They say that all good things eventually must come to an end and, after over two weeks in Italy, it was time to say goodbye to Florence and make our way to France to begin the second stage of our 2015 adventure. Our small Italian peloton was about to be fragmented. For Irena her riding was now over as she was heading off to spend some time in Portugal. Lionel was heading off to Burgundy for some days before meeting us again in Orleans. Mary would be staying in Florence for one additional day before flying to Paris.That left John, Gonny and myself to catch a noon flight to Paris.
We booked a taxi for the short ride to Florence International Airport. The driver seemed competent (by Italian standards) yet had no regard for staying in the same lane when driving on any road. I was sitting in the front seat and had to bite my tongue and clench my fists every time he veered without warning from one side of the road to the other. Even more surprising was the fact that not once did any of the cars behind toot their horns in complaint at his wayward tactics.
Fortunately we arrived safely at the small, but very busy, Florence Airport and were soon checked in for our flight. We squeezed into the crowded departure lounge and waited for our Air France flight to board. I was very relieved when I found my allocated seat on the plane and discovered that the next two seats were empty. In fact about half the plane was empty. Hooray I thought. My exhilaration was premature however, as another couple of busloads of passengers jostled up the steps and occupied every seat. Even though it was a squashed and somewhat uncomfortable flight, at least it was only for about 90 minutes. European travelers really are spoilt when it comes to jetsetting from one country to another.
We were soon disembarking at Charles de Gaulle airport and fortunately my luggage also caught the same flight as me. There were quite a few of our France team that were due to meet us at the aiport. These included Keith and Marg who were also coming from Italy and also David, Carol, Eugenie, Sally, Liz, Sharlie, Mary and Maggie who had all made the long journey from Melbourne.
We knew that those who had made the long flight from Australia would not make a pleasant sight when they staggered into the arrivals area. I patiently waited for about 2 hours until the first passengers started stumbling out the exit doors. With their dark sunken eyes, pallid colour and unshaven faces and filthy clothes, they really did look quite frightening. The men were even worse. It really did look like a scene from one of those Zombie Apocalypse movies.
When all were present and accounted for I directed them to the waiting 22 seater bus that I had booked to take us to our respective hotels. For several of those on board it was their first visit to Paris and I could not wait to see their excitement. Unfortunately their obvious excitement was somewhat tempered by the fact that they were in a semi coma following their long journeys.
All the hotels are close together in the northern region of Paris known as Opera – Saint Georges. This gives us easy access to Montmartre and is only a short Metro trip from the centre of the city. After a meal at a local restaurant we all retreated to the sanctuary of our hotels and the happy prospect of a long night’s sleep.