazed that I found 32 to be not too hot ~ it must not have been that humid.

We saw the whole family including Akis brother, his grandparents, Aunt Tula/Uncle Ioannis, cousin Jenny and of course his parents.

Our souvlaki experience was at Ilias ~ love the souvlaki there. And of course had to go to Sports to have coffee one morning, and again scratch my head again over the parking. Some things don't change.

We hung out at home in Petroupoli a lot. This time was spent having a lot of coffee with the parents, sorting through all the stuff that had been moved from the apartment and rescuing Akis' Oakley sunglasses from the scarecrow. When asked about the glasses, Akis' dad said that they were some cheap knock-offs. That didn't go over so well...

We did go out for coffee in the Syntagma square where the Greek coffee was served to us in small traditional brikis. This was all good until I managed to spill most of it on my pants ~ good thing that mom is good at cleaning white pants!

We did manage to take a bit of a road trip, heading to Patra to see Akis' brother. The drive was about 3 hours, and while some of this was on a divided highway, I was STUNNED to see that it is perfectly acceptable to drive 4 cars wide on a 2 lane highway. As we passed some of the cars, I thought I could reach out and touch the car beside us ~ and if not the car, then definitely the guard rail!

Once we arrived, we met Kyriakos and had a tour of the ferry. He is doing the run from Patra to Venice ~ a 30 hr trip one way. Every Monday the ship docks for about 18 hours, so we were lucky to be able to see him again. He was on duty so we had to stay near the port, but we did manage to get out for lunch.

As we got ready to return to Canada, the question came ~ what are we going to bring home with us. We had taken an empty suitcase with the knowledge that we would have some summer clothes to bring back to Vancouver. The parents wanted us to bring back 5L of Olive oil and when asked if we wanted Ouzo, we asked for 4 small bottles. What we got instead was 12. Needless to say not all of them accompanied us back home. We did after all have a limit of 20kgs a piece!