I find myself once again sitting in the rain in Northern France. This spring is a wet one… We left sunny La Palud Verdon to finish up the trip in Ceüse, where we are hoping the weather might be better.
Sam and Keith had arrangements to meet with Millet, so we: Roman, Beck, Whitney, Sam, Keith and I all piled in to catch the scenery from our overstuffed Renault Kangoo.
As we waited for Stephan, the Millet exporter, next to the South entrance toll we realized that the car next to us was stripped and robbed of every valuable possession. Petty theft tends to be a constant concern, especially when everything of value is neatly packed in a portable bag. Stephan showed up and hurried us along to our guest chambers, which were in the basement of a very modern home. We were elated to have our own separate rooms and bathrooms — no more commuting from the gîte’s room to the public toilets/showers. It was a small luxury that seemed like heaven.
It ended up that we were the first guests in the rental property, so it was a big to do… The elderly couple was overcome with nervous excitement. We were served aperitifs and quiche over a toast to… toasting their bed and breakfast. Hungry and ready to carry on with the evening we headed to the city center. Old cobble streets lined with restaurants, high fashion stores, galleries, business offices, flower shops, bakeries, chocolateries and waterways throughout the city surrounding an old jailhouse.
Annecy was a charming city filled with great rainy day entertainment, but it was short lived. We spent our day touring around between specialty shops looking for specific teas, jerseys, toys, chocolates, cafes, and of course some Kebabs. We finished the afternoon changing tickets at the Air France office. With all business and pleasure aside we headed to Sigoyer, in hopes of getting some face time in with the pristine limestone of Ceüse. The weather wasn’t giving us any breaks and we were shortly planning to leave for Marseille.
Luckily Micah Dash and Johnny Copp unexpectedly dropped by our gite on their way to Chamonix, and they said the Cascade was climbable rain or shine. Granted they are alpinists… We decided to take a chance and finish off our trip as we had planned in Cese. We passed the next five days climbing in Cascade, Demi loon, and Berlin. We made the most out of the conditions and enjoyed the climbing.
Sam, Beck and Whitney were flying back to the States out of Marseille, so Keith, Roman and I got a ride into the Gap train station with friends John and Spencer. We were on the red-eye leaving Gap at 21:50 and arriving in Paris early morning like clockwork at 6:45. We had no idea where we would want to stay, but we had a myriad of sights that we wanted to see and a little over twenty-four hours to fit it all in. Roman was staying at a hostel off the blue line, so to make touring a little more convenient we went along with it.
We weren’t able to stay with Roman at the Friends’ Hostel, but we were just a few blocks away at Nations Hotel. No matter, we wouldn’t be spending much time at the hotel. Our first stop was the Arc du Triumph. An impressive monument built for the return of Napoleon after a battle, now a huge part of the city center. We took one of the twelve streets from the Arc du Triumph to the Eiffel tower. We of course made time for coffee and a morning snack. Passing some high security procession. Due to our early arrival we had to return to our hotel to check into our room.
Riding the Metro was a novelty for me that I hadn’t even begun to get sick off. It was casual and I was able to observe people passing by. We walked countless miles ambitiously squeezing the most of Paris in transit to Lisbon. The Louvre and the art district took up most of our day. We sat from a café watching the beautiful people in this most beautiful part of town, living as we all do. Our hotel was in one of the rougher sectors of the city, but no matter to me. It was raw and fresh in its individuality with a diverse background of people, and it was the city experience I was looking to find. Our hotel had a curfew of one a.m. this we didn’t think would prove to be a challenge, but it was.
On our excursion to the Arc during mid-day we discovered that we could go to the top and catch the scene-scape of the city, so we went back for sunset photos. Keith was as inspired as ever and we hustled around so he could capture the sights. I was exhausted from the hike to and from Ceause over the last five days, the spotty night of sleep on the train, and the transit to the hotel with all of our gear. All I could think of was sleeping, but I managed to sit in front of the Eiffel tower for the twinkling night-show. What must have begun sometime around midnight.
Running on empty and with little time to spare we grabbed hotdogs and crepes from a cart near the tower and were on our way with little time to get us back to our hotel. I of course insisted that we would make it by way of Metro and that I wanted to see the people of the night. Keith carrying thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment humored me, but later started stressing that we would miss our curfew. Exhausted but full from the amusement park concessions we made our way on the metro in a trance like state back to our hotel with just minutes till we were locked out.
Tight time frames seem to be a specialty of mine and this was only the first narrowly missed event here in Paris. After a night of sleep we met up with Roman for breakfast before Keith and I had to leave for the Charles de Gulle airport. We didn’t have our flight information on hand and we ended up in the wrong terminal, so we started the hustle to our correct terminal. It wouldn’t have been a problem to reach the destination but Terminal D was shutdown due to a security breach and it was enroute to our terminal. We ran through the maze of corridors finally making our way to the Easy Jet counter. With little time to spare and a line stretching through the ropes we were luckily pulled out and put into the express check-in.
All stress aside we waited for our plane. After a short delay we boarded and relaxed. I was recently turned on to the series The Office, which also happens to be my mothers favorite sitcom, so I tuned out to the world and let the duration of the flight pass blissfully. Once in Portugal everything seemed to unwind and the charms of life and living settled into our being. Leo a friend of mine I had climbed with in Spain and Portuguese local was waiting with friend and fellow American Chris Weidner.
All of us Americans were travel worn but excited first time visitors to Portugal. We didn’t set off to see the sights but to organize the gear, grab provisions for five days of camping in Sagres and days filled with the finest of sea cliff climbing. Despite the fatigue I was elated to be with my friends in this Country of great patriotism with a culture even more relaxed than Spain. An immediate feeling of home… The only regret that was turning me sour was that I didn’t leave the rainy weather in France sooner!