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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chartres and out of France

My hotel in Paris was the Royal Phare. Overall it was a nice value in a good area; small rooms, with an elevator where it was a challenge to fit one person with luggage. It was disappointing that wi-fi wasn't working in my room, but there was free table in the lobby to use it when I wanted to get to the Internet.

Their final help was that they were able to print my Air France boarding pass; my carry-ons weren't going to make the weight limit, so I wanted to have minimum contact with their staff.

I checked out and took the five-minute bus ride, on either line 82 or 92 from across from the hotel, to Gare Montparnasse. I succeeded in using one carnet during my stay, with one ticket having gone to waste where I could have made good use of it. At the station I took the escalator that turned out to go up two levels, when I wanted to get to the left luggage office on the level in between. There was a security check to enter the consigne, then the medium-sized lockers required €7 in coins, which fortunately I had. It was a little before 9, and the track number for my 9.33 train to Chartres wasn't showing. People stood below the big board waiting for their tracks to show; my track finally did.

I followed other people in learning the method of stamping the train ticket, and took the train, getting into the countryside, and it was a little late.

It was clear finding the way to the Cathedral. There was scaffolding in front, including the front interior, which I understand was a new state of things. It being Friday, chairs were cleared to expose the labyrinth on the floor, where many people were taking spiritual walks.

I joined the tour offered at noon by Malcolm Miller. He has written on the cathedral and conducted these tours for 53 years. It called for getting individual headsets so he could speak to the group at a normal voice. He conducts tours differently every time and is known for eccentricities; this tour covered some basics about the stained-glass windows as Bible commentary, in particular on putting the stories of Adam and Eve and the Good Samaritan together.

The tour was done at 1.15; there was a quick decision needed on whether to try to have a sit-down lunch before my train departure at 2.30. I found Tomate et Piment, a chain place I think, which looked like it could handle it. I wound up with a duck dish with teriyaki sauce, not quite the best good-bye to France, and also had time to stop for an ice cream cone.

The return train was full but I got a seat, getting some sleep too. The tickets were not checked in either direction. I picked up my bags from the locker, and found my way to the Air France bus to CDG airport, spotting it before I took the wrong impulse to cross the street. I boarded, paying the €16.50 fare, expecting it to leave on the hour but it left at 3.55. I had doubts about taking it in Friday afternoon traffic, but was told it wasn't such a big deal. Still, it took about 30 minutes to get the short distance to Denfert-Rocherau, then another stop at Gare de Lyon, and overall slow going. I was hoping I'd get to the airport in time to see the second half of the World Cup match; with a radio on my cell phone I could hear reports on it. The bus reached the first airport stop at 5.40, with some rain falling. I took a quick look at the last five minutes of the match at the bar nearest the stop, then went to the Sheraton, where I had planned to see more of it. When the postgame show ended and they hadn't taken my order, I left. If I'd taken the bus and RER, I would have gotten to the airport sooner, at a lower fare, but I could have been standing and uncomfortable, so there were benefits to taking the bus.

I went on to find the pier of Terminal 2F where my flight was departing. I try to understand that airport to be better prepared for it, but it was still chaotic. There was security (at least keeping my shoes on) and a full inspection of one bag. Then there was a crowded pier for that Friday's intra-Europe flights. I took a tall beer can from the bar, for €5.80.

The flight scheduled for 19.35 was delayed to 19.55, then 20.05. They blamed storms in the Paris area in its previous segments. Small sandwiches offered on board, arrival in Rome at 22.00, much darker there than Paris at that time. I thought "Why are we using a B gate, Air France moved to A?" then remembered what I've researched and posted about the airport; B is the concourse, and the terminal now goes by the number 1.

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