Tuesday, April 11, 2006

France With a 14 Year Old - 2006 - Getting There

For the record: We were in New England for a funeral in February of 2006, and chatting with our granddaughter Emily, who was 13 at the time. She told us that she was studying French in school and had to do a project on the Eiffel Tower before the school year was over. With mouth engaged before brain, we suggested going there during her spring break. Em quickly agreed (no fool she), and the rest is history.

Tuesday April 12, 2006 - Richmond Airport

We are on the way to Boston and beyond!

RIC is a great airport, and like the city it was named after, still a largely unknown, or overlooked jewel. It is conveniently located just 20 minutes from our house, yet we hear the distant whine of NASCAR racers from Richmond International Raceway as often as we hear jet takeoffs or landings (which isn't often). We left the house at 5:39 am and were waiting for the parking lot shuttle bus by 6:00. While waiting we met a nice family (parents with four children)who were going to Memphis/New Orleans. One of the kids was a precocious little chatterbox who told us about the trip before the adults got on; pretty funny. This allowed us (well me) to sound like we knew the family forever and had somehow divined their plans. This amazed the parents. Simple minds, simple pleasures.

Airborne it is a cool, clear, perfect flying weather day with no wind and visibility forever. Richmond sits astride the James river, and we can clearly see the state capital, the fan, and even the rapids sparkling in dawn's light. Climbing to our cruising altitude it is amazing to me how close we are to the middle peninsula, and the eastern shore. What were they (whoever they were) thinking when they made that little strip of land part of Virginia? Looks like we will fly up the coast this morning. Great.

New York city is a wonder. The empty space in the battery is the first thing that catches my eye. It is hard not to think about it.

I'm normally on the wrong side of the plane but not this morning. I have a sunrise beautiful view of Rhode Island nestled so perfectly in a sparkling Narragansett Bay. (Easy to understand why Providence Plantations is never mentioned when inaccurately referring to the state.)Each of the three bridges that I know so well are clearly visible, and from here I could almost pick out the houses in which my three children live with their families.

Even Boston looks good and we are looking forward to seeing Emily and Mike (my son in law) for lunch at Jeveli’s in East Boston. Mike took the morning off to drive Emily to the airport from Mashpee, MA. We are fortunate to have him as part of the family. A good guy with a heart of gold. They picked us up at our terminal right on time and after the very short drive we sat down to an excellent lunch. Em is 13 and will be 14 on the 5th of May. It is an interesting age. Just on the cusp of adulthood, she switches between child and teen momentarily. Now she is a little nervous (her first time away from home, but putting up a good front).

It is our first experience with Air Canada. Given all the travel Kat and I had done for both business and pleasure, we had never flown under the sign of the maple leaf. My opinion is we haven't missed anything. We had a not very friendly Air Canada agent not help us get seat assignments. Kat asked for and called the toll free Air Canada number and we were assigned seats together. We picked AirCan for the low price and that required a stop in Montreal before heading to Paris.

We arrived in Montreal around 6:30 pm, and felt we had already put in a long day. Kat got about 2 hours sleep last night (last minute packing) and I was still working on last minute arrangements late into the evening. We planned the trip using Trip Advisor, and I have to say that all the reviews and information were helpful and accurate. This is the first time in years we had total responsibility for another human being, so our normal travel habits had to change. When by ourselves we usually have no set itinerary, letting whim take us wherever it wants. This time we have reservations. Weird. Emily got 9 hours of sleep last night.

We had a light pizza dinner at the airport. In the first (of many) instance of glad we have Em with us, she saved the label from her Canada Dry ginger ale bottle - "We are in Canada, you know." She is very funny sometimes.

None of us got much sleep on the plane but we were all in good spirits as we waited in the cool/cold morning air for our shuttle driver. The call and pickup went OK and we shared the minivan with a family of 5, 3 boys, rude husband, and wife with whiskers (sorry about that but I had less hair on my face, and I've got a moustache) who had NO personality.

Our trip to the Hotel International was slow, due to an accident on the Perpherique, but when isn't there one. I think this is 3 times in a row. Since we couldn’t check in until 2:00 we left our bags with Houda, our very nice hotel manager, and metro-ed to Le Tour, had our first crepes which took the edge off, walked some then dragged ourselves back to the hotel, precisely at 2:00.

The International is a clean, old hotel with a tiny lift. We packed ourselves and our suitcases into an elevator designed for one person, and got the first inkling that Em didn't like small spaces. I think she held her breath to the fourth floor. We left a wake up call with Houda for 6:00 and were asleep by 2:10.

The day had not ended, but this page has.

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