It’s huge. It makes the price of the Paris Museum Pass worth every penny, as you bypass all the lines and walk right through.
Saturday December 19
Today begins the museum orgy.
Since the Pantheon looms right over our apartment, we visit in the morning to tour and purchase a four-day Paris Pass. Without going into the details of each museum (you can read all about those on the Internet), we are now obligated to get our money’s worth by visiting at least three museums a day for the next four days.
However, one aspect of the Paris Pass that cannot be quantified is the opportunity to go through a special line, sort of like TSA Pre-Check. We sail through the entrance while others wait in line to pay.
Unfortunately, Parisian museums do not have bistros, so after a few hours of culture, we are really thirsty. Time to walk back for beers on Blvd St. Germain.
We pay a visit to the Spanish Consulate all the way across town. Pourquoi? you may ask. There is a story here, which we have saved until now.
The day before we left New Orleans was filled with errands and goodbyes, so that it was 3:30 p.m. before I could get home to print out boarding passes for our flight.
To my shock and horror, the boarding passes printed out with a legend at the top saying “visa required.” I had never seen that before.
My first instinct was to call the local French Consulate, who was most friendly and said that we didn’t need any sort of visa as long as we were not to be in France more than 90 days. That is true, but we would be in Europe altogether more than 90 days. She didn’t seem concerned.
Meanwhile I also sent an e-mail to the French Consulate in Houston, where visa are actually issued. That official called back and said we can only stay in Europe for a total of 90 days. Otherwise, we need a long-term visa, which takes weeks to obtain.
Checking the web, Google confirms that visits to the so-called Schengen Zone (the EU) are limited to 90 days without a visa. Feeling foolish and naive, I called Delta to change our return date to within the 90 day period so we would be able to leave. We can settle the issue once we get to Europe.
Delta accommodated, albeit with a $600 change fee.
But the new boarding passes only say “passport required” this time.
Thus our visit to the Spanish Consulate in Paris way up on Blvd., Malesherbes.
There, a very friendly official led us to a back room to talk to an equally friendly official, who says she cannot issue a visa but doesn’t really think one is necessary anyway, since we are already here. She advised us to plan for a full month in Barcelona, but check with the local police when we arrive. All pretty casual. She doesn’t see a problem.
Encouraged, if not completely convinced, we walked down Blvd. Wagram to the Arc de Triomphe, where a line of at least six police cars stand guard along the street in front of the roundabout. Each car has at least two officers, all dressed in flak jackets and carrying large weapons. We later saw a group of four soldiers in camo and automatic weapons enter a bistro as if they are in attack mode. Since there was no news otherwise, we assume they were practicing.
Paris is on alert.
Although Paris and France are exceedingly secular, lots of stores display holiday lights. In a small park in the shadow of Notre Dame cathedral is a modest Christmas market offering the usual scarves, cheeses and mulled wine (vin chaud). We will visit the main attraction on Champs Elysee over the weekend.
A mostly uneventful flight from New Orleans to Atlanta to Paris under the same Delta flight number. No matter–we had to transfer to another plane three terminals away in Atlanta. The flight leaves New Orleans at 12:15 p.m. and arrives in Paris at 6 a.m. That’s a fairly quick ride to France, because it is only 11 p.m. our body time when we land.
Charles de Gaulle Airport to central Paris at 7 a.m. is peak rush hour. It took an hour and a half through solid traffic in the dark on the A1 into town. Dawn in Paris at this time of the year, just days before the soltice, comes no earlier than 8 a.m. It is a function of the latitude (49 N) and longitude (2 E). the days are short in the winter, but Paris on Central European Time is about the same longitude as London, which is an hour earlier. And Spain is also on CET, which makes their days even later.
Our garret apartment on the third floor (fourth by American standards) is accessed by a very narrow and steep stairway. Thankfully we will only go up this way with luggage once.
Inside is like living on a boat. We have done this before, but not with winter clothes.
We are only a week and a day from leaving on the grand adventure. I think we have covered all the details of bills and the daily chores of life at home. Over the weekend, we showed our tenant how to service the pool, which is pretty easy in the winter. I even practiced packed to see if I can get all my stuff in one piece of luggage. (I think I can.) But know this–something will come up this week. It always does.
Despite the horror of the attacks, we are still leaving December 15. We can’t let the barbarians intimidate us or stop us from carrying on with our lives. Otherwise, they win.