Yes, getting there is part of the fun, but very few space a travelers fly solely for the terminal wait and in-flight experience (some do!). In the case of our recent autumn adventure, the ultimate objective was France – a week in Paris, and then two to three weeks roaming around the Normandy Beaches, Brittany, the Loire valley, and Bordeaux. Merveilleux!
The France portion of our adventure began the day we arrived at Ramstein. We met up with some new friends from the Space a Travelers of the USA Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/325711150854371/) outside Romano’s Macaroni Grill, at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Complex (KMCC) lodging/shopping/dining mall across the street from the Ramstein Air Terminal. “D” and “MA” were on their way home from Paris, and we spent some time chatting about where to go/what to see and do. We had been having some difficulty securing Parisian lodging with the usually very reliable Air BnB, probably due to trying to secure reservations at the last minute. As it turned out, our friends had just had a wonderful experience at the Hotel des Nations St Germaine (http://www.paris-hotel-des-nations-st-germain.com/en/) and recommended it highly. Within walking distance to several sights and located between two metro lines, it sounded perfect! We checked it out and booked it the moment we got back to our room.
The next morning, Sunday, we caught a taxi to the Ramstein train platform and within a few minutes were on our way – 3 hours, via Landstuhl and Saarbrucken, to Paris’ Gare Est. From there we caught another taxi to our hotel. BTW – ALWAYS use the taxi queue! After our long flight and train ride, we needed to stretch our legs, so we headed out to explore the neighborhood. The Pantheon is just up the hill, and there are lots of places to eat in the surrounding area. The Botanical Garden is a few blocks in the other direction, another plus.
The following week was nonstop go, go, go! Armed with a two-day Paris Museum Pass (http://en.parismuseumpass.com/) that got us free entry and front of the line privileges for most locations, and a couple of carnet packs of 10 metro tickets, we were able to go everywhere and do just about everything we wanted (the Orsay was closed due to a strike). Rick Steves’ walking tour podcast (https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/audio/audio-tours/paris) was a FABulous introduction to the Ille De La Cité, Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, and nearby sights along the Seine. The museum tour podcasts were also filled with interesting information. Of course we hit most of the high points, but we also spent time just wandering around the city enjoying the ambiance. Our philosophy is we’ll come back again, so we never feel obliged to have much of a checklist for tourist sights. I do have to say that sunset atop the Arc de Triomphe, watching the Eiffel Tower light up and flash, was a highlight, even in the rain. As was our Seine Dinner Cruise with Capitan Fracasse (http://www.lecapitainefracasse.com/en/?gclid=CN7M07HRhskCFZRefgodgv4JJA), on our last night in the city.
As with all good things, our time in Paris had to come to an end. We had previously arranged to rent a car from Gare de Lyon at the end of our Parisian holiday, so Sponsor left early Saturday morning to pick it up. Ahead of us, we had only to navigate the infamous traffic circle of hell at the base of the Arc de Triomphe in order to get out of Paris and on our way to the Normandy Beaches. I was a nervous wreck! We had the great fortune, however, to be passing through on a Saturday morning when all was relatively calm. Before we knew it, we were through, and on our way north!
Next time: Normandy and beyond.