Day 15: The TGV Back to Paris
Drive to historic Poitiers to board your sleek TGV train for the comfortable journey to Paris. En route to your hotel, stop for a photo of the Eiffel Tower. At night, why not try a French cabaret show? Hotel: Marriott Rive Gauche/Pullman Paris Bercy Centre, Paris. Buffet Breakfast.
So this day was largely just about taking the TGV high speed train back to Paris. The day started though with us having to go back to the hotel after making it five or ten minutes down the road. Mark made no comment of what had been forgotten and we were all speculating as we drove back. It turned out to be his main satchel and yeah, certainly can’t leave without that. First time in all my trips we’d had to turn back around after leaving a hotel, and it was certainly a surprise that it would be because the tour director forgot something!
At our first comfort stop at a truck stop, Joyce made a valiant effort to convey to Mark that the United States’ debt to GDP is even worse than France’s and that it’s not fair to so regularly and casually refer to France as broke. He… just didn’t seem to get it, claiming that ‘yes, but the United States has more economic credibility.’ Excuse me? Based on what? Based on crashing the world economy eight years ago and running full steam into doing it all over again? I couldn’t believe he said that, and his shrugging off the GDP fact. I really don’t understand his disdain for this great country that he is supposed to be enlightening us about.
Anyways. At this stop I saw a candy pizza which was more interesting than appetizing (though I would have eaten it all eventually if it had been gifted to me), but I also experimented with potato chips as I’m want to do. Earlier in the trip I had, uh… chips I can’t remember but they were interesting, and this day I got mustard and pickle flavoured chips and uh… another kind I can’t remember but which were less exotic. There were other interesting flavours there, but dammit I just had to know what mustard and pickle chips tasted like. And you know what they tasted like? Mustard and pickles. Not bad actually, neither flavour was too much as you could imagine they could be, since the flavouring was typically a little bland, but it was good in this context.
After that it was straight on to the train station. Apparently their bathrooms were closed so the only option there was the bus station next door which Joyce decided was unacceptable. Fortunately we were provided enough time for lunch and we availed ourselves, which also permitted a bathroom. We looked at the restaurant in the train station where Mark claimed there would be ‘a kind of buffet situation’ but when we asked the person in the restaurant who spoke no English, it was clear it was just a restaurant. So we went outside where he had also said there were several restaurants across the street.
We passed over a couple sit down restaurants and I asked how bout the counter kebab place? We both found it a good idea, having seen kebab places all over but never eating in one. I watched our stuff while Joyce went to the bathroom then went up to the counter to order. I saw kefte, something I really like when Joyce makes it at home, and ordered a kefte sandwich with fries and a can of Coke Zero. She asked a question I couldn’t understand, and then said ‘spicy or…’ and I said yeah sure, spicy. She then asked me another question I didn’t understand and I said, well, not TOO spicy. She crossed something out and then she informed me it would be brought out to me and to grab my pop out of the cooler.
When it came it was super good. Thin kefte patties with lettuce and tomato and sauce in a ninety percent cut piece of bread… or possibly in some kind of unleven bread, I can’t remember because we didn’t take pictures but it was damn good. So good Joyce went up and ordered another for herself after trying mine. The dip was a spicy mayo dalloped on the tray for me to dip my fries in. Good stuff. For some reason Joyce got a less spicy dip and used the rest of mine while I used what she’d gotten, which was also good. Joyce said she missed spice, and I reflected again that the best food I’d had in France was food from other cultures, Italian, Greek, not Middle Eastern.
Then it was time to board the train, and after waiting on the platform a bit, and after a train had rushed by us at a frightening speed, having been warned only by someone blowing a whistle, our train pulled up. I accidentally zigged when I should have zagged, and wound up down human flow from the car I was supposed to be in. There wasn’t enough space for me to go against the flow, so I had to wait until my being there was a sufficient jam to push my way back through several people and across the threshold between cars and into the proper one where Joyce and I were relieved to see each other again. We wound up sitting opposite the ugly Americans again, yay.
It was hot on the train, and the seats opposed each other so we were facing the Americans. The tables folded out in front of us, and Mark gave us our survey forms to fill out while on the train. I did mine dutifully but halfheartedly, complaining mostly about the egg pudding but largely praising Mark, and was done with it after adding my contempt for the tipping situation out of solidarity with Joyce. I then put on a podcast, let Joyce listen with the other earphone, and played God of War on my Vita.
When Joyce got up to go to the bathroom, I pulled out my fan from my bag up top and set it in front of me to keep cool on the hot bus, and when Joyce came back we switched seats as she’d asked if I’d mind doing since there was little leg room against the window side. There was however a little air coming out a vent, and a nice cool window.
We arrived, and Joyce swore it was where we had come into Paris when we’d taken the high speed train from London to Paris, but I was right, as I like to think I usually am, that this was in fact a different on. This was a domestic TGV train terminal, whereas from London we had arrived at a different Eurostar international terminal where we got our passports stamped.
Mark took off to find the bus, and I mused about him just never coming back and how long we would stand here in the terminal waiting before deciding to do something. But he did come back, and led us to the bus lot. We saw another trio of soldiers with large machine guns, and Ruth made a comment about how it made her feel safer. As I’ve described, it makes me feel the opposite of safe. If something happened I’d be at most risk from cross fire, and their perception of the need of such security scares me more than the treat which makes them perceive this need. Also, all shows of force like that are just for appearance, just to make people like Ruth FEEL safer, and that aspect of it kind of bothers me too.
So bus ride through Paris, stopping at the place where Napoleon is buried for our big group picture, even though it was billed that we’d have a group picture in front of the Eiffel Tower. Joyce and I were at least able to take some nice selfies in front of this building. After looking it up, ah yes, the building is ‘Les Invalides’, a military hospital for veterans established by Napoleon for his soldiers, but is now a military museum and has a church which is the burial site for some of France’s war heroes, most notably Bonaparte himself. I of course, took a picture of the guy taking our group picture.
Driving by some other building, maybe a campus or museum or something, I saw more soldiers patrolling. I heard on a podcast that anybody who goes to Paris now would really notice the difference from a few years ago as far as the security presence, and I do.
We then stopped in a place for a good view of the Eiffel Tower from a side we’d never seen it before. Of course the structure itself is exactly the same from all sides, but this location to view it from was new to us, and that was cool. Most of the trip we really lucked out with the weather, but now back in Paris it was rainy again.
Back at the same hotel, we were offered free drinks in the restaurant where we get our breakfast. It’s just a breakfast and lunch place, so now it was empty aside from us. It was nice and by now I was enjoying the wine and trying to taste the differences, but the people beside me kept sniping all the nuts put on the table.
We went up to our room, and settled in. I liked the look of several things on the room service menu, but couldn’t figure out where the actual restaurant in the hotel was that had these things. On my way out to the small grocery store where I’d figured out bonjour vs bonsoir, I stopped at the restaurant level of the hotel but only found the empty breakfast place and the fine dining place that didn’t open until seven.
Back in the room we waited until seven to go investigate, but eventually figured out that where we wanted to go was the bar on the ground floor that was also a restaurant, so we made our way there and sat down. On the way I posed on what Joyce tells me is a ‘fainting couch’.
I had onion soup which if I recall correctly also had the cheese on the bottom. Score? Now I can’t remember… and I had what looks like lamb with grilled vegetables. Whatever it was I remember it being very good, and I’m also pretty sure that I just had water after seeing the astronomical prices for beer, having had some already in my room, and having plenty still when we went back. Joyce had another croquet monsieur, apparently having quite enjoyed the one we had several days earlier. We don’t appear to have had dessert.
Joyce came with me back to the grocery store, oh that’s right, we just got some chocolate there for dessert, stuff I love, bars of Lindt chocolate, but crème brûlée and mint dark chocolate flavour. So good… We went back to the hotel room, had some of that, relaxed, and called it a day. We were only on the first floor, and earlier in the day I found that I could look down and see some youtes playing basketball in some kind of a gym