A Travellerspoint blog

Vendredi (Friday)

Hands hands, more hands......and the beginning of my solo journey.

overcast 14 °C

Friday

Again headed down for breakfast and check out.
We had to check out today as we were heading back into Paris tonight. This is where my separation anxiety started, but i didn’t yet realise it.

We had another full on day with activities and workshops all morning. They have a thing called Market Place, where all the countries show their wares to other countries. Again, the same colleague that didn’t attend organised what we were wearing,....boiler suit/overalls. Fantastic.

They had the name of our company on the back and in large letters Australia. There was no hiding where we were from. We were the ones that wore the funny hats with corks and now the boiler suits in khaki. As if the boiler suits wasn’t enough, we also had hard hats to wear. I’m sure you are loving this picture right now. The theme of our market place, was that we had just completed construction. Joy.

Everyone kept telling us we looked so cute in our overalls. A few people asked if they could have them. God knows why anyone would willingly want them, but ask they did. We got a chance to view other people’s stalls and get goodies from them. I got some great goodies and have sent them back to Australia in a box along with some clothes that I decided I wasn’t going to need. I also sent back my runners as I had now purchased the Paul Smith shoes.

Part of the theme of the conference was about Heroes. Whenever there was a break, there was a song about heroes. Previous to the concert they had asked some of the very senior managers within the company what special powers they would like to have. They then edited these comments and put it to music with hero images in the background. During the market place, they had a green screen set up and were asking for people to come and be interviewed. I avoided it at all costs, but the person who decided that I was going to be in Paris at all, said that I would volunteer. Is that volunteering? Hmmmm. So I had to stand in front of a green screen and asked the question, what do I consider a hero. I remember saying something stupidly philosophical and when it was done asking could I say something different. The camera man smiled and said nope. I was then asked if I was a super hero, what power would I like. I stood there stupidly trying to work out what it was I would like. Now, in hindsight, travel through time would have been a great option, power to fly another terrific option, hearing people speak through walls may have also been an option, but what did I come up with? Hands, more hands, I’d like more than one set of hands. Oh god, earth please open up and swallow me now. The camera man again nodded enthusiastically. I slinked off knowing I would rue those words at some stage.
I didn’t realise that I would rue those words so soon. For the last session, they showed a video montage of the previous 3 days conference with people milling around, people greeting each other, people having dinner, having coffee etc etc. They then played the hero music again and introduced the session saying, over the past couple of days heroes have been made. They then advised that they interviewed 27 new heroes and here is their story. I cringed, as I knew what was coming. A couple of my colleagues were also cringing because they too had been cornered. Thankfully the philosophical guff that I sprouted wasn’t played, I felt some relief, but then there I was staring back at me, and talking about hands, HANDS! I cringed even more and put a book up to cover my face. Everyone, EVERYONE laughed and clapped at my waffle about hands. The embarrassment that caused made the wearing stupid hat and boiler suit seem totally trivial. I will now be remembered for my hands. RAH!

We then finished up the last session of the conference and we all said goodbye. I had originally planned on staying at the universite an extra night and heading to the Palace of Versailles on the Saturday, but no one else was sticking around and dinner would have been an issue., plus it was raining and planned to rain quite heavily on the Saturday. I decided to head back into the original hotel we stayed at with 2 other colleagues. 4 other colleagues were heading to London for the weekend as they had meetings on Monday, 1 other headed to Glasgow for the weekend and was then going to catch up with the others in London and Monday and two of the other guys were staying in Paris for the next couple of nights. The 3 of us caught a taxi back in Nieuly with a colleague from South Aftica.

After arriving at the hotel, one of my colleagues asked me if I would like to go shopping with her. The other colleague had organised for her hair to be done at a Salon in the hotel (or so she thought). The two of us asked the concierge for the directions to a factory outlet type place that my colleague had been told about. Now in Australia we have DFO (Designer Factory outlets) that things are usually a fair bit cheaper than the current stock in the stores. The concierge didn’t know where we were talking about to start with. My colleague then wrote the address down for him and he said, oh catch a cab. Now on the map it looked a long way from the hotel. We asked if we could catch the Metro and he said yes.

As I know knew where the station was I led to way to station. The woman at the station knew of this place La Valle. She gave us tickets and it cost 13.80 euro. Now I knew it must have been a fair distance as the normal train ticket was 1.80 euro. It was now about 4pm and on the train we got. We got to one station where the lady had told us to get off that train and get on another train. So we got on a different train and realised we were going nowhere in the direction we should have been so we got at the next stop and read the map properly. The lady kind of forgot to tell us that we would have to go down and down and down in the underground to get to a whole new train network. I hadn’t been on this network, the RER and i can say it was very very dirty and I was very glad that I hadn’t seen it till now as it may have tarnished my train experiences.

We finally got on the wrong train and headed off on our journey. We both began to wonder if we had made an error but onwards we went. We passed through cities, we then came to open fields lots and lots of open fields, we were in the country LOL. The map kept advising us that we were headed in the right direction so we put all our faith in the map. We were headed to Euro Disney! Finally,, out of nowhere a huge shopping complex appeared. We got off at this stop as we saw people with shopping bags so figured it couldn’t be far. We were able to establish which direction La Valle was, but we couldn’t establish what stop to get off at. When we got off the train, we were in a very large shopping mall type thing. We saw a lady and thought we had better ask if we were close to this La Valle. She was very enthusiastic and i think very pleased to practice her English on us. She told us to keep going through the shopping mall to the end, turn right and we would be there. We did as told.
Well La Valle is not like the DFOs that I know. The shops were laid out in a village atmosphere. They were outside but in a complex, if that makes sense. We looked in a few shops but didn’t see anything that was much different to the main shops that I had previously seen. We kept on persisting because my colleague’s friends that had raved about this ensured her it was good. Perhaps we just didn’t see the bargains. I doubt there were any.

It was at La Valle that I had one of the most enjoyable experiences. We saw an icre cream store and we both decided we would have ice cream. I was planning on having a waffle cone with ice cream and the guy convinced me to try something different. I agreed. I figured it was ice cream, you can’t really stuff it up. He offered me a brioche and told me that I would love it. I looked at him oddly when he said he would fill the brioche with ice cream and then toast it. But trust in him I did and am I glad I did. He cut the brioche in half and put the two flavours of ice cream that I chose, pistachio and chocolate inside. He then put it in a sandwich press, that must have been very very hot, because it was only in it 10 seconds tops, he took it out sprinkled icing sugar on it and handed it to me telling me to try. It was sensational! It was hot and crispy on the outside but the ice cream was still frozen and the whole thing was just beautiful. I didn’t want it to end. My colleague had a waffle cone, and i kept telling her that she had made the wrong choice!
We decided that we had had enough of La Valle. We stopped in the shopping mall so my colleague could purchase some things for her children back home. She couldn’t go home empty handed. We then came to a store that sold household decorative items. My colleague purchased the most beautiful Christmas decorations. I would have purchased some also, but they were glass and I still had 4 weeks of travelling, she was heading home the next day.

We rang our other colleague, the one having her hair done, and asked what she wanted to do for dinner. It was now about 7.30. She said she would wait until we got back. We were going to go out for dinner, but after all the walking and the unplanned long distance travel, we decided to eat in the hotel. I hate to think how much the cab would have cost had we listened to the concierge.

When we arrived back at the hotel, I notice that it didn’t look like our other colleague had had anything done to her hair, but I didn’t want to comment in case she has and it was just a dodgy job. She thankfully brought the subject up. She said that it was a debacle. There was a sign in the elevator that said Salon, so she assumed that it meant hair salon. Wrong! So while we were away on the conference she rang the hotel and booked an appointment with the hairdresser. The booking was made. When we got back to the hotel from the universite, she was told by one of the staff that the hairdresser would come to her room. She thought this odd, but thought they know better than her what they are talking about. So she waited in her room. About 45 minutes later her phone rang and it was the hairdresser asking her where she was. She said she was waiting in her room, where was he? He said his shop is about 5 minute cab ride from the hotel. Needless to say, she gave up and decided that she could go without having her hair done afterall. I’ve still no idea what the Salon was but I think it is just a room. She needed to look for Coiffure, that’s what French hairdressers are called.

We had dinner and were still sitting there at 10pm when we all decided to call it a night. We said goodbye to each other as they were both heading off home the next day, while I was starting my holiday.

I went up to my room, got a shower, put my pyjamas on and prepared to get in bed. Now as we pretty much through our luggage in the door earlier so we could get to La Valle I didn’t unpack anything. It was then I realised Blue Teddy was missing. 

I turfed everything out of my suitcase, thinking he may have been under something, somewhere, knowing full well he wasn’t. I sat on the bed with a very sad face and knew exactly where he was. That morning when I had got up because we were checking out, I hadn’t made my bed. The universite accommodation was self service, so there was no room service, so I made my own bed every day. But not this morning, because we were checking out. I figured there was no point in making the bed, only for them to unmake it again and strip it, ready for the next lot of accommodation. Teddy would have been under the covers as I through them back. Because I never made the bed, I wouldn’t have noticed him. I sat on the edge of my bed wondering what on earth I should do. Who should i call? Was there anyone that wouldn’t laugh at me? I couldn’t ring the universite as it was late and I didn’t even know if there would be anyone there. I didn’t cry, which I was very proud of myself. I got in bed knowing that I was going to have a restless night.
So to all you people who raised an eyebrow or scoffed at me for taking Teddy, rest easy, just don’t give me lectures about see you can do it!
I thought about ringing the person who gave me teddy and crying to him, but decided he probably wouldn’t appreciate the call.
It just felt wrong.

I slept and at one stage woke in fright knowing that I didn’t have Teddy. This was now going to be a long vacation without him.

Skipping forward to Monday, (I will get back to the weekend in the next blog entries). I rang the universite and they informed me that teddy is merrily on his way back to Australia. They didn’t realise that I was staying on longer in Paris. So, Teddy will arrive home before me. He will miss the experiences of sharing beds with me in Vienna, Zurich, Milan, London, Dublin and Hong Kong.
Sorry Teddy for being a irresponsible owner. I hope you enjoyed your flight home.

I am not going to rename this blog, as even though Teddy isn't here, he is here in spirit.

Posted by Blue Teddy 10:03 Archived in France Tagged shopping Comments (0)

Jeudi (Thursday)

yeah there was dancing and singing and moving to the grooving.....

overcast 12 °C

The conference continued today. They were very long days, breakfast at 7 and we didn’t finish that night until 7.

Tonight’s dinner was a stand around affair. Get food on your plate and stand around to eat it. The French are very big on meat, well that’s the perception I have so far. There was hardly any vegetable or salad to choose from. There was lots of meats and fish pieces but nothing to accompany the meat with. I had some tuna that was cooked on a barbeque grill and was rare in the middle, it was beautiful. There was veal, which i didn’t enjoy all that much. There were prawns in this amazing sauce. You just kept going to different cooking points and choose your meat.

We headed in for more drinks and then the dancing. Oh my god French men love to dance. It is nothing like Australia where you see guys stand around the edge of the dance floor and watch, probably jealous of those brave enough to dance. These guys go to the dance floors in groups of 3 and 4 and just dance with each other. They are sensational. They all have the moves and boogie for the whole evening. The dancing starts at 10 and goes till 1am. I head to bed around 11.30 and I find out the next day that most of the French were dancing until 1am. One guy must have lost 10kgs in body fluid that night. He was doing all the moves, He had Michael Jackson, Nureyev, Russian Cossacks, Irish dancing styles all happening. He was brilliant. There is no embarrassment, It didn’t matter what age the guys were, right through from the young, early 20s to the older, late 60s. It was stifling in the area where the dancing was. There were windows, so we opened the windows for fresh air. That’s what drove me to bed in the end, it was just too hot in there to be comfortable.

I headed back to my room, showered and fell into bed. Another day complete.

Posted by Blue Teddy 09:08 Archived in France Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Mercredi (Wednesday)

Dorky Aussie hats with corks!

rain 14 °C

I head down for breakfast and meet up with colleagues. Some I hadn’t seen or met until this morning. Today is the first day of the conference, but I establish that it doesn’t start until 1pm. This gives me the morning free, so I go for a walk around the grounds and head back to my room where there is free internet and I catch up on some emails, and blogging.

I think I doze off again as I didn’t sleep fantastically the night before. I head down to meet the others at 12.30. We have lunch, which is a help yourself type affair. We then go to the registering area, and get our name tags and any other information that we need for the next two days.

The rest of the afternoon is taken up with the conference. We had been advised previously that the Australians were to perform in a talent show. We had been told this in Australia by email and we sent the words to I am You are We are Australian. A lot of us groaned at the prospect of this but it turns out we had no option, we were going to perform whether we liked it or not. We searched the internet for the tune and a found a seekers version on you tube and it came with a visual as well. We agreed that we would sing along with this version and try and have the video playing as well. Well some of us agreed, the others tried their hardest to convince the powers that be that it was a mistake.

The afternoon session finished about 7pm and then we headed for drinks and dinner. The drinks part loosened a few of the grumblers enough to at least want to get on the stage. Not necessarily sing. We then headed to dinner. We had a few giggles, as the organiser of the conference was also the MC for the conference and she kept saying through the afternoon that we were going to be having a buffet dinner followed by a caberet evening. Now In Australia, and maybe incorrectly, we pronounce them buff ay and cab er ay, yet she kept referring to them as buff ette and cab er ette. We found this hilarious and figured that maybe we had got it wrong all this time. So all through dinner we kept referring to the upcoming cab er ette that we were to perform in.

Now let me tell you about our costumes. One of our colleagues who was invited to attend the conference but had to withdraw when it turned out his wife had a baby organised what we were to wear and sent them over. Clearly it was a joke as he knew he wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by wearing them. We were sent floppy hats, similar in shape to an akubra with a map of Australian on the front. Then he had painstakingly attached corks with string to all the hats. You get the mental image? We looked like gooses. Yet the others by this stage had drank enough wine to now at least say come on let’s get this over with. We were to perform first. I was nominated to write an introduction to our performance. Fantastic! I wrote a little history about Australia and how we came to be. I then went on to say that the people performing on stage had all been descendants from different countries. I then named those countries. England, Ireland, Scotland, America, Holland, Russia, Poland, Cyprus and then invited the audience to sing the chorus with us. We had printed out 100 copies and had them distributed through the audience. There were 350 people in attendance at the conference.

We got on stage and I made my speech. Oh yeah, Not only did I have to write it, I had to say it as well, as it was felt I had a really good Australian accent, whatever that means. I made my speech, the music started, and we started singing and by god did we start singing. All protestations from previous were gone, we were singing with gusto. We linked arms and swayed. We made the hand gestures when it got the part of I am and pointed to ourselves, you are, and pointed to the audience and then this sweeping gesture when it got to we are Australian. The audience joined in, there was swaying, there was singing, there were smiles all round. We were stepping out of our comfort zone and performing. I didn’t want the song to finish, it was fantastic. When it was finished, we all took our hats off and threw them into the audience. They were grabbed at as if they were the crown jewels. People wanted our dorky cork encrusted swaggy hats. Who would have thought? The audience stood and cheered. We got off the stage and all hugged each other. What a transformation from 1 hour earlier when there was still rumblings of dissent.

There were 7 acts all up. One from the UK, which was a girl who sang by herself, she was fantastic. A troup e of Spanish dancers, Some French wearing fake horses and prancing around the stage being whipped. Let’s not even try to analyse that one. There was 3 French dancers and a Chinese artist who they used an overhead camera so we could see him doing his chinese calligraphy. He was awesome.

With the cab er ette out of the way, There were more drinks on offer. We stayed for a little while and then headed to bed.

I have no photos from the conference days, as I kept leaving my camera in my room and it was a fair walk back to the room plus it meant I would have had to carry it everywhere as I didn’t take a bag either, all redundant items during the conference.

Posted by Blue Teddy 09:05 Archived in France Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Mardi (Tuesday)

A suitcase and an open air bus ride

overcast 13 °C

Tuesday 20 October

I slept terribly. I kept waking in fright. I woke at 4 and there was no way I could go back to sleep. I got up and read for a while and then decided about 7 that I was too tired and more sleep was required. I ended up waking at 9.30. I then decided that I would head out and find the Lavelle (Laundry). I asked the concierge and he gave me directions as to where the closest one was. It was about an 8 minute walk. So I loaded my washing in a plastic bag and headed off.

Washing Paris style was an experience.

I have only been to laundrettes in Australia where you put the coin in the machine you are using. Well there was no coins here, only walls of washing machines and dryers. It was then that I noticed that each machine had a number. This was promising as I figured the number must correspond to something somewhere. Behind a cupboard was the answer!

There was a electronic keypad where you had to input the number of the machine. Ok, that part established. How much to put in was still a mystery. How to get the washing powder in was an even bigger mystery. They were front loader washing machines, but different to any front loader I had previously experienced. i could see there was a detergent dispenser, but again couldn't work out how to get the laundry powder out of the machine. There were no handles, no buttons nothing. Again, I notcied that the detergent dispenser had a number. Aha! Now to get the electronic keypad to work. I put coins in and had enough sense to at least push the number of the detergent dispenser first, and sure enough detergent was dispensed into a waiting cup. I'm getting the hang of this! I then put the detergent in one of the slots in the machine, but I had no idea which one I was supposed to use, so hoped for the best.

I then went back to the electronic keypad and pressed the number of the machine. It started flashing at me and I gathered it was wanting more money. So I put some more coin in and it gobbled it up greedily. I waited for a few seconds to see what would happen and the light corresponding to my number machine lit up and after about 20 seconds I could hear water being dispersed into my machine. Victory! No idea if my clothes were going to get soap on them, but they were at least getting water.

I had no idea how much money I put in. I think it was under 8 euro. Maybe I got jipped, who knows, but I wasn't about to argue. I then decided to walk and find the closest boulangerie (bakery) and get something to eat as I hadn't had breakfast. After waking late and wanting to get the laundry done, I figured eating breakfast in the hotel would only waste time. I walked to where I know knew there was a boulangerie on the way to the Metro. I got myself an already made baguette with chicken and salad and some Orangina (I really like that stuff!) and headed back to the Lavelle to wait. People came in while I was sitting there and were clearly seasoned Lavelle users. Put their clothes in, went to the machine and got the soap, put it in the machine and went back and paid the money for the washing machine, without so much as blinking. All so civilised when you know how.

I waited for the washing to finish and was very proud of myself when I so cleverly transferred the washing to the drier and put the money in the machine and got the drier to start effortlessly. When the washing was all dried, I put it in the plastic carry bag I had brought with me and decided that I was going to head into town town to buy myself a small carry suitcase. I had seen some the day before but they were very expensive. I liked them a lot, they were like wetsuit material, but very expensive. I didn't want anything that lavish, just something that I could carry onboard etc. I only brought one big case with me and it was already at capacity. The second I bought another pair of shoes and things for the z girl, ooops I had no room. I had seen some the day before but had absolutely no idea where they were.

I found a street stall and bought one for 27 euro, not too bad. In the end I was able to put my laundry and handbag in the suitcase and dragged it everywhere all day.

I then had a few hours to kill before I needed to be back at the hotel to meet up with two other colleagues before heading to Jouy en Josas where we were staying.

I decided to take a ride on the open air bus. I bought a one day ticket, even though I knew I wasn't going to get the value from it, but I figured it was the best option.

I did one circuit of one area and a very small portion of another circuit. There are 4 circuits that you can do. I saw a lot of Paris in a very short time, probably 2.5 hours and decided that I would get better value for the bus when I was on my own in Paris later in the week.

After completing one circuit on the bus and before changing buses to the second circuit, I thought I better get something to eat. I saw a cafe type shop and asked for a latte and a citrus tart. I got on the bus straight after and was surprised to find a cup full of pretty much froth. Unless you drink espresso in Paris, the locals struggle with your request. I didn't mind it was hot, even though there was only a small amount of coffee in the cup. I didn't eat the pastry until later in the bus trip and two Americans sitting close by said they were jealous as they were starving. I ate my tart without looking at them again, feeling guilty that I had food and they didn't.

I decided to get off the open air bus somewhere close by to a Metro station as I figured it was time to head back to the hotel. By this stage I was busting to go to the toilet. Like seriously needing to go. I saw a toilette booth that they have in the middle of streets and decided that I would use one of those. Wrong choice. When i opened the door, the stench and filth that hit me almost made me bring up the lovely citrus tart and about 3 weeks of undigested carrots. I reeled out of there quicker than I have ever done anything in my life. I actually stood on the footpath and coughed hoping that there was nothing going to follow the cough and embarass me in the middle of a busy Paris street. Oh god, please don't let anything come up. I won the battle and everything stayed put, including my urine that was still reminding me it needed to be released quickly. I convinced the urine that it would just have to stay there a while longer. Sorry if that's all too much information, but I needed to convey to you one of my most distrubing experiences in Paris.

I decided that I would just get on the train and hope for the best. I was very proud of myself when I got to a station I hadn't even heard of before and worked out which train line I needed to be on. The Paris Metro is brilliant. All the trains are clearly marked, with maps inside every carriage. They only ever run a train on a particular line, so the maps inside only relate to that train. But there are maps that tell you which station has crossover points to the other lines. I never waiting more than 3 or 4 minutes for a train and was very impressed by this. I have been told that when there are train strikes in Paris, the city comes to a standstill. I can understand this, as it's almost at standstill in some parts with car congestion when the trains are running correctly.

As I was on the train heading back to the hotel, one of my colleagues who I was to be travelling with by taxi, texted me to tell me he was at the hotel. I texted back saying I was probably 10 minutes away. Again I am being reminded by body parts that they needed releasing. I put my ipod on and tried to concentrate on something else, like music!

I got off the train knowing there was about an 7 or 8 minute walk back to the hotel. I waked very quickly and got to the hotel and just raced in the foyer, past my colleague who was sitting waiting on the couch and headed for where I knew the toilets were. Relief overtook my body and it was such a relief.

I came out and my colleague just said, in a hurry where you? I conveyed the story and he was almost dry retching.

We had to wait for our other colleague before we could leave. She was in a meeting. We waited about 45 minutes and then she arrived. A taxi was ordered and when it arrived it was a small taxi. We had 3 large suitcases each and I had my now new other case. The others also had overnight bags and laptop bags. The concierge smiled and said we would all fit. They tried to put the luggage in and it just wouldn't go. The concierge then had a brain wave, he would put my suitcase in the front seat next to the driver and shoved us all in the cab. The three of us squeezed in the back seat. We protested but we were hurried on our way. We had about a 50 minute cab ride ahead of us, squashed in like sardines. I was just glad that the bladder was all under control now as the consequences could have been disastrous.

We arrived at our destination and all checked in, decided to head into the village for some dinner. The universite didn't have an organised meal for us this night. The universite staff gave us directions for a short cut through the universite grounds, through the tennis court, through a one way gate and it would bring you out in the village. One of my colleagues had been to a Chinese restaurant in the village previously, so we headed for that. We spoke to a few other colleagues who had arrived seperately and they were heading into the village with us. When we got there, the Chinese restaurant was closed for renovations. i was saddened by this as I was quite looking forward to Chinese food cooked in France. So what do you do when you can't have Chinese in France, you have Italian. The same colleague knew there was an Italian restaurant somewhere close by but had no idea how to get there. One of the funniest sights was one of my colleagues approaching a lady as she got in her car to ask for directions to the Italian restaurant. The poor lady hopped in her car and locked the doors quicker than you can blink. Looking back it would have been daunting seeing 6 people standing around. Little did she know we were harmless Aussies. Something must have registered with her, perhaps it was the accent and she wound her window down marginally and my colleague asked for directions. She was very helpful and pointed us in the right direction. I felt llike giving her a hug to apologise for scaring her. I hope she didn't have to stop at a roadside toilette on her way home.

We got to the Italian restaurant which basically sold pizza and pasta. The menu however, was all in French. Rather complexing.

I decided I was having pizza and we could all work out a few things on the ingredients list. i know knew that egg was oeuf and ham was jambon, so figured this sounded like an aussie. I would have liked capsicum as well, but none of us could work out if anything on the menu resembled capsicum, so I went without. The pizza I ordered was called a Souffle. So I had no idea what to expect. It had all the normal pizza ingredients, the cheese, the tomato, the jambon, ognion, and ouef. We all ordered and sat back and waited.

My pizza came out looking like a calzone. A folded pizza with all the ingredients in the middle. It was nice, but not what I really felt like. I was actually looking forward to the ingredients being crispy and not all gooey and soft. The flavour however was delicious. The other pizzas were 'normal'.

When we got the bill at the end, it was decided that one of my colleagues would put it on her credit card and claim it back. There was one guy with us. The waitress tsk tsked him when the female colleague wanted to pay. It is obviously a very non French (or Italian I suppose) thing to do. We all laughed at this.

We then headed back to the universite. Now, we came through a short cut, so trying to work out the right way back was interesting. I was adamant that it was one way and the male colleague was adamant it was another. I was standing my ground as I knew we hadn't crossed the rail way line in the taxi, and going his way would have meant we had to cross the railway line. He told me I was wrong and that we had turned right into the universite campus. I said yes, that's correct and going this way, we are coming in from the opposite direction and will now turn left. He disagreed. A decision had to be made as to who people were going to follow. I won and thankfully I was right. It took us about 45 minutes to get back as we had to wind our way through the village and up and down the streets. There were some beautiful homes there. Very French provincial homes. The longer we walked, I could hear my colleague saying, I knew this was the wrong way, we are going the wrong way. I had been able to get the others on board, so they told him to stop being a doubting thomas. When we turned one last bend and saw the sign ahead, I knew I had made the right decision. There was no apology, no saying sorry. All that was said was, I could have sworn we needed to go the other way. Ahem.

We headed to our rooms and I fell into bed and slept soundly.

Posted by Blue Teddy 09:39 Archived in France Tagged transportation Comments (0)

Lundi (Monday)

Black Boots, Red Boots and bumper cars

semi-overcast 13 °C

I head downstairs for breakfast and one of my colleagues is already there, having started his breakfast but beckons me to join him.

He gives me the brief run down on how things are done French style for breakfast. I am offered tea or coffee. I choose tea. A cup of hot water arrives with 2 tea bags, earl grey and green tea. I dislike both. Green tea I don’t mind if it is served at a chinese restaurant as a refresher, earl grey just makes me think it should be in a bottle and sold as toilet water. And I really mean toilet water and not the eau de toilette variety. I ask if there is any English breakfast and am greeted by a very friendly oui madame and it dutifully arrives. The cup of hot water is decidedly warm, which on an Australian summer’s day if you said it was warm you would know it would be about mid 20s hot is high 30s. That gives you some perspective of the temperature of the water. I drink my tea. I drink my tea black. My colleague then advises me that when you order white coffee or tea, the milk arrives hot in a little jug. I always thought that we used milk to cool things down a bit, but I am clearly wrong and it is more for flavour than temperature. Perhaps we got it all wrong and the French got it right. Maybe that’s to compliment the warm water.

The cornflakes are different. I can’t explain the difference, but they are a different texture and very very dry. It’s the only way I can describe them, even with milk, or lait, they seem dry. Odd. French seem to toast their bread on one side. I notice this a few times through my journeys but decidedly so when the toaster is set to work on only one side. I don’t experience this personally but am told by my colleague. I decide against toast. I don’t know what it is about pineapple at the moment but I’m loving it. It is very sweet and beautiful when served icy cold. I ask if there is an option for poached egg. The blank look reminds me that I have spoken English. I look in the book and discover, ouefs poches. No madame, today we have scrambled eggs. I go to the trouble of saying ouefs, he comes back with eggs. Funny. So I have scrambled eggs and a mini baguette with some cheese and smoked salmon. I would like another cup of tea, but the thought of it again being warm puts me off. I opt for orange juice. It comes in a can! Minute Maid orange juice. It tastes different , like it’s made from concentrate. Oh well, it’s all experience.
Another of my colleagues arrives and has breakfast. They have to head off to do work today, and I am waiting to hear from my manager if there have been meetings set up for me to attend. Until i hear I am told to go and enjoy myself. So I take myself back into town.

Now when we caught the train yesterday, I was one of 4 and tagged dutifully along following the leader. Today I am on my own. I head in the direction we went to catch the train, but see a sign that points me to the Metro which is a different way than we went yesterday, this much I remember. So I think, well surely if there is a sign to the Metro then I should follow it. Bzzzzz, wrong! I have no idea at all where I am, so just keep walking and walking. There are plenty of people around, they all are heading to work. Oh, and where is my map? Safely tucked away having a rest in my hotel room. I am an adult, I can do this I keep telling myself. I just keep walking. It is then I am officially classed as one of the beggar women in the street. I stupidly attempt to stop a lady coming the other way thinking, I will ask Metro? Metro? And i get shunned and scoffed at as if I had asked for money. I smile inwardly and think, wow, I have just become one of the women I have previously spoken about and one of ‘those’ people to be avoided. I attempt fate a second time when I see a woman with a child in a stroller and get the same reaction. This is almost fun, being shunned in a strange country. Then out of nowhere I see a Metro sign and think hey, that wasn’t so bad after all. I go down the stairs and voila a train appears. Now, i know we got off the train at Opera yesterday, so purchase my ticket for 1.60 euro and follow the signs. I get on the train, taking notice that I get on at Louis Michel. I get off at Opera and come up from the underground to see the now familiar gilded statues atop the Opera building.

What to do now?

Well, my colleagues had raved about Galleries LaFayette the day before so I head there. Wow, this store is amazing. David Jones/Myer and about 5 other huge department stores all rolled into one. The internal architecture of the building is outstanding.

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Everything is expensive. I am attraced to a section that has the most adorable, funky, kid’s stuff. Well actually it’s not kid’s stuff, but brightly coloured accessories. There is office stuff, kitchen stuff (toasters, irons). I spend about an hour in this department. I think the lady thought I was strange. I kept picking stuff up, putting it down, thinking wow, we don’t have anything like this in Australia. I settle on some things for the Z girl and venture off into other sections. This store is actually 3 stores, the main store, the homme store and the he home store. Now let’s have a quick French lesson here. Homme is male, home is well, you know what home is. I wander around and around in awe of the items and of the price tags. I take myself out into the streets to experience other shops. There are heaps of money exchange places in Paris. I don’t know if this is a common occurrence in other countries but I don’t recall seeing so many in Melbourne or Sydney. Maybe they are there as well, but I’ve never been conscious of them as I’ve never needed to change money. Euro money is very different. I can’t say I have grown accustomed to it. The notes are paper and nothing like the high tech polymer notes that we have in Australia. Very bland colouring. The coins are similar to our coins, but the 1 and 2 euros are far too close in size to distinguish easily. They go down to 2 cents and they are copper coins.

I hear from my manager as she has just landed in Paris, leaving a day after me. She advises that she hasn’t been able to set up any meetings so I have the day free. She then asks if I would like to catch up later. We agree that after her getting unpacked and showering etc, she will head into meet me. But this could be a few hours away, so she advises me to get some lunch and we will catch up after that.

I walk along the streets until I find a cafe that I like the look of. I am given a seat in the window and opt once again for you guessed it L’Ongion Gratin. Again it is superb. My soup costs me 8.50 euro and my juice costs me 4.50 euro. So a 13 euro meal of soup and juice is quite expensive, but no more expensive than it has been elsewhere, it’s just how things are priced in Paris.

I will try and explain how pricing works here. In Australia something like a bottle of water might cost $3, in Paris it costs 3 euro and on first glance you think, ok this is ok, and then you do the conversion and realise that you have just paid $4.80 or thereabouts. Everything seems the same a coffee in Australia might be $4 you will pay 4 euro.

As I sit in the restaurant, I watch the car parking escapades of Paris people. I am still in shock in the way people park their cars. There is absolutely no respect for the property of another individual. Bizarre.

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My manager texts me and tells me that she is on a train and heading into where I am. I head back to LaFayette as this is where we have agreed to meet. I didn’t realise until then that there is a station right next to the store. I was getting off at Opera and walking about 5 minutes. No biggy. Now most Metro stations have many exits and it’s tricky to work out where you exactly are. She rings me and tells me that she has just come up from the underground and she is looking at LaFayette. Well I’m above ground and looking at LaFayette and can’t see her. So we describe shops and what we are looking at until we get our coordinates. I look through the hoards of people hoping to catch a glimpse of her long blonde hair. I later find that she also was looking for my hair as I have red and blonde through my hair, it stands out in a crowd. I spot her! I tell her to stay where she is and I will come to her. I have to cross two roads to get to her, that’s how the Metro works and that’s how big LaFayette is. She still doesn’t see me as she is looking in totally the wrong direction. I call her name and she turns and we give each other hugs. I’ve only been separated from my fellow colleagues for about 5 hours at this stage but it was still nice to see a fellow Aussie and a friend. We both talk at the same time, trying to unload the previous 24 hours in 30 seconds flat.

I ask her what she would like to do. I sound like I have been in Paris for weeks and know my way around, when in fact I have 24 hours up on my boss. She wants to buy boots! So I ask her if she has a choice of where to go and she says no, so we head back into LaFayette. We head for the shoe department and oh my god. Imelda would have died and gone to heaven here many times over. All the shoes are in their area of manufacture, so you have Guess, you have Jonak, you have Charlie Choo, you have Paul Smith and so on and so on. Which can get daunting when you are looking for black boots, as you don’t have all the black boots together in one place, you have all the black boots of one manufacturer in one place and trust me we saw a lot of boots from a lot of different manufactures. She tried on a couple of pairs. One pair looked fantastic off and horrible on, they were all wrong around the ankle area. She told me that I had to be her conscious as she was sleep deprived and the brain cells that differentiate between right and wrong weren’t functioning. I told her they didn’t work on her foot and she was thankful of my input. You have to remember this is my boss we are talking about, but I was also thinking of the 500 euro price tag. We looked for others and then i found a pair of Paul Smith casual shoes that I absolutely love. I tried them on and loved them. It is probably more than I have paid for a pair of shoes, but oh well, who cares I am only in Paris once. As all the manufacturers have their own section, you don’t actually pay for your purchases where you are, you have to get given a written docket to take to the cashier and pay for your purchases and then go back to the area to collect your shoes. For such a modern and large store this seems quite archaic. But I follow the queues and wait my turn to pay for my shoes. I had never heard of Paul Smith, but the uniqueness of his shoes are that on the back of the left shoe it says Paul and on the back of the right shoe is says Smith and inside the shoe there is Pa on the left shoe and ul on the right shoe. All very tricky.

I am very pleased with my purchase.

We again search for the elusive black boot and we end up in the Guess section. 3 pairs are tried on and a decision is almost made on one pair, they look lovely on my boss’ feet but she is saying they are hurting her. The shop assistant is very patient and then tells her they don’t come in half sizes, so she tries on a pair of size 38 then 39, 38, then 39. She thanks me for my patience and I say it’s all good. I’m just happy to be sitting for a while. Another customer enters the area with a black suede boot in her hands and tries them on. My boss and I both look at each other and say, them, those ones! They are gorgeous. So she asks the still pleasant sales assistant is more than obliging. She brings out the size, my boss tries them on and within 5 minutes of seeing them she has made the decision to buy them. Funny how things work out. We have spent almost 2 hours at this stage looking at boots and a decision is made in 5 minutes. While we are sitting waiting for the black suede boots to arrive for trying on, my boss eyes a pair of red boots from another manufacturer. OMG. They are gorgeous. We finalise the transaction for the black suede boots and head over to the red boots area.

Now the sexy red boots that I have left at home, are absolutely no comparison to these. They are knee length with pink metallic around the leg of the boot. And the platform is the same pink metallic.

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They also come in black with silver metallic and Brown with a tan. Both of those are quite boring in comparison. I am again reminded that I am her conscious here and find it very difficult to be objective when I adore these boots. Now my boss is in a position of great authority at work and in an environment where the customer is conservative and male dominated. I ask her where would she wear them. She goes through the options. She then mentions her boss, who is the Vice President of a division with the International company that we work for. She says he would probably hope she was a bit more conservative than the red boots with pink. I remind her that he has a wife who he can ask to be conservative. She says good point. I remind myself that this probably isn’t helping. So we go through them one by one. Would you wear them to work? Probably not. Would you wear them to you children’s sporting games? Probably not. Where else would you wear them? Out for dinner is the only option she comes up with. I ask the sales assistant if I can take a photo of the boots and if we can think about it over night. The 600 euro price tag was weighing heavily on my mind that was supposed to be someone else’s conscious right now. The sales assistant agrees to hold them until 10.30 the next morning. We all agree this is a much better solution.

At this stage, we are both starting to hit the wall. Her more than me. I have had sleep in a normal bed, she has had broken sleep on an aeroplane. We agree to head back to the hotel and catch up with the others who should be getting home soon from their working day.

We head to Opera to catch the train. Now earlier, I mentioned that I took absolutely no notice of the station we got on at on the first day. This now becomes a problem. I have no clue, none at all of what train line we should catch. I know I got on the train this morning at Louis Michel, but you need to know the line that it is on. I also knew that I walked a long way out of my way to get to Louis Michel. We get a map and still can’t work out what train to catch. Only option is to ring one of the colleagues and hope we are disturbing them from a meeting. He laughs and tells us that we have to catch Line 3 ad to get off at Anatole France. He forgets to mention which direction to catch the train. We solve this problem by ourselves when we get to look at the map for line 3 and we look to see which direction to catch the train. My boss is not convinced we are heading in the right direction. I tell her to trust me. I’m a seasoned 24 hour Paris train traveller by now. We get our tickets and miraculously catch the right train in the right direction. I establish that Louis Michel is the stop before Anatole France heading home so I walked one station too far this morning. Not so bad.

We arrive back at the hotel and there are 4 of us. 3 of us from the same group yesterday and one different, my boss. The other person, the really big boss has a company dinner to attend tonight. There are 10 of us all up from Australia for this conference. So the 4 of us decide to head to the Moulin Rouge district. Not to attend the show, as the tickets are upward of 100 euro.

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We catch a cab to the Montmarte area and walk through the area. There are sex shop after sex shop. Even one called the something something elephant. Let’s just leave that one right alone. We take photos of the Moulin Rouge and then decide to have dinner. We find a French restaurant.

I decide on something other than my now standard choice and choose the Sword Fish. It is absolutely beautiful. The others choices are steak and fois gras. A couple of us then have crème brulee. Oh dear lord, come take me know I have finally found heaven. It came out flaming, and i was too slow in getting my camera out to take a picture of it all flaming. It is sincerely heavenly. I have never eaten crème brulee before now and am surprised that even though the top was aflame the custard was cold.

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We catch a cab back to the hotel and have a drink in the bar. We are all fairly tired and all head to our rooms for sleep. I am in bed by 9.20 and asleep by 9.22. My phone wakes me at 9.30 and a friend is surprised that I was asleep. I remind him that my brain is still somewhere on the other side of the world and the brain that I have on this side of the world is still trying to adjust to a separate time zone. I remember mumbling something about being in Paris and loving it and how emotional it was. He then said he would let me go back to sleep. I remember hitting the stop button on my phone but woke some hours later still holding my phone.

Tiredness Paris style completely took control of my body again.

Posted by Blue Teddy 06:03 Archived in France Tagged shopping Comments (0)

Bonjour madame

Totally overwhelmed by Paris, and the wrong choice of shoes!

sunny 14 °C

Sunday 18 October

We arrive at around 7.30 to the hotel. We check in, and then venture out for the day. We head into the city of Paris by the train. We arrive at The Metro and a train magically appears. We catch the train. I take absolutely no note of the station we board at. (This is an important point later). I am more than happy to be led by the others,, who have all been in Paris before. We get off at Opera and the enormity of where I am suddenly hits me. I am in another country. A country that has been in existence since before Mary and Joseph got jiggy jiggy in the bed and produced the boy wonder Jesus. The Opera building is there as we walk up the steps from the metro and atop it are the gilded statues. How they even got them up there is beyond me. How they have stayed there all this time amazes me more.

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Paris has a problem with homeless people. They are beggars. They approach you in the street and pretend that you have dropped something and then hassle you to give them money for picking up something that you didn’t drop in the first place. I am warned to ignore them. Great advice as when I’m later travelling on my own and had I not known about the beggars, i would have probably spoken to them and thought I had really dropped something. You hear Madame, madame, madame, madame and after about the 4th time they give up and look for another unsuspecting tourist.

There are a lot of women that sleep in the streets. Now these are different to the kind of women who work in the streets and then take someone somewhere to ‘sleep’. These are homeless people. I am surprised by how many of them are women. The other thing that I find absolutely amazing is that of all the homeless street people I see, 95% of them have a cat or a dog with them. The animal is immaculately groomed, on a leash, with very clean bedding. There is often a cage nearby where they must sleep some of their time. So I guess considering they have a cage they aren’t homeless while their owner is. Interesting thought. There are cups or plates to put your coin to help them out. The first morning on the train a guy came through the carriage and handed out cards. I dutifully took one and read it. It was two sided. One sided in French, the other in English. It told me how he was homeless and had to feed his two children. Please give him money. I was impressed that the guy was homeless but has a pretty nifty computer set up somewhere to print these fancy cards. When it got a couple of stops along, he comes back along the carriage and collects the cards. I find this very amusing.

We head for Lafayette shopping store. It is closed. The decision is made to head to the Champs Elysees. I am excited by all this and would happily go anywhere.We walk and walk and walk and walk. I had no idea that all the buildings in Paris have an 8 storey heigh limit, so all the buildings look similar and blend into one another. In every rue, on every boulevard all you can see for as far as the eye will take you, is 8 storey high buildings. The doors to a lot of these buildings have been there forever, they are huge, they are in fact massive. Most have security buttons on the side now as behind these doors is the entry to all the apartments above. There are a lot of people walking with dogs on leashes. I am amazed by this. So many dogs in the middle of the city. There also seems to be no law for picking up after your dog. I notice a lot of dog poo around. I later find out that the streets are cleaned regularly with water. I can't imagine what it would be like if there was no street cleaning. Dogs stop, dogs lift ther leg, or squat and owners generaly just wait and move on when it's all complete. Very bizarre.

We get to the Champs Elysees. OMG.

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It is wide, it is vast and there are so many cars! Cars go this way, that way. I learn that there is no buttons for pedestrians to press to cross the road. You just have to wait until the lights change and then cross the road. The lights change and a green man comes up telling you it's safe to cross. Don't always believe the green man as it seems some Parisiens don't understand that their red man means stop. It is still very odd for me to have to look a different way to ensure no cars are coming. There are a few pedestrian crossings where there are no green men or red men, just the lines on the road to say it's safe for zebras to cross. Well on some of these crossings, I doubt a herd of zebras would be safe! You really take your life in your hands when crossing Paris streets without lights.

We stop at a few shops along the Champs Elysees. One of my colleagues is looking for that elulsive Paris item. We go in The Gap, where there are the most adorable children's clothes ever. I don't know what to buy the Z girl as it would be for next winter and I've no idea about the sizes etc. They do things differently in Paris, even though The Gap is American. It is then I see my first Zara shop! I am quite excited by this and take photos. (Currently while typing this blog, I can't locate the camera cable, so will update the photos later). I go into the Zara store and buy a pair of gloves. They have a Zara tag and I pay for them and they are then put in a Zara bag. So the Z girl gets to have her own Zara bag and she can have the gloves for her toy box down the track.

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We go into the biggest perfume and cosmetics store I have ever been in my life. it is so big, it is totally overwhelming. There is just too much. I find a sales assistant and ask where the Clinique section is as no matter how hard I try, I can't find it. She then asks me what it is I am after. Her English isn't bad at all. I tell her that I am after Aromatics. She then asks me if I want the perfume or the toilet water. She stops me in my tracks with this question. Now in Australia, we call it Eau De Toilette, and it sounds quite special and nice, but toilet water???? She looks at me as if I have trouble comprehending her very good Frenglish. I tell her that I am unsure and I will just have a look. As it is absoloutely packed in this store, she bids me farewell and is off to traumatise the next unsuspecting tourist with the thought of buying toilet water. I note that the price isn't much different to Australia. In fact, I don't know if there was any difference at all. I decide to go without purchasing the toilet water in Paris.

Speaking of toilets, I need to use one, so use one of the ones along the Champs Elysees. I find this sign amusing, as it has been translated from French to English. It comes out something like Frenglish.

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Does this mean it is ok to put unhygenic waste in the WC? I was confused, but did what one normally does in a toilet and hoped for the best.

We continue walking and walking and walking and we decide it's lunch time. We stop at a sidewalk restaurant and opt for the outside eating area. There is a wind, but it isn't too bad and the skies are bright blue. It is sitting in this sidewalk restaurant that I experience my first taste of my new love. One of my colleagues recommends L'ognion Gratin. Traditional French Onion soup. Now I don't know about you, but for me, I associate French Onion soup as something that comes in dried form in a packet, and I have never drank it as such. I use it to put in things, like in dips or on chops and then bake them. That is about the extent of my french onion soup experience pre Paris. O M G it is just amazing. This bowl arrives, with crusted cheese baked on all over the top of the bowl. Underneath that crusted cheese is the most delightful broth filled with onions and bread covered in cheese and then browned. I start eating and never want the experience to stop. The top part of the bread is crusty while the bit that has been soaking in the soup is soft, but all the flavours mixed together are amazing. Baskets of fresh bread appear. Two of my colleagues have Poisson Soup (fish soup) and they say it is amazing. I have never been one for eating fish in soup. The other colleague has the same as me. It is an amazing meal. The only downside of sidewalk eating in Paris is the smoking. People can sit outside and smoke at the table. Smoking is huge in Paris. It seems every second person is a smoker. I notice their cigarette packets don't have nasty photos on them either.

We decide that we need to move again and my feet are talking to me. I chose to wear my boots and I think after the 24 hour flight, my feet are swollen. My feet aren't happy with me. I don't think they expected to walk as much as we did on their first day. I have an ice cream from a shop along the Champs Elysees. The French make great ice cream. I have macadamia brittle. It is delightful.

We walk some more and some more and a whole lot more. We go into an art gallery/shop and it is here that I fall in love with some sculptures. The price tag though would limit me ever owning some of these sculptures. They are life size and of bodies, but they aren't whole. It's very difficult to explain in print. The price tag on one item is 7000 euros. Even if I had that kind of money just sitting there waiting to be spent on art, I think you would have to purchase the sculpture an airline ticket of it's own to sit in a seat. Although you would probably want it travelling in business class and let it have it's own cubicle.

My first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower makes me all emotional. I don't cry but I thought I was going to. No idea why it had this effect on me, I think it was just the enormity of me actually being in Paris. We walk through the Tuileries area and walk by The Louvre building where there are people waiting in queues to enter.

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We get to the Arc de Triomphe and the enormity of that monument and the burial place of the unknown soldier gets to me and I have to fight back tears. I am speechless for a few minutes and when I do speak all that comes out is Wow. One of my colleagues notices that I am emotional and simply says impressive huh? I nod and don't say anything as I'm fearful of what might happen. The feeling of sheer emotion passes but I want to get closer to this monument. We go under the roadway so as not get hit by the crazy Parisien drivers. We come up at the monument. I have this desire to just want to touch it. We walk over and take photos and I touch it. I can't fathom that people so very very long ago carved all these names and faces into a piece of stone. I breathe in the atmosphere and am in awe of the monument.

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We continue our walk heading back in the general direction of our hotel. We walk through an antique area and I realise that French antiques are old, really really really old, as they would be, but I hadn't actually put it in perspective before now. Louis XV this and Louis V this and so on.

It is nearing 5pm and we have been walking all that time and my feet are now arguing constantly with my brain. They are telling me that I was stupid to even contemplate wearing my boots for all this walking. I am agreeing with my feet. We decide to call it a day and head back to the hotel. One of my colleagues says it is about a 15 minute walk from where we are. One of the other colleagues suggests the train. The colleague that suggests the walk wins. Well I soon learn that her 15 minutes is about 45 minutes. You must remember that is now about 2am Melbourne time and my brain is scrambled as to why we are still out walking at 2am. We get back to the hotel and agree to meet for dinner in an hour. I shower, I rest and want to close my eyes, but I know that would be the wrong thing to do. The plan is that we are going to meet in the bar and have dinner in the hotel. I decide that the bar is a better option to wait for my colleagues, rather than sitting in my room, where sleep would probably happen.

I get to the bar and one of my colleagues is already there enjoying a beer. The waitress comes and asks would I like a drink. I ask for a lemon, lime and bitters. There is look of absolutely no comprehension on her face. My colleague suggests going to the bar and see if I can see bitters. I get off the bar stool and my feet are still yelling at me. I see no bitters and decide that is obviously not a French thing. I ask instead for lemon, thinking that I would get a glass of solo or something similar. The waitress nods at me enthusiastically and says, just lemon? And I say oui. I hobble back to the table and wait. Then the fun begins. A glass of lemon arrives, but it is not what I expected. It is a glass half filled with freshly squeezed lemon juice. It has friends! Then appears a container of sugar and a carafe of water. My collegue and I both laugh and think ok, communication break down number 1. I put some sugar in the lemon and add some water, but I don't think there was enough sugar in all of Queensland to make this lemon taste good. I then go back over to the bar and ask for lemonade. A blank look across her face appears again. I say ummm Sprite, 7up? It is then that the little magical light of recognition goes off in her brain. AAAAAAAAH 7UP! Oui, Oui. She brings me 7up with a fresh glass of ice. I then add the 7up to the lemon juice and it is actually very good.

The other colleagues arrive and the discussion is around dinner. The decision is made that we don't want to eat in the hotel as that is not experiencing real French food. I agree, all the time ignoring my feet giving me a lecture. I am not the only one though, the others also comment on their sore feet and we all decide that they are probably swollen from travel etc.

We walk about 15 minutes until we find a restaurant that is very French. We pass Italian and Japanese on the way, but we didn't come to France to eat Italian or Japanese (well not yet, anyhow).

I again choose the L'ognion Gratin. It is just as good as the one at lunch, probably even better. It is a bigger bowl. I have learnt my lesson and ask for 7up now. 7up seems to be a universal language.

2 of my colleagues choose the Fois Gras. I am not enamoured by the thought of force feeding geese and duck until thier liver is about to burst, so don't even want to try the desired dish when it arrives. My colleagues rave over it and say it is simply amazing. This is one of those times that I am happy to have blind belief on someone else's say so.

By 9pm my eyes are feeling like 80 grade sand paper and they want to close and I'm scared that my blinks might actually become sleep. We all agree that it is home and bed time. We walk (yes the feet) back to the hotel and all call it a night. I take my make up off, have a shower and fall into bed. I don't even remember closing my eyes. So this is what tiredeness is. I sleep till about 4, get up, work out where the hell it is I actually am and head back to bed. I doze on and off and decide that at 7 I am defeated and head downstairs for breakfast

Posted by Blue Teddy 23:36 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Hong Kong to Paris

Porn films

Saturday 17 October, midnight to Sunday 18 October, 6.30am Paris

We board the plane, again through the privileged area for First and Business class passengers. This time there is no mingling of passengers. We board through the front of the plane, the economy passengers board through the back. I am sitting upstairs! I have never even been on a plane before that has upstairs. There are only two rows of these still somewhat silly arranged cubicles. On the other flight there were 4 cubicles across the width of the plane. There are probably 30 cubicles on the upper deck. Yes, it wasn’t just a Melbourne – Hong Kong affair, the champagne and orange juice arrive before I can even get acquainted with the cubicle. There is a much different ambience this time though, you can see that people are thinking sleep. It is quieter than the previous flight. We sit, we wait and before long we are moving. Another amenities bag arrives, this time red. I will have 4 by the time I get home. Drinks are offered. I notice that most passengers are saying no this time.

Then it’s food time.....again! I take the fruit on offer and a bread roll, but you just can’t ask for bits and pieces you get the whole lot. I am pleased to note that on the Hong Kong to Paris leg, I must be trusted as when I open the napkin I realise that I have a real knife. None of that you beaut polymer affair on this flight, no I now have a real knife! I am really tired and think, sleep! I attempt sleep and lay down in the sleeping position. It’s quite comfortable, the seat lays back into a fully flat position. I think I drift off and I hear the flight attendant asking me something, no idea what, but we establish that she is sorry to have disturbed me. I think ok, thanks for that. It is then that I establish because of the lovely hospitality that I am experiencing on board, that if you don’t want to be offered copious amounts of food and alcohol, you have to advise them. All sorted. I decline all food and drink offers. If I want food or drink I can just press the buzzer and they will organise it all.

I think I sleep for about 3 hours, which for me is fantastic, but then I am wide awake, absolutely wide awake. I have this whole thing of not wanting to disturb others just because I am awake. Again all the water and tea I have drank is wanting to escape. I sit there for a while longer thinking, I hope I don’t disturb people on my way to the bathroom. I get up and it seems that everyone I pass is totally zoned out and fast asleep. I am jealous, but glad I don’t wake anyone. Now that I am awake it seems the flight attendant is happy because this gives her something to do. I get offered food and drink. I accept a cup of tea, but no food. She tells me that I can have ice cream, noodles, peanut butter tart (which just sounds wrong) any time I like. I get offered peanuts, almonds, biscuits. I settle in to watch The Hangover. Very very very funny film. Hadn’t seen it before. Wanted to, but hadn’t got around to it. I stifle laughing out loud but I hurt from stifling this laughter. I then attempt some sleep again. I sleep in fits and spurts and am jealous of the rest of the upper deck passengers who are all fully asleep. Well if they aren’t fully asleep they are pretending because no one uses the bathroom, no one gets the attention of the flight attendants, there is just nothing.

I then watch an art house film, that right now the name escapes me and i will check next time I have internet connection. It was a British film and very funny. It was about a female police officer that sleeps with someone that she shouldn’t, a very well known sports player and the notoriety that she gets from the scandal. She then leaves the police force and goes down the path of swimsuit model, gets a boob job etc etc. At one stage in the film she ends up pretty much just wearing a very revealing bra and underwear for a magazine shoot. It is quite a provocative shot with her looking straight into the camera and pouting with her girls up around her neck. It is at this point in time that I decide I cannot wait another second to once again use the bathroom. So I pause the film, not even giving it another thought. On my return from the bathroom there is a fellow passenger awake. Great ! I am not the only insomniac on board. It appears he has just got up to stretch his legs and is walking up and down the aisle. As he walks past my cubicle with his back to me, he stops to see what is on my screen. Oh my god, as I approach from behind and can see the screen it looks like a scene from a porn film. I want to tell him that it’s not porn! I want to tell him that it’s a scene from a funny film. I say nothing and climb back into my cubicle, put my head phones on and press play on the film. Why did I stop it at that scene? Why didn’t I think what it must look like if someone else saw it out of context? Oh well, I wonder how many films he previewed to see if he could find the same scene. He turned around again to do another lap of the aisle and I averted my eyes. I didn’t want to see his reaction and I didn’t want him to see me blushing!

I sleep again, this time for an hour. 13 hours is a long time to be flying. 13 hours is a long time to be in a place where you can’t do much other than sit/lie/walk to bathroom, sit/lie/walk to bathroom. I watch some more and catch up on some lifestyle shows, some documentaries and then decided I’m going to play some games. There was some trivia games. I play one and I swear that a mensa qualified person wouldn’t have had a clue at answering. Stupid questions. I play solitaire, I play backgammon and cannot even get close to beating the computer. I watch a couple of cooking themed shows. I would like to read, but stupidly my book is in the overhead locker and I have the whole, don’t disturb anyone mentality happening. I listen to music. I work out that if I lay on my stomach and look backwards you get a great view out the window. It is then that I see lights, lots of lights, I get excited and wonder where on earth those lights are. I turn over, turn the monitor to the follow the flight plan setting and it tells me that we are over the top of St Petersburg. We have just flown over Russia!!! I am in absolute awe of this and think of all the people that have just slept through passing over the top of St Petersburg. There is a perk of insomnia! Not quite sure why the flight path would see us travelling over Moscow to get to Paris, but hey I saw the lights of St Petersburg so who I am to argue with the man up the front with the controls in his hand.

Then I am quite excited as the overhead lights slowly come to life. I think yay, others will wake now! I won’t be the only one awake. Sure enough people gradually wake. A lot of people had their eye masks on I noticed on one of my trips up and down the aisle. There are moves made to the bathrooms. I smile inwardly as a queue forms! There are two toilets on the upper deck. There are 3 people in the queue. I figure that some of them would be busting as most have been asleep for a very long time. Food arrives. It’s breakfast. It’s 4.30am Paris time. We are scheduled to arrive at 6.30.

Dim Sum on offer for breakfast seems a strange thing so I opt for the omelette. Again I am trusted with a stainless steel knife. I feel quite special.

More people start to surface as the captain tells us that it is currently 3 degrees in Paris and we should be landing in approximately 1 hour. True to his word, we land pretty much within the hour. The little voices in some people’s heads must be screaming at them Quick! Hop up! Quickly! Stand in line! We will all be getting off the plane in the next 5 minutes! I sit and wait while the quick hopper uppers standing again in the queue to be the first downstairs and get off the plane and race to the baggage carousel and still be there when i get there 5 minutes after them as our luggage won’t have arrived.

I wait for my colleagues and we proceed to the baggage area and the Exit area. Although it is no longer an exit area, it is a Sortie area. I am in France! I have a stamp in my passport that tells me I am now in France! Woohoo!!
My very first stamp in my passport. I feel important now.

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We go out into the cold, get a taxi and get deposited at our hotel probably 30 minutes away from the airport. The fare was 52 euro. The current conversion rate is about 1.6, so you can do the calculations.

We check in, I am given a suite, which has a lounge room with a table, couch and chair and a separate bedroom with the most amazing king size bed I’ve seen, a bathroom with a bath and a separate toilet. We had agreed that we would meet downstairs for breakfast in an hour and a half and go out for the day to avoid sleeping at the wrong time of the day. The bath is calling me. I am desperate for a shower and figure that I will have a bath and then a shower. Oh god, water feels such a luxury. I take my make up off and it feels like my skin is breathing again. Not sure I would wear make up again on a long flight, it doesn’t make your skin feel like it can breathe. Maybe that’s just me, I don’t know. I close my eyes and drift off only momentarily in the bath. I could probably fall asleep so decide that the best option is to get up and have a shower and meet the others for breakfast. Well, not breakfast as I’ve already eaten but meet in the breakfast area. That hour is the best feeling. I feel human again. We meet in the restaurant and plan our day. We are going to catch The Metro and see where it takes us.

Posted by Blue Teddy 22:36 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

The Departure, the arrivals

The joys of travelling Business Class

The Departure! And the joys of Business Class travel!

Marc, Jacqui and the Z girl took me to the airport. We arrived about, actually i have no idea what time it was when we arrived, but well before we needed to.

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There are queues. All queues are typical queue type stuff, where they have the areas cordoned off and you just keep following the person in front of you until someone says, next please. You step forward and proceed with checking in. Not in Business Class. There is a queue, but a special queue. You are treated differently. You are ushered to a separate area purely for Business and First Class passengers. Good after noon Ms Relf, welcome to the start of your Cathay Pacific journey. Perhaps that is the conversation that happens in Economy Class with Cathay Pacific, but I don’t know as I was discreetly far enough away not to hear the greetings there.

Check in complete in approximately 2 minutes. I am advised that my flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong and my flight from Hong Kong to Paris weren’t linked, but that has now all been taken care of. I’m impressed because I didn’t even know they weren’t linked. I don’t really know what linking flights mean,, but I smile and nod and am appreciative that the customer service person knows this and links me. She also asks if I would still like to be upstairs on my Hong Kong to Paris leg of my now linked flight. I nod and smile again and say, yes, that sounds lovely, thank you. She hands me boarding passes. One from Melbourne to Hong Kong, one from Hong Kong to Paris and another couple of passes, that I don’t really take any note of at the time, because it all seemed to be going along so well, I didn’t feel like I should be the person that takes longer than expected in the queue. We leave the check in area and head for somewhere to feed the Z girl. We opt for a cafe area and decide on coffee and a Danish. On reflection and had I had pre warning, the Danish could have been left at the counter. I’m glad I only had a small portion of Danish. The coffee was warm and not entirely thrilling, but hey it’s airport food.
We then decide to walk through the duty free area and Marc puts his order in for Christmas, birthday, for about the next 15 years. (Just kidding). I really love the smell of men’s cologne. I also have a thing for men’s shoes. I wonder what the couch would say about those musings. I don’t want to wear either the men’s cologne or the men’s shoes but I do love the smell of cologne on men and do love looking at men with great shoes on. I digress.

There is a band playing at the airport. They were outside the doors of no return, they seemed to be randomly playing to passengers as they entered the area close to the doors of no return. I think they are an Indian band, not a native American Indian type band, but a Bollywood type band. The women are dressed in Saris and there is a distinct tone of sitar. Actually, I lie, there was no band playing, there was music coming from a CD player, that from a distance sounded like a band. So i guess in fact there was a dance troop performing, rather than a band. I hope you have the picture now. 7 to 8 performers dancing and chanting to piped music. Random, but not unnecessarily bad. The Z girl stands on my lap and dances to the music, when they stop she claps. The music starts, she dances, the music stops, she claps. Well done Z girl! The Z girl has this thing where she looks at people and wills them to look at her. At home, or with friends she is the centre of attention, and we ask her to do things, like clap, hug, kiss, dance and she pretty much performs. When there are other people around, she stares at them as if to say, well are you going to pay me any attention? Are you going to ask me to perform? When total strangers don’t even give her a sideways glance, she looks as if to say, how rude are these people?

I get my last lot of hugs from the Z girl. She must have had an inkling that we were somewhere out of the norm, and things were different,, as she cuddled into me lots. It was lovely. I gave Marc hugs and then the Jacqui girl. I knew there would be tears on one of our sides when the hug was released. The tears in my eyes, proved it was me. Such a softy I am. There are people filling out cards, and I comment that I haven’t filled a card out. Even though I don’t know what cards they are filling out, but it looks like something I should be doing. I proceed through the doors of no return, after turning, having a photo and watching the doors shut behind me. Well, that’s that. I’m now on my own! Behind the doors of no return is a whole new world. There are more queues. People standing patiently inline with passport and boarding pass in hand. I get my passport and boarding pass out and proceed to queue, when i see a sign that reads, Express pass card holders here. I remember thinking, oh, I got given something by the very kind customer service person, so I check and sure enough I have one of these Express passes. Wow, this Business Class things is really amazing. I proceed to the desk and I am side by side with a person in the not express lane. All that is separating he and I is a piece of rope. He is clearly next in line, but the customer service person says yes thank you madame to me! I am actually embarrassed and say to him to go before me,because looking at the length of the queue he has probably been in line for 20 minutes or so. The customer service person, just says, no madame it is your turn. I walk forward with passport and boarding pass in hand and I hear the magic words. Do you have a customs card? I say meekly, no should I, I don’t know what one is. He holds one up, shows me with a smile on his face and says, they are on the back wall and points and asks me to fill one out and then return and I will be processed with priority. I then realise so that’s what everyone was filling out on the other side of the doors of no return. I dare not look at the man standing on the other side of the rope, as I could feel his eyes burning into me thinking, stupid wench. There are strange questions on the card, and I ponder them briefly, is this trip work, holiday, education, conference. It clearly states, only put a cross in one box. But I am doing all those things. I make the decision to tick conference as that is the primary reason I am going, even though it is for the least amount of time. Then it asks, which country will you be most in. I choose France as again, this is the reason I am going overseas I dutily fill out said card and feel like I at least belong now as I now have the trusty customs card in my hand along with the boarding pass and my passport. I proceed back to the queuing area and sheepishly walk through the express lane again. I again get to the front and again ushered forward before the person on the other side of the rope. Bizarre. It is then that you go through the security area. I unload my bag of my laptop, the charge cords, my mobile, my ipod and load them into a tub. I then put my coat on the conveyer. Don’t know why i did that, but it seemed right. One of the security guys makes conversation and just acknowledges that I’m putting the right things in the right places. I feel pretty pleased with myself at this stage. Capable of putting things in the right tubs is no mean feat. Well aren’t I a dummy. I then heard, Madame! Excuse me Madame! And a security guy taps me on the shoulder and says you have to put your bag on the conveyer belt. Of course I do, i know this, but did I do it? Of course not,, because I’m a doofus at times. I blush,I feebly apologise and he laughs and says, you’re a bit cheeky thinking you could go through without your bag being checked. I have nothing, no comeback, no retort, nothing. I just figure, take bag off shoulder, put on conveyer belt and proceed through the arch and just hope that someone who was on the ‘other’ side of the rope isn’t watching and thinking,, great she has privileges we don’t get and she’s dumb. After that it all goes smoothly. I quickly walk away from the security area without looking back.
Wow, on the other side of the doors of no return, there is a whole new world. It’s a city on its own. There are a multitude of duty free shops, there are cafes, coffee shops, food places, bars, vending machines just the same as on the pre side of the doors of no return, but. It’s different. It’s quieter, there isn’t a lot of noise. It’s almost clinical. I felt like I was almost in a hospital. There are shop assistants just standing around and as soon as you approach something, they are there asking would you like to try this fragrance and that fragrance . It’s a little surreal. It feels like a major shopping centre, but there just isn’t the hussle and bussle. I look in a couple of shops and think about buying myself some gloves. I wasn’t able to purchase any before I left. Side issue – the lady in Kmart looked at me oddly when i asked for gloves. She just said, they are a winter item and we have summer stock in now. I know they are a winter item, but I was just hoping they would have some. Back at the airport.......I can’t find any leather gloves but I find a pair of lamb skin gloves. They look like the type of glove you might get at a market stall. Don’t get me wrong, they feel beautiful, but at $89 I figure someone has ripped the poor lamb off and decide against buying them. I will probably regret it tomorrow morning getting out of Charles De Gaulle airport at 6am,, but hey. I’ll live!

I sit in the boarding area waiting for my flight to board. I am there about half an hour. I know that in my bag I have a pass to the Marco Polo lounge area. Another perk of Business Class travel. I just can’t bring myself to go in there, I figure I will just sit in the normal waiting area like everyone else. My flight is announced as boarding and I hear the magic words, First Class and Business Class passengers please proceed to the check in area with your boarding passes ready. I tentatively proceed and hope that the man on the other side of the rope isn’t there snarling at me.

Then the fun begins. It’s a form of circus. We go onboard, and all passengers board the plane through the front door. I don’t know if there is any airline in the world were First and Business class would be anywhere other than the front of the plane. There are cubicle type arrangements waiting for me. I have my very own little area. We are seated and before I can even take in the surroundings, the most friendly of friendly flight attendants approach and offer me champagne or orange juice. They are both served in glass, actual glass. I take an orange juice and take my seat in my little cubicle. I am totally overwhelmed by all this, never having been even remotely close to anything like this before. We are all seated and then the Economy Class passengers board the plane. They are paraded past us all sitting there sipping champagne or orange juice. It is then that I happen to look up and who should be looking at me, but the man from the other side of the rope. I look away. I can’t smile, I can’t continue to make eye contact. Again, I have nothing for him. I am embarrassed. So while sitting there drinking my orange juice, passenger after passenger walk past and eye off the Business Class cubicle we have. I decide I can’t look at them anymore, feeling bad, so I pick up the magazine and start thumbing through it.

The plane is boarded and there is an announcement from the Captain. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issues at all who is flying the plane I am a passenger in as long as they are fully qualified, have lots of hours under their belt and know the way to where I’m going. I am travelling with Cathay Pacific, and it being an Asian airline, I kind of, maybe stupidly thought that it would be an Asian captain. I wasn’t expecting, Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain, Daniel O’Shaunessy speaking. I sat there with a huge grin on my face thinking, an Asian Airline with an Irish pilot.

He then makes another announcement telling us that we will be proceeding to take off shortly that we are waiting for some missing passengers. They arrive, and it is a man and I assume his son who is about 8 or 9. There are two spare cubicles near me and as they walk past, the boy says, here are spare seats dad. The dad looks up, very flustered and says, we will never be rich enough for these seats, ours are up the back somewhere. They proceed through the blue curtains. It’d be nice if they offered them the two spare cubicles, but I guess not everyone thinks like me.

We prepare to take off and we are given hot face washers. I use the face washer to wipe my hands thinking, it was only orange juice, but ok I will use the said face washer. A silver tray and tong cladded hands appear to deftly deal with the now cold face washer.

I sit back and wait take off.

15 minutes after take off, the seat belt sign goes off, the flight attendants stand and everything starts happening. Drinks arrive. A menu arrives. A complimentary traveller amenities bag arrives. I sit there in awe thinking oh my god, this is amazing. I open the bag, it is a teal coloured bag given for the females and a black bag given to the males. I look inside the bag and find, a bottle of Colgate Plax, a toothbruth, toothpaste, hydrating mist, moisturiser, a hair brush, an eye mask a pair of socks, lip moisturiser and ear plugs. Very nice. I then look at the menu and there are choices. It says lunch menu and all I can think of is it’s almost 4pm, I wonder how it can still be called lunch. Would I like a wine, would I like a soft drink, would I like a juice. The questions come at me and I opt for juice. It seems if you ask for a drink, you get two, you get your juice and you also get a glass of water.
The food arrives. The starter is an anti pasto plate with cured meats and marinated vegetables with a side salad. There is balsamic and olive oil dressing, there is butter, there is salt and pepper containers that are shaped like rocks. Before I realised they were salt and pepper shakers and i thought they were part of an Asian ritual. The whole fire, earth, wind type thing. I am pleased to notice that even though I’m travelling Business Class that when I open my perfectly folded linen napkin, that sits alongside the salt and pepper rocks, that they still think I might do damage with a real knife and I am supplied with a plastic knife. Now let me explain it is no ordinary plastic knife like you see at Maccas. It is a high class plastic knife, but plastic still the same! The forks however are stainless steel.

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Then a main meal arrives. I choose the stir fry with steamed rice. I eat a small portion of that as well, as I’m still struggling with eating lunch at 4.30. I keep looking at the tv screen that tells me we still have 8 hours flying time to get to Hong Kong. I am wondering if there will be another meal or if this is it and lunch is really early dinner, which is fine as I doubt I could possibly eat dinner or supper or whatever it would be when it arrives, if it arrives. I forget that I am not at home and pile my plates neatly on the serving tray ready for collection. Maybe others don’t do this as the flight attendant thanks me for assisting her. I smile and think oh, maybe I shouldn’t have done this. I see another trolley coming along and think what on earth could be on this trolley and it is the finest selection of cheese and fresh fruit. I take some because the pineapple looks beautiful. I can’t eat all of it and feel guilty at the waste. I sit back and think, phew, food is done when ANOTHER trolley appears. I look at the offerings on this one and decide i am beaten and decline the flourless chocolate with double cream. I am in awe of those that accept the offering. There is then tea, coffee, liquers. I ask for tea and by now I am more than impressed that the flight attendant has stopped looking at her list of names and knows my name. Very impressive.

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Let me give you a run down of some of the passengers. There is grumblebum who is in the cubicle behind/next to mine. I’d say next, but it’s not really next, it’s more behind./next. He grumps when they appear with offers and seems quite rude. There is sleepy head on the other side to me. She has slept since we boarded. There is a man a few cubicles away that has an awful cough and I cringe and feel yuck every time he coughs, which seems to be semi regularly. There is a man who I can only see the top of his head across the way and he has a few tufts of spikey hair. There is the man that constantly gets things out of his bag in his overhead locker. He sits down and then puts that back and gets something else out. No idea what, but he is amusing himself. There is a disabled man not far from me. He has something wrong with his legs and he was in a wheelchair before we boarded and was then assisted to his seat by two ground crew. I don’t know what happens when he needs to use the bathroom. He hasn’t moved as yet, so maybe those things are taken care of automatically. His wife is travelling with him, so she is constantly on her feet. The design of these cubicles means that you don’t actually sit ‘next’ to someone, They are designed in herringbone pattern. If you were travelling with someone there isn’t a great opportunity to be ‘with’ them. One passenger would have to stand next to the other person’s cubicle. Maybe in Business Class people aren’t meant to converse with other passengers. It wouldn’t be fun if you were on a romantic holiday and you had to be separated from that person. It’s good I’m not on a romantic holiday, so I don’t have to worry about that. Oh, and by the way, the man has no idea I exist. I established that. Oh well. I have 5 weeks to get over lusting over the man.

Speaking of romantic holidays, i just watched The Proposal. It has Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. It was an a girly flick and I can unashamedly say I loved it!
The set up of the cubicles means that to put the food tray into position the media monitor has to be put back in its place until you get the food tray in place. Once in place you can then bring the monitor back out, you just can’t do it in reverse.
I’m trying to avoid sleep on this leg as I would like to be able to sleep on the next leg. It is quite warm in here though, so I’m guessing I will probably drift off at some stage. There are some arthouse movies on the playlist also, so I think I may watch one of them.

All of the window shutters have been pulled down now and it seems a lot of people are sleeping My watch is telling me it’s 8pm Melbourne/Sydney time, so I’m surprised people are sleeping. It’s quite warm in here and I haven’t worked out if there is a fresh air button. I’m going to get up now and go for a walk.

Some hours later, here I am back again. I watched The Ghosts of Girlfriends past, another chick flick with Matthew McConnaughy. Damn he is hot. He is a fine specimen of human male flesh.
I closed my eyes as my eyes are quite dry. I resisted sleep and just lay there for a while.
The lights are all on again now as I think they are just preparing people to wake up. It’s now just under an hour before we land in Hong Kong. My watch is telling me it’s just after midnight Melbourne/Sydney time.

Oh dear, it’s food time. I venture to the bathroom. I have the view of a bathroom from my cubicle. It’s amusing, every time someone leaves the bathroom a flight attendant enters and does something, no idea what.
Speaking of bathrooms, grumblebum (who slept thank fully for some time) is still grumbling, but is also a sufferer of flatulence. Quite disturbing.
The food arrives. There is fresh fruit in a bowl and a ‘thing’ that has strawberries on top. I establish it is cake like and then I get the menu out and realise that these are things listed under ‘refreshments’. There is also mention of noodles or pasta. I’m amused that the fruit and dessert arrive before the savoury. I eat the fruit, don’t touch the dessert thingy and then am offered a savoury meal. I don’t take either. I am then offered soup. I decline that also. There are drinks offered again, the obligatory two at a time. There is alcohol for those that want alcohol.
I then get offered tea or coffee. I choose tea again. Then ice cream appears. I am offered connosieur ice cream, strawberry or chocolate. I choose strawberry.

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Oh, I establish what happens in the bathroom, after every passenger leaves the bathroom, the flight attendants spray air freshener and fold the toilet paper back. I always find that such a quaint touch folding the paper back, like in hotel rooms. What does it mean? That the last person to touch the sheets of paper was not the person who last used the paper? Interesting.
It is then that the only hiccup of my flight arises. I am listening to music on the entertainment unit and it freezes. I press all the buttons and nothing, zilch, zero, zip. I sit there and think oh well, no more movies for me and one of the flight attendants walk past and see me pressing the buttons and offers to assist. She then tells me, oh, it’s no good, must be frozen and that she will reset it for me,, but it could take about 15 minutes. I assure her that this is fine. She offers to move me to a new cubicle and offers me magazines. I insist I will be fine for 15 minutes. True to her word, in 15 minutes the system is all working again.

The battery on this is about to die and I really can’t be bothered charging it up right now, so I will turn the computer off and talk about the landing experience, on the next leg of the journey. Wow, I wonder if all the amenities bag and orange juice and champagne on arrival happens on leaving Hong Kong.

Grumble bum has just returned from an extended trip to the bathroom, hopefully he has cured himself of his flatulence issues.
The good Irish man puts us on the ground without even the slightest bump. We taxi to the runway. The set up of these seats doesn’t really mean you have a window seat,, even though you do. I mean the window is there, but you have to strain yourself sideways and backwards to see anything. What is people’s obsession to be the first off the plane? It’s not like we are in a domestic terminal where you get off the plane and if you have no luggage can be out of the terminal in 10 minutes flat once the doors open. People reach for their overhead items and stand. It must be this whole queue mentality. People are genuinely happy to stand in queues. I wait and think 45 seconds after all the queuers have left, I will also leave. The plane lands at Gate 65. My next flight leaves from Gate 64. Now you would think that this would be a really smooth process. Wrong. You get to an area at Gate 65 and there is a sign pointing for exit and transit passengers. As I am a transit passenger, I follow the sign. And follow the sign and continue to follow the sign. We walk, and walk and walk some more. I overtake some of the previous queuers and smile to myself. We finally get to the Transit area. Yep you guessed it, right near Gate 1. I go into the Transit area, get my next boarding pass acknowledged (the one that was ‘linked’ in Melbourne) and am told to proceed through the customs area. OK, my previous rantings of no queuing for Business Class all goes out the window. It is clear that Hong Kong customs couldn’t give a flying brass razoo want class of ticket you have. You stand in a queue like everyone else and wait your turn. There are the by now standard roped areas where you keep going around and around and around until you feel you are somewhat closer to the start of the queue. Some tempers fray in this area. I then hear yelling and thinking, eeeep, I’m glad I’m not being yelled at like that. A Hong Kong customs woman is yelling and I mean yelling at a passenger. This passenger it seems is also in transit. Oh, I forgot, this queue is just for those in transit. I didn’t see where the non transit people ended up. I assume to the luggage collection area. Back to said Customs woman yelling like a banshee. The passenger must have asked at the start of the queue that she needed to get to a connecting flight quicker than standing in the queue was going to take, so she had priority and moving through the non roped area to get to the front of the queue. The customs officer screams, HURRY UP LADY, YOU HAVE PLANE WAITING. MOOOOOOOOOOOOVE. The poor passenger stopped to adjust the strap on her bag. It seems you can’t do this in the Hong Kong customs area. The customs officer keeps yelling and almost pushing the passenger along. I am happy and content to be one of the crowd and stand and proceed in the queue like everyone else.

When I get to the area where someone looks at my passport, it reminds me of a football match entry. There are cubicles where the customs officers sit and there are turnstiles. I expect someone to ask me to open my bag to check for alcohol. I look around and see no football scarves, hats, flags and remember that I am in an airport in another country. It then hits me, I am in another country! What a bizarre feeling. No longer standing on Australian soil, but firmly on Hong Kong soil, well not quite on soil but I’m sure under this building somewhere is soil. I am absolutely busting to go to the toilet. Like seriously! I’m disappointed, I don’t get a stamp in my passport, just a nod and it’s all over. I am through the transit area. Now I have to proceed to gate 64. Yep you guessed it, it’s a long long walk. I find the closest toilet and as soon as I leave the cubicle an attendant goes in and does things. I assume wipes the seat. There are attendants everywhere in the toilet area just standing, waiting. I’m beginning to find this toilet ritual quite bizarre. Clean, but bizarre.

I remember that I have a privilege card in my possession and think, ok, I’m going to use the services of the facilities in The Pier for Business Class passengers. You walk through, are greeted with a lovely smile, they take my card and say welcome, please enjoy our facilities. Wow is all I can say. There are massive TV screens with every conceivable sporting event from anywhere in the world being played. There is a movie on a screen I see. There are lounges there are chairs, there are bar stools. It is huge! There are food places, alcohol places (lots of them). There is all sorts of things. You can ask for a towel and have a shower. I’m impressed that people live this way on a frequent basis. There is almost too much to choose from and I end up choosing iced water. I don’t want to drink too much as I am still planning on getting some sleep on the next part of the journey. I am sitting there and see my colleagues that have travelled from Sydney arrive. There are 3 of them. We exchange stories on travel experiences so far and I am amused to find that one of my colleagues sat next/behind a guy that was absolutely plastered and drank drink after drink after drink. We then proceed to the departure area. I am only in The Pier just over an hour.

Posted by Blue Teddy 20:45 Comments (0)

Insomniac Blue Ted

4am and wide awake and the shoe dilemma.

overcast 4 °C

It's 4am, I can't sleep. I have been asleep, which is encouraging, just doesn't feel like I will go back to sleep with so much going on in my head.

Yes, No, Maybe. Blah, I have no idea.

I'd like to go to work now and do a full days work and finish early, but that won't happen.

Tea is the answer!

Have I thought of everything I will need while I'm away?

Other than the 'must be packed' things, I guess if there is something that I do need while I am away, I will just have to source over there. I am not going to any 3rd world countries. I am travelling to countries that have been in existence much much longer than the country I live in.

I am no Imelda Marcos, but I do like shoes. I have a few pair, lots by some standards, and a minimal amount by other standards. But how many pairs of shoes would be acceptable to take on a 5 week trip for work and pleasure?

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The options!

I need to take a pair of boots. I am heading into cold weather, with the likelihood it will be wet in some places. Now the dilemma arises when I think, which ones? I have a black pair and a brown pair, exactly the same boots, other than the colour. I have a red pair as well, but the heel on them is too high for walking around in on a daily basis. The red boots are very sexy boots, but not practical boots, so I'll cross the red boots off the list. I guess my decision is, which colour boots am I more prepared to live without on my return if I end up wearing them a lot in inclement weather and they are ruined. I'm going to take the black boots. Black is a more practical colour. Maybe, I will think a bit more on that one today. Wait, I can't. I am finishing packing everything in my case this morning, as I won't be coming back here after work. I'm heading straight to Shepparton to have my hair cut. Ok, Black it is! Now, other shoe requirements while away.

Shoes to wear going out. Will I be going out? There are two pairs to choose from, pewter coloured and black. The black are very nice and get comments on. People love the pewter ones. Hmmmm, will I want some kind of variety? I think I will take both pair. I will probably regret that decision and think, you fool, you've trundled around Europe with 2 pairs of shoes, when one would suffice. It's ok, a little self deprecation won't hurt and won't be the first I've dealt myself over time.

Runners, sneakers, whatever they are called. I call them runners, but I guess I won't be running and if we got technical, the person that runs that wears shoes on their feet should be called the runner. Sneakers always conjures up images in my head of shoes that someone who sneaks around would wear. I'm not a sneaker around type person. People generally know I'm coming. I'm not generally someone who wears the aforementioned shoes with jeans, but I'm a jeans type person. Aaaaaah, such dilemmas.

By the way, overnight television is disgraceful. Do people really buy these products? Anyway, back to the real problem here, my shoes!

I have other shoes that I would probably prefer to wear while walking around all day, but that's just from an asthetic view, not from a practical view. The runners are leather, which will be far more practical. It's odd that I'm worried about the look of runners when I will probably be taking pictures of Blue Ted at some of the most well known tourist icons in the world. I'm sure people will probably look at me oddly while doing that, rather than look at me oddly for the shoes I'm wearing. Move on Bernie, you know the answer to your dilemma. You are taking your runners and you will wear them. (That was the little voice in my head responding. The little voice in my head is related to the little man in the fridge). I need a little man of my own, but that's another story and not one I'm ready to expand on right now. The next 5 weeks could be quite interesting interacting through a blog.

Thongs! the rubber shoe shodding variety, not the small pieces of material that is worn a little higher than where one wears shoes!. Which ones do I take? Again, I have a black pair and a brown pair. I see a trend happening here.
Why do I buy the same thing in black and brown? Will I even need thongs? Yes, I will wear them on the long haul flights, so I can take them off easily and let my feet breathe. There are times when I feel claustrophobic when I can't take my shoes off. I will also probably wear them in Hong Kong on the last stop of my journey. Black ones are hopping in the case. Hmmmmm black boots and black thongs.

That's it! Oh, and my slippers. I will pack my slippers, they are comfortable and there will be times when I just want to curl up somewhere (if there is somewhere to curl up) and just veg out, write my blog and have cosy toes.

And the winners are!!

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Ok, shoes sorted. Now just to put them in the case without changing my mind.

I lost a glove! I have/had a pair of beautiful black leather gloves. They were living in the console of my car, neatly folded. I decided to bring them inside and leave them ready for packing. I 'thought' I had done that. I then went for a walk to the supermarket and found one of my gloves on the footpath outside my house. I brought that glove inside, but didn't consider the other glove till later, when I got back from the supermarket. It was then that I discovered that the glove I had found on the footpath, was the only glove I had. So what happened to the other glove? Did both pairs land on the footpath and someone walking past saw both gloves and only decided to take one glove? Did a large bird come along and decide that a leather glove would make a perfect lining for a nest. It would have had to have been a very large bird, as a leather glove isn't something that you would assume could be easily transported by beak. I have searched everywhere inside my house that it could possibly be and it just doesn't exist! I have a left leather black glove, without knowing where it's partner is. I hope the other glove isn't sad and lonely somewhere. So I now need to try and buy a new pair of gloves before I go. My only option for that is tomorrow morning in Shepparton. I don't like woollen gloves as they feel like they smother my hands. The leather gloves just let your hands breathe, while keeping them warm.

Haha, the more I write this blog, the more I realise I'm somewhat of a crazy and my quest for having the courage to talk to the man, might make him run away. Oh well, I am who I am. Please don't run away. Do you even know I exist? LOL.

Well that was an interesting interlude. I took the photo of the shoe options, and then removed the shoes that I had previously said I was taking. I then looked at what was left and realised had the left the brown boots in the photo and not the black boots. I guess I am now taking the brown boots.

I am one crazy woman!

It's now almost 5.30am. I'm going to turn this off, get my shower, check the suitcase and close it!

Posted by Blue Teddy 11:22 Archived in Australia Tagged packing Comments (0)

The farewell dinner!

Sharing a meal with an amazing group of friends and colleagues

rain 11 °C
View Paris and Beyond on Blue Teddy's travel map.

The farewell dinner took place at Rinaldo's in Wangaratta. There was laughter, there was embarassment, there was something else going on that I hope I understood and was on the same wavelength, but who knows, we humans are a funny lot!

There was Desmond, Maree, Karen, Judy, Julie, Garry and myself - all fabulous people, if I do say so myself.

Discussions ended up around my obsession with my pillows on my bed and my affection for an inanimate object, named Teddy. The discussion then led to me writing a blog of my trip for all to read, so here I am. Thanks Garry for the blog name. By the way, your thoughts about kidnapping teddy while I was gone has inspired me to take him! I will need something to keep me company on cold, dark, wet nights through Europe.

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In 2 sleeps I am heading off on an adventure of a lifetime. For some it will be bleh, it's only an overseas trip, what's all the fuss about? For me it is a privelige to be given this opportunity. I have been given the chance to travel to Paris for a conference that I was chosen to attend. I am also extremely lucky to be travelling Business Class.

After the conference, I am spending 4 nights in Paris exploring, and visiting places like the Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versaille, The Louvre and whatever else takes my fancy. I am then off to Vienna where I will be most disappointed if I don't get to taste Weiner Schnitzel (you have to say that with a very Germanic Austrian accent) and then I want to find somewhere that serves Apple Strudel (also said in the aforementioned accent). I have been told that I must spend one morning at the Sacher hotel and experience the Sacher Torte. Sounds like I'm going to eat my way through Europe!

After Vienna, I fly to Zurich and then travel through the Swiss Alps by train, ending up in Milan. No, I'm not into coiture fashion labels and fancy pieces of clothing, I'm going to the football!! Yes, yes, I'm hearing you Karen groaning. 'Football????? you stupid fool' 'Why on earth would you want to go to a stupid football game?' Because I can!!!! I'm going to watch AC Milan vs Real Madrid play at San Siro stadium. For Karen's sake, I will explain. AC Milan is an Italian team and Real Madrid is a Spanish team and they are playing in the Champions League in one of the biggest football stadiums in the world! And I will be one of 85000 people witnessing the game.

I am then off to London and Dublin for 10 days to spend time and see family. I am really looking forward to that part.

Then it's off to Hong Kong for 4 days to shop, get some jewellery made and have a pamper day before coming home.

Other than the flights, the accommodation and a hazy sketch in my head of what I want to do I have no plans!

If I get to somewhere and it's raining, I may end up on a train somewhere, just enjoying the scenery.

I love watching people, I love interacting with people, I love meeting people.

In the words of someone wise, You're such an extrovert! Yes, I am, but I can also be quite shy in certain situations. I will back off and miss out on opportunities for an intimate encounter with an individual. Quite contradictory I know, but that's just how I work. I so can't make the first move! Rah!

Wow, look where we ended up! Almost stripped bare and laid out...metaphorically speaking of course.

So yes, Blue Ted is coming on the adventure with me. Blue Ted will probably appear in pictures. Blue Ted will be the conduit that keeps this blog together. I will miss my 14 pillows while I am away, they have become part of what makes me tick.

I will miss my children (all adults mind you) Matt, Jacqui and Clint. I will miss Marc and Kyz. I will miss the most adorable little girl in the world, Zara. She is 10 1/2 months old and she has brought such amazing joy into my world. Nothing compares to having a grandchild to love and spoil (yes Marc, I will always spoile her!)

I will miss my work colleagues. Some are more than colleagues and amazing friends as well. Karen, Judy, Lexi, the two Debs, Mark and Maree. We make a great HR team! I will miss the new colleagues I have got to know and work with in the short time I have been at Benalla.

Saturday 3.30pm Tullamarine, here I come!

Posted by Blue Teddy 05:46 Archived in Australia Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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