France Back in France!

August 10th

It's been over 35 years since we were last here, when we lived in Germany for three years (USAF).

This trip all started with an very early morning on August 10th. Waking up at 3:00am, we caught a shuttle to the Phoenix airport. Arriving at PHX, we had to present our passport, proof of our COVID vaccinations, and a form letter from France where we would confirm we hadn't been in contact with anyone with COVID. We had already pre-filled this form letter out from the French Interior Ministry's website. Then it was a four hour wait until our plane left for Dallas, TX.

In Dallas, we had 90 minutes to transfer planes. I really hate the Dallas airport, as its very huge and I usually have to change terminals for the next flight. Same hassle as usual, but they had changed the gate for our 2nd flight. We almost ran through the airport, but made our 2nd flight with 10 minutes to spare. Phew! This flight was pretty nice. They served a free dinner and breakfast on the flight. I hadn't had a free meal on a flight for decades! What made Connie even happier, was the free wine! The 11 hour flight from Dallas to Paris, France was grueling, but watching movies helped pass the time. Neither of us can sleep well when flying. The flight wasn't full which allowed the nice gentleman to move to another seat allowing Larry and extra room.

Our fears of knowing if we would have problems getting into Paris were unfounded. They checked our passports, and that was it. They never asked for our proof of COVID vaccination or the prepared statement form. Not even a customs check. it was easy!

 August 11th

Arriving in Paris

Then the worst part of the trip (hopefully that's the worst) happened. Our flight arrived in Paris at 9:00am on Aug. 11th (Paris time), but we weren't allowed to pickup our rental motorhome until 3:30pm. We had a 6 1/2 hour wait, stuck at the airport. All of the restaurants and bars were closed in the Paris airport, and we were thirsty. We tried to find out of the motorhome rental had a lounge we could wait in, but we're told there "probably wasn't". Sounds like we talked to the call center and not the exact location in Paris. After a couple hours being very uncomfortable in the Paris airport, we tried to get a taxi. Even if we waited outside, it would be cooler, fresh air with different scenery. We were shoved into a taxi, only to be told this wasn't the right taxi. We only needed to go 11 miles. We finally found the "right" taxi. We arrived at Indie Campers, our motorhome rental company, a few hours before our scheduled pickup time.

 We received a friendly greeting and since they knew we were exhausted, we were soon told to go lay down on the couch in the manager's office. Later, we were informed there's a problem with our rental motorhome. OH NO!!! We had rented their largest motorhome (only 23 feet long), and it was the only one they had available. Luckily, the problems were minor. The shower curtain was missing and the bathroom door wouldn't latch shut. We could live with these issues. They asked us to stop by a Knaus dealer (the manufacturer) and have them repaired. They would reimburse us the bill and give us a discount refund. We agreed, since we didn't have much of a choice. This was our transportation and hotel for the next 31 days, and it was the only one they had.

We loaded up and were getting ready to leave when I couldn't get out of the motorhome. We were locked in! I couldn't figure out how to open the "habitation" door. I crawled around and got out via the cab door. Asking for help, I felt like an idiot. They came out to show me, but I didn't feel like an idiot anymore. The door lock from the inside was busted! You could open the door from the outside, but not from the inside. Again, they said just have the dealer repair this, as well as the other problems. Huh? We weren't very happy, but still didn't have much of a choice. The three issues are inconvenient, but nothing that would prevent us from traveling.

We cautiously made our way across Paris to the campsite (they don't call them campgrounds here). We had a three night "booking" at Camping Du Paris. We wanted electric the first nights as we got used to the motorhome. Although we were nervous driving in France, we arrived safely (our GPS helped a great deal). We were assigned our "pitch", which ended up pretty small. We were within feet of our neighbors on both sides. We were safe and settled in for a couple days in Paris

 August 12th

We had a 9:00am booking to visit the Louvre Museum on Aug. 12th. We had planned to take a shuttle from the campsite to the bus station, but the first shuttle didn't leave until 9:00am. Our Louvre booking was only valid until 9:30am, so we used Uber for the first time. I like Uber! It was easy and it went smoothly. I think it's also a bit cheaper than taking a taxi.

Visiting the Louvre got off to a slow start, as we couldn't find our way around. It's a huge museum! After awhile, we figured out where we were and how to read the provided map. We visited several rooms, mainly viewing French and Italian art from the 1300's to the 1600's. Of course, viewing Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" was a must. We're not much into art, but wow! The craftsman and details of the antique furniture, tapestry's, sculptures and paintings is astonishing!

 We were "walked" out and tired, especially since my leg muscle has been getting painful lately. We purchased tickets to ride the "BotaBus", which is a hop-on hop-off boat that goes up and down a section of the Seine river. It makes 9 stops at the various attractions. It was an easy way to get around town, without a lot of walking. We stopped at the Eifel tower a couple times, but didn't go up. We've been to the top before. We also stopped at the Notre Dame, but it's all walled off being renovated after its big fire years ago. Then it was an Uber ride back to the motorhome.

Connie enjoyed getting a fresh baguette and croissants each morning. She especially enjoyed a bottle of wine each night while we relaxed with some cheese and crackers.

Self-serve Pastries at Aldi's
Eifel Tower
Arch de Triumph Le Carusel
Notre Dame
Eifel Tower
Eifel Tower

 August 13th

The next day, August 13th, we had a 10:00am booking for Versailles. We decided to drive there ourselves instead of the $50 round-trip bill for an Uber. We didn't have any problems finding Versailles, but getting parking for our 7 meter motorhome was another issue. They would only allow us in on one specific parking lot. This is where the problems came in. We couldn't find this specific lot! We drove around in circles and finally found it. Not because of the lack of signs, but because I recognized it from photos on Google.

It was a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to Versailles. We get there around 11:00am and knew our booking time had ended at 10:30am. We hoped they would still recognize our prepaid tickets, since they had (technically) expired. We got in line and realized I forgot a mask. All of the attractions are required to verify your COVID vaccination and you are required to where a mask. Since my leg was really hurting, I wasn't looking forward to a round trip back to the motorhome, let alone walking around Versailles. I told Connie to go in without me. Luckily, they accepted her ticket, even though she was 30 minutes late.

Earlier, when we arrived at Versailles, I noticed our Dometic refrigerator wasn't working on propane (gas, as it's referred to here). The fridge automatically switched to 12volt battery when driving, 230volt electric when plugged into shore power, and gas at all other times. It wasn't working on gas either automatically or if I manually switched it to gas. No fridge when not on electric was going to be a BIG problem for us! We don't plan to use campsites very often, as there's a good system of free and low-priced motorhome spots all over Europe. Most of these don't have electric. If they do, it's only for an hour at a time to charge your coach batteries.

After I hobbled back to the motorhome, I tried to solve the non-working fridge. No luck. We HAD to have the fridge working on gas. I then planned to return to Indie Campers for them to either fix it, or give us another motorhome. I preferred our 7 meter motorhome, as we wanted to experience this size. This is the size and type we "may" purchase in the near future. If we had to, we'd accept a campervan from Indie Campers, as long as everything worked.

Connie returned after only a couple hours. She wasn't very Impressed with Versailles, and it was very crowded. She did return with lunch, bringing some delicious desserts. Oh! I forgot to mention another HUGE problem we had that popped up last night. Our computer stopped working! I believe it's related to the power supply. The computer's power supply is rated for 230 volts, so I used it with just an adapter for the European plug. I guess this didn't work, so it drained the computer's battery. I had brought with us a small 120 volt inverter, to convert 12 volts to 120 volts. But this method didn't work either. I was guessing the power supply is toast.

After leaving Versailles, we planned to stop at an Office Depot to purchase a 230 volt power supply for my laptop. Connie also wanted to visit a Super Marche, which is a large grocery store we'd read about. Unfortunately, when we got to both of these stores, they were near downtown Paris with no parking for our motorhome. I just wanted to get out of the traffic safely! Back at the campsite, we got to unwind and relax with some more wine and cheese.

 August 14th

On Saturday, August 14th, we left our campsite and found another Office Depot in the suburbs with room to park our motorhome. But they didn't have the power supply I needed. They sent us to a nearby store called Boulanger, which is a general appliance store. They had what we needed. Everyone has been very kind to us. Here, they even let me test out the new 230 volt power supply to see if that was the problem. It was! We were connected again, once we had electric and could charge up the computer. I also wanted to stop at a huge sporting good chain store I read about, called Decathlon. We found one and started walking around. Unfortunately, my leg was in bad pain again and I had to call it quits on this store (for now). Our next stop was the most important stop of the day. Back to Indie Campers for the fridge that won't work on gas!

Luckily, they worked on it for 20 minutes and got it working. It appears they hadn't properly connected the gas bottle. The stove worked on gas okay, but there wasn't enough pressure for the fridge (so they say). Regardless of the reason, the fridge was working properly now. Yippee! We're free to roam to the country with a properly working refrigerator.

Free Aire in Saint Imoges
1 hour of electric for 2 Euros

Our destination for the night was to France's Champagne region. We spent the night in a free "Aire" (I'll explain what an Aire is in another blog) near Saint Imoges We could get an hour's worth of electric for €2 ($2.40 US). This allowed us to charge up all of our tablets, phones, and the computer. Dumping was free. We spent the evening catching up on website and email.

August 15th

This brings us to today, Sunday, August 15th. We explored the Champagne region, looking at all of the vineyards and wineries. We thought about touring the cellars and caves of Moët and Chandon, but my leg wasn't up to walking for any distance yet. We ended up at another free Aire in the town of Mutigny. We did a short walk among the grape vines and visited Le Sentier Du Vigneron for a couple glasses of Champagne. We couldn't visit this region without tasting the goods. At the Aire, again we charged up the electronics for €2 ($2.40 US) for an hour. 

Connie just reminded me that I didn't mention the heat. It's hot here! It's been around 31°C (88°F), but feels much hotter. Not many motorhomes here have air conditioning, except when driving. Besides, we would need a campsite with enough electricity for all day if we had a coach air conditioner.

Next up, we're heading for France's historic Maginot Line.