Tuesday, March 10th, 1992 (written in the waiting room at hospital on Wed. morning)
We both had a great night’s sleep. Out by 10 am…had coffee and juice at the bar in the hotel (30f) then by shuttle (courtesy) to airport for a days journey by train to Fontainebleau. First to Intre Air to set up some reservations for Thursday and Friday while we're at the airport.
We cannot get a return flight from Lourdes on Friday so set it up for next week. Must stay overnight. Only one flight in and one out daily for the “pilgrimage” as they call it. So we’re set for Renne on Thursday to start the trek to Mont St. Michel. Will be moving around for several days. Hotel has agreed to keep extra luggage while we’re gone.Then we were off to purchase Orly rail tickets. Finally got second class tickets for 47f each and while waiting for bus transport conversed with a nice young man who had spent a month in Nebraska as an exchange student. We started talking with him because he was smiling at our conversation so I asked him a question in English. He had stayed with a family in Nebraska in a city. Said they were very gracious while he was there. He was surprised that we felt France was expensive. Also talked about the difference in taste and consistency of food. He said that he’d found American food “watery” but that he had really enjoyed the meat. He wanted to talk politics with Jim but Jim didn’t want to. He left us when we arrived at the station at Rungee to catch our first train for our trip to Fontainebleau.
We went to Choisy le Roi…third stop, changed trains to then go four stops to south (sud) to Juvisy-sur-Orge. When we arrived we had to wait about twenty minutes for the next train to Corbeil. We were not sure if we could leave the station and still stay on our tickets so although we could see the town we stayed there. Split one granola bar. On the train to Corbeil Essonens we watch three kids get a ticket from the conductor. First time we’d seen someone without a ticket get caught. Everything is very automated but occasionally they check up on you. The scenes of the countryside are storybook quality. Many old homes, some so small you wonder how people live in them. Some yards were grassy but most were planted in gardens…these were their backyards that we were viewing from the train windows as we traveled south.
Again, another wait in Melun, but this time we decided to slip out around the building and walked several blocks in the town. We went into a camera shop and purchased two rolls of 135 mm of film (85f) to get more change so we could purchase a coke from the machine. The gate was half closed and when the street sweeper saw us slip back in he closed it all the way. So we split another candy bar and the coke and were on our way to Fontainebleau.
We arrived about 3:30 PM and had very little ideal where the Chateau was located. I suggested we take a taxi but Jim thought it was just a short walk. So, we started walking through the town. After a half hour I was tired, hungry and angry. Finally told Jim I’d had it and sat down on a bus bench. Finally a bus came by that said Chateau on the front and we got on. The bus trip was 7f. We were only half way there we found out. Standing and talking to the driver all the way was an old Italian man who eventually told us his whole family had gone to Brooklyn thirty years before. When we arrived we found the rooms were closed on Tuesday! But, the grounds were opened and we spent about half an hour there. Picked up a rock from the steps for a souvenir. Remember...I'm on my second day from surgery....and no pain medication except for aspirin! And by this time...STARVING!
We caught the bus back to the train station. Bought postcards and return trip tickets. 57f each. More expensive then the trip in. It didn’t leave until 5:40 PM. Needed to use the bathroom but found that it was a “unisex” one that only had a porcelain hole in the ground for a toilet. (My first experience with a "squat" toilet that is found everywhere...even in private homes...in France, China, Japan, Arabic Countries and elsewhere in the world...except for the USA! I don't think twice about using one now instead of waiting in line for the western one. Travel does teach one to be open to new things around the world!) It was filthy dirty so I didn’t even try to use it. Jim decided to stay on the same train when we arrived at Melun. After the train had already left the station I asked the woman about the destination…she said Paris. Great….we thought that we’d go to the next station and get off. Suddenly she said in excellent English, “No, it goes directly to Paris with no stops”! We were on the Express!
Plan two: I told Jim that I wanted to get a cab when we arrived in Paris; but he still wanted to do the adventure. So he started planning how to get from Paris to Orly by train. We ended up on the city bus. Missed the stop and walked in the rain for three blocks back and found the new station (oh, what I wouldn’t have given for a Big Mac. My thoughts as I saw a McDonalds across the street and then a cab) but on to the trains we went. We were very cold and wet by the time we got on the train. After two stops we realized we were going in the wrong direction. Got off and looked for a new way. A very nice person asked in English if we needed help and pointed us in the right direction. Finally back to Orly and another twenty-minute wait for the hotel bus. We decided to change and go downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner. It was now about 9 PM. Last meal had been the omelet in Monaco the day before. Oh yes...I still have a broken arm in a sling!
Everything seemed great to start with. But it went from bad to worst. The waiter taking the order seemed to know what he was doing but we were served by a boy who didn’t know who had ordered what. Jim had ordered beef and I had ordered white fish. They brought bread, wine and one plate of lox…raw salmon. Jim took it…I was expecting a salad. After twenty minutes I was crying…no food had arrived for me and I was literally furious…mad!!! Ready to go to my room! I finally asked the waiter why I wasn’t being served? He walked away without answering me and still no food. I asked Jim for the room key and was really going to leave or make a scene and what arrived….a repeat of Jim’s plate for me. It was terrible tasting and I only took a few bites. (Fortunately, over the years I've learned to be more open to International foods and have discovered that they are excellent and I enjoy savoring the variety of textures and flavors.)
Finally, after the evening was totally in shambles and Jim had finally admitted that I was causing him to be upset and that he was having difficulty keeping his cool…mine had been gone for an hour; he reminded me I was spoiling a $90.00 meal! The main course finally arrived and it was excellent. But then they asked if we wanted dessert. I had already been told my dinner included dessert. I had to remind him. He then looked at Jim and asked “café Monsieur? ”; never once asked if I’d like some. Two bites of dessert and we left…me crying all the way and Jim mad at me for it. He was asleep almost immediately and I took four more aspirin on top of two I’d taken at dinner and cried myself to sleep. Not the best of days. Cost of the ruined dinner was 480f including wine.
( Not all travel days end perfectly...so thought I'd leave this in to let you know that we do have our ups and downs when traveling!)