We made it! Steven and I are safe and sound at our cute little Airbnb south of Paris!
I'd like to tell you that it was all fun and games and that we had a great time traveling, but it wasn't and we didn't. Even though everything went according to plan, it was 20 hours from the time we left our hotel in Dallas to the time we arrived at the doorstep of our Airbnb. International air travel is brutal.
After a quick and easy fight from Dallas to Atlanta, we had time to relax, do a little duty free shopping where I bought myself a new purse. We felt great when we boarded our flight to Paris, but eight hours later we deplaned bloated and gassy, our eyes were blurry, my legs were numb, lips were chapped, and we were both parched and dehydrated. And also, sleep deprived. Neither one of us had slept a wink.
And yet, OMG, we're in France! Modern transportation is a marvel!
Once off our flight we joined the masses from all the other international flights that arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport at 6:00 a.m. and headed toward Passport Control. It is miles away, a long tram ride, up and down stairs, down corridors, up and down more stairs. We finally got there then split up. Steven is traveling with his Irish passport, so he got to queue up in the EU line. I went in the "All Passports" line, which was only slightly longer. Once I reached the window, having an American passport had it's advantages. A perfunctory "bonjour" and a "STAMP! STAMP!" in my passport and I sailed through in seconds, while others around me were being heavily scrutinized. I met up with Steven in the baggage claim area and it is at this point that we took control of all 175 lbs. of our luggage. It was a moment we had been dreading, but we managed.
We made our way to the car rental desk and, after a lengthy sales pitch for an upgrade and an even longer wait for our car to arrive from another terminal, we finally got our little Citroen 3. It is only slightly bigger than Toadie, but we got our luggage in easily. I have not driven a manual transmission in years, but I figured it's like riding a bike. And it was, except taking off in first gear always takes the longest to get used to. We lurched our way out of the airport and into a rising sun and rush hour traffic. Not being familiar with the knobs on the car, I kept insisting to Steven that he needed to find the defrost as I was having trouble seeing out the front windshield. Then two seconds later I was hollering at him to turn it off because I was burning up! Turns out it was not a foggy window, it was a filthy, grimy window that no amount of defrosting could help. The car also smelled like smoke, so I did complain to the car rental company and they are going to get back to me within seven business days. Sure.
We had studied the route to our destination, Saint-Julien-du-Sault, but of course we didn't memorize it thinking we would use GPS on Steven's phone. He had purchased a SIM card in Atlanta and it worked perfectly until we got out of Paris, then it crapped out. We were on a two lane highway choked with giant trucks and speeding cars periodically slowed by numerous roundabouts. The only good thing about this road was that I got a ton of gear-shifting practice. Still lurching on take-offs, but getting better. Steven had set his GPS to "No Tolls", in fact, we took the long way because we thought we could avoid tolls (and downtown Paris), but we soon found ourselves approaching a string of booths stretching across the entire roadway. I just pulled over and stopped while we figured out what to do. There was no one around, so I decided just to roll with it, I mean, what's the worst that could happen, right? Turns out all we had to do was grab a automatically dispensed ticket and we were soon whizzing down the A5. This was a nice, big and EMPTY highway. We had the place to ourselves and it was glorious! Paying at the end was as simple as inserting a credit card. Best eight bucks we ever spent. Euros, actually.
Without GPS we got lost in the tiny town of St. Julien and found ourselves heading down the narrowest of streets in the city center. We drove in circles for a long time before we kind of accidentally stumbled upon our little house. It was now 11:30am. The owner had been waiting since 9am and she was ready to go, and we were so exhausted we didn't care what she had to say as she showed us around. Luckily, she's very responsive to our messages.
We headed to the grocery store before getting some sleep because we knew when we woke we'd be starving and a trip to the store would be a disaster. We had a little trouble getting in the actual store because we couldn't find the door, but getting out was more difficult. I headed out to get a cart and when I tried to open a locked door, everyone shouted at me "la gauche! la gauche!" while pointing left. Um, okay. I came back in without a cart because it requires a one Euro deposit and I didn't have a coin. Steven is now in charge of getting shopping carts.
We were really quite pathetic in the isles, trying to figure out what to get. Everything is in French, if you can imagine that! We ended up with a chicken, some yogurt, mustard flavored chips (I didn't know that when I picked them out, and yes, they are gross) a baguette, cheese and four bottles of wine. Priorities. Then we came home, sliced some cheese, poured some wine and sat out on our lovely terrace in the sunshine. Steven promptly fell asleep and with that, our long journey came to an abrupt end. My God, sleep has never been so delicious!
NEXT UP: Saint Julien and our petite maison.