An opportunity to revisit Paris for a few days was not something to refuse! We were staying with friends who had rented an apartment on the Left Bank through Airbnb for a couple of months – and it was all that we hoped for! It was in a typically busy and colourful narrow street – Rue Mazarine – not far from the River Seine – with bustling small shops and restaurants, people young and old thronging the streets and traffic somehow making its way through! The house was a classic 18th century residence and the 4th floor apartment was very traditional (but with mod cons including wifi!)
Being September and a little off the beaten track, there were few tourists around and plenty of nearby areas to explore. These included the Luxembourg Gardens, which were created in the 17th century by Marie de Medici, the widow of Henry IV of France, together with the elegant Luxembourg Palace, which is now the Government Senate Building. The features of the extensive and photogenic gardens include the bronze Medici Fountain and over 100 statues and monuments; and around the central green there are 20 figures of French queens and other famous French women.
This area of Paris also includes many fine university buildings and museums including The Pantheon … a bonus for those visitors who have already seen the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and other well-known tourist attractions. And there are many reminders around the area of the literary and artistic history of Paris, notably the oldest restaurant in the City, Procope, which dates back to 1686 and where Napoleon and Voltaire have dined! Portraits of writers and politicians line the walls of the restaurant’s two large floors – including President Jefferson and Ben Franklin from the USA.
So in many ways, it was a wonderful visit to remember – BUT
Charles de Gaulle airport is not Silver Traveller friendly! We flew from Exeter with Flybe and our difficulties may have been exacerbated because a small plane from a small airline was parked at a distant part of Terminal 2! But it is no exaggeration to say that from the time of our arrival, the journey through immigration, security and baggage check to the meeting point in the arrivals area took longer than the flight! There were no luggage buggies at the arrival gate, and in any case these would not have been practical since the route included four escalators and then an inter-terminal train. All this, plus the various lengthy walkways, was not easy for we ‘seniors’ with carry-on bags to carry. Not to mention the crowds and long queues! And it was equally slow and difficult for the return flight a few days later.
With advance notice, there may have been some passenger assistance services available – but those we eventually saw in the Terminal were individual wheelchairs and many of us may be Silver Travellers, but not yet wheelchair cases!
It was a real pleasure to arrive back at friendly little Exeter airport. Next time, I will find a way to check out the arrival arrangements at my destination – or for Paris, find a flight to Orly, or even another small, provincial airport to try to ensure that the airport experience does not spoil an otherwise enjoyable holiday.