This is the first time in over a year that I've slept in a room with no air conditioning. Well, that is if you don't count the tent on the volcanic island of Krakatau, but then I did say room.
Yohana and I left the sultry climate of Indonesia two days ago and headed for a 3 day break in Paris. This would be our first stop before a couple of weeks in the UK and a final week touring Brittany.
But back to the air conditioning. I know what you're thinking. Paris in May. Surely you'd need a little A/C action? Here's what we heard as we were landing. "Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. I'd like to welcome you to Paris where the local time is 7.20 am and the temperature on the ground is 6 degrees centigrade. On behalf of myself, Captain Assad and my team at Qatar Air, may we wish you a pleasant stay and look forward to flying you again in the future". The last bit sounded like sarcasm. 6 Degrees? This was going to be tough on the wife.
The flight itself was pretty uneventful. We arrived at Soekarna-Hatta airport with time enough for some food and relaxed waiting for the plane. We had everyone on board 20 minutes before the flight but still managed to be 30 minutes late on takeoff somehow. That was ok though as it meant a shorter stopover in Doha, still the worst Middle Eastern airport I've travelled through. A couple of poor and expensive hot chocolates later we were on our way to Paris.
On the first leg of the journey, we'd had a great cabin crew looking after us. I mentioned to Alicia that it was Yohana's first trip to Europe and this seemed to be a cue. Chilled champagne arrived along with fancy chocolates to keep as a memento. The second leg was more tiring, yet neither of us slept very much.
On arriving in Paris we were picked up at the airport by Muntz, a Frenchman of Morroccan extraction and he took us on an informative journey, laced with thoughts on football and french food to our hotel.
The Hotel Icone is a 3 star hotel just tucked away behind the city's Opera district, We knew we couldn't check in until later so we dropped the bags and walked out into the brisk morning air. The city is pretty quiet at this time on a Sunday morning yet there was plenty of activity going on behind the facades of the multitude of cafes. We found a quaint-looking place and ordered coffee and hot chocolate and a prefect croissant from a very flustered middle-aged waitress. She had 10 customers and a menu that contained approximately 6 breakfast choices but she still rushed around, tutting and clucking if the patrons weren't ready. All very French and pretty funny for Yohana to watch.
After this we walked back to the hotel with a plan to just relax until the room was ready but, as luck would have it, the duty manager had got us a room prepared,
A pretty small but clean room, the bath was immediately filled, but as Parisienne bathrooms in standard rooms are pretty small, we took the bath one at a time! I thought Uciel may want to get some sleep, but no, she was pretty keen to go exploring. We walked around the Opera district taking in the views and soaking up all of the French atmosphere. At midday we stopped in a cafe and Uciel had some roast chicken and I a rib-eye. I asked for the steak rare, which seemed to surprise the waiter. When it came, it was cooked to perfection. griiled on the outside and purple-red inside where the temperature had only just got to it. washed down with some Crozes-Hermitage and supported with some French bread, Uciel didn't even seem to miss the sambal, although some Dijon mustard added some tang to the French fries. On clearing my empty plate, the seasoned waiter tipped me a friendly wink as if to say, 'you eat steak like a french man'. He even took some pictures for us and gave advice on safety tips around the City. I questioned at this point if we were actually in Paris. Earlier, on showing Uciel one of the city's automatic toilets, a guy offered to show us how to use it (the door, not the toilet). Along with the hotel manager and the waiter, maybe the arrogant nature and dislike of anyone not born in Paris had changed. Whatever, this was proving to be a great day.
Following lunch we walked to the nearest Metro with a plan to head to the Cathedral at Sacre Coeur. It would be a trial run, so to speak. The extremely helpul ticket seller told us what we needed, and a two day metro pass later we were prepared to enter. Uciel put the small rectangular ticket into the machine, pushed the bar forward but stayed perfectly still as she continued to roll the bar forward. I considered for a moment why someone would do that but quickly I realised that this kind of travel is alien to most Indonesians and again, the helpful ticket seller smiled knowingly and let us through the emergency barrier.
Initially complicated, the key to the Metro soon sprang into my minds eye. with a few changes we travelled to the Pigalle and walked to the Scre Coeur area. Taking photos, drinking orange juice and espresso and generally soaking up the sights and smells was fantastic. It was however beginning to take its toll on Yohana who was visibly tiring. So it was that we agreed to return to the hotel for a nap.
That was 10 hours ago. We both fell into bed exhausted and as I sit here at 1am writing this, I'm watching Yohana deal with a bit of jetlag....