Sunday, Nov 15, 2009

Saturday was quite a day. We made the 8:00 Coach Service (free) to London Heathrow on a British bus. Very nice, with curtains in the very broad windows and the usual very polite driver.

Arrived Heathrow about 10:00 and after a certain amount of confusion, boarded the Underground for Kings Cross. That's where you take the Eurostar for Paris.

We got a ticket for the only other stop, at Calais, and in an hour we were there. Five minutes later we were speedily on our way to Paris, having failed to realize that we were already in France. We saw the station sign as we whizzed by it. We were off in the time change, and the trip we thought would take three hours only took the one.

So now we are in Paris Gare du Nord, and after some confusion and wandering about and asking for advice, we took the metro to Gare de Lyon, where the trains for Vichy leave. We got separated on the Metro once. The doors closed between Paula and I, but I waited at the next stop and she was on the next train.

Once in Gare de Lyon, on the other side of Paris from Gare du nord, we wandered about for rather longer before finding the ticket booth. Once there, however, it was a matter of only a moment to purchase the tickets to Vichy for a train that left at 19h01. Then we waited patiently in the wrong place until we almost missed our train. Actually, no harm was done and the train ride through the dark to Vichy was uneventful. I even napped for an hour.

Things got a bit dark once more on our arrival in Vichy. Paula had a map of the town and that helped quite a bit. So we wandered the streets once more, on streets about 10 feet wide with sidewalks about 2 feet wide and in the fullness of time arrived at an oasis of light that announced itself as the Ibis hotel. We checked in easily and the room is modern and quite different from any possible hotel room in the States.

Poor Paula still has her cough, and we have crossed France with it, like Typhoid Mary. The people are very polite, and very hospitable. If you speak French, no matter how badly, they will do everything in their power to understand you and see that you understand them.

This morning, once we get out of the Hotel, which we are in no hurry to do, we will probably do some limited exploring of the neighborhood. We have missed breakfast already, but there is still some hope for lunch.

Later: No hope for lunch either. Paula slept into the afternoon. Then we walked around and found out that the place really comes to life after 3:00 pm on Sunday. We found the mall, called 4-ways, probably because there are 4 entrances. Shops all around outside and inside. Everything very expensive and much sought after. People outnumber cars here exactly as they do in Paris, but the pace is much slower and everyone has time to stop and chat. One of the girls in the "Picnic en ville", which is a packaged food store for a picnic in town, complemented my French very nicely, so I asked her to marry me. She didn't exactly say no, and later on her parents came in and they had a long chat.

We saw a bread maker that makes 4 small loaves instead of one large loaf.

The biggest difficulty is getting enough to drink. Bottled anything costs about $4.00 for 50 cl, which isn't much. For reference, a can of Coke is 33 cl. So the only sensible thing to do is carry several water bottles around with you when you go anywhere. The coffee is all espresso, very strong and delicious, but no volume to it. I think the French are doing to water bottles what we are doing to Cigarettes, attempting to eliminate them by taxation. We have not figured out yet how to get tap water on the street yet, so we just carry a gallon or two of it.

That's all from me for today, now to try to get all this onto the site in Panama.