Charles de Gaulle

Paris Travel Blog

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Tuesday May 25
Paris (Airport)
To go to France and not go to Paris seems weird. Yet that's just what we did this time. All we had was about an hour layover in Charles DeGaulle. Two days before, a roof had fallen at this same airport, injuring many people and killing several.  The woman sitting next to me on the plane had said in a very thick French accent, "Bon Voyage in France, and I hope Charles DeGaulle does not fall on you."

"Yes. Well, me too…Merci beaucoup."

We had to take a bus to a different terminal to avoid the damaged one. There was very little direction as to how we should do this �" a pattern that seemed to persist throughout our four weeks in France; things often seemed to unfold mysteriously. With about half an hour to wait, I dug out my old French phone card, saw that it would expire July 1st, and tried to reach my friend Malek. Finding a "cabine" that would take my old prepaid phone card was a challenge as most of the phones in the airport are equipped to take credit cards only. They don't expect travelers to have phone cards. Coin phones are relics that exist now only in remote little villages.

No answer; he was probably at work

Later in the trip, I convinced Dawn to make some phone calls herself to reserve B&B's, rather than relying on our innkeepers to make the call. I was looking for more information that would help me find the place on foot. We marched up to the phone booth in a remote village, card in hand, only to find it was one of these relics. Back to the Innkeeper, she was gone for the day, then back to the phone booth to use our only coin. We got the reservation, but no more details because we were cut off without another coin to put in. - .
After about twenty minutes, we noticed that no one was waiting at our gate anymore, and there was a long line at the nearby gate. Beh oui,; they had changed the gate for the Toulouse flight without announcing it; or if they had announced it, it had been incomprehensible to us.


I don't think the gate was too nearby because I remember using my newly purchased binoculars to read the destination on the sign. It said Toulouse, and that was our destination, so we grabbed our stuff and slid over there. We had slept on the flight over and we got more sleep on this flight so we were pretty rested when we landed and were ready to face the car rental people. The woman at the counter was very nice but between the computer bugs and her inexperience it took a while. It helps not to be in a hurry. Finally everything seems to be set and we head out with there hand drawn xeroxed map of how to go north from the airport and our 5-8 year old maps from times that we were here before.

When we go to France or any country where they speak a language different than English, I nominate myself as the navigator and Dawn as the speaker. She has very good language facility and I am willing to go the wrong way enough times so that we eventually get to our destination. But I was going to need to sharpen my route finding skills. The trip from Blagnac Airport to Cezac near Cahors is easy, but some other parts of this trip will be more difficult with less room for error.
We are going to stay for a week with Jean and Isabelle in le Lot, a part of France north of Toulouse. Delphine, their daughter, and Aude, her fifteen-month old baby will be there also. We will make a decision whether to stay in a new spare bedroom in the house or sleep in the renovated stable as we have done in the past. We will do little. Talk. Visit Ben and Deena to see how their house is coming along. Walk. Eat. Drink wine.

The week after that is undecided. We will ask advice from Isabelle and Jean. We are thinking about spending some time in the Camargue, a wild, marshy area at the mouth of the Rhone where horses may run wild and you see photos of bulls. Spending some time touring the Chateauneuf-du-Pape area north of Avignon has also become a possibility. We have five or so days before we need to be in Avignon. We have reservations at the Blauvac Hotel for two days that weekend so we can see the town which neither of us has spent any real time in. When we arrive in Avignon we will give up our rental car.
The following Monday, we are going to take a bus to Gordes, west of Avignon, shoulder our new back packs and walk from village to village for 12 days in the Vaucluse and Luberon, both parts of Provence in southern France. This is the part of the trip for which I have been planning madly for more than a month. Using techniques borrowed and adapted from a book, France on Foot, by Bruce Le Favour, I have been cutting and pasting information from the Internet about 25 or so towns we might visit. The more planning we do, the idea goes, the more flexibility we will have. I have a tentative route planned out, a sort of reservation for the first night, one for the weekend and lots of e-mail and phone contacts we have made with hotels and chambres d'hôtes which are a semi-equivalent to B & B's in the USA. We know where we are going to start, but we don't know where we will finish, so we have some bus schedules and in some cases, rumors about bus schedules, so that we can get back to the Blauvac where they will have kept our suitcase, before heading back to Toulouse to fly back to the USA, not before visiting my favorite restaurant in the world, Le Capoul.

In retrospect, I should have arranged to fly out of Avignon, and I probably should have arranged a stop over in Paris. I think I had reached my planning limit, or really, planning the unplannable limit, and I needed some solidity somewhere, and in trying to get the best fare on the Internet, I plunked down two granite blocks on our schedule, one is that we will fly to Toulouse on May 24 and the second is that we will fly back on June 22, Tuesday to Tuesday. The rest will have to fall into place.

Also Paris is something that we had done and this trip was about balancing old and new. Dawn feels slightly guilty when we go back anywhere. She loves France, but she looks out at Africa, Asia and Australia and sighs. Her grandfather was an explorer and she has plenty of his genes, so I designed a trip looking for the new inside the old. This was our 4th trip to Cezac, which we love, but I wanted for it to be a springboard to a new part of France seen in a new way. Going to Paris at the end seemed like a retreat from these ideas.

But all this is in the future, as we motored up the A20, stopping to look at a Michelin map in a relais because the map we had was so old that it did not show the autoroute that we were traveling on and we needed to find the exit that we should take to Cahors. At home, we have a fast lane transponder on our car. In France, we had the next best thing, a credit card. When we needed to pay a toll, we went to a credit card lane, put the ticket in, it showed us how much we owe, put the credit card in, pulled it out, it said thank you and we are on our way.
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photo by: Sweetski