I always forget how completely exhausting jet lag is. Or rather I forget how determined my body is to forge on despite all suggestions to the contrary. Nonetheless, we managed to have a successful first day here in France after a sleepless Air Canada flight from Montreal.
France is a surprisingly easy country to get into. Our biggest problem at customs a Charles De Gaulle Airport was that Oliver’s passport photo was taken at 9 months of age, so bears less resemblance to him than is normal. The customs agent actually came out of his booth and held the photo up to Oliver to confirm his proper identity. Fortunately, he bought it, and we were in. No questions asked. Literally.
I had read that the French don’t line up for things, and the airport certainly proved this to be true. However rather than the chaotic dog eat dog frenzy I imagined a lineless world to be, the line for customs was more like a gentle collective amble and was rather pleasant for its complete lack of frenzy.
From customs we collected our bags and made our way to the oddly-located car rental hall, in the basement several terminals over. Once there we easily found the phone at the Peugeot desk, and with 30 minutes we were proud owners of a Peugeot Partner, which is a sort of mini-van that bears most resemblance to the old Eagle Summit we used to drive. It’s a tiny vehicle on the outside, but has vast amounts of interior space — a full foot or more above my head in the driver’s seat.
Somehow, in my catatonic state, we managed to navigate our way to buy gas (diesel, actually, which is confusingly called gazole here), and then out into the Paris morning. Our directions south from the woman at Peugeot were excellent, and we made it to the A10 south towards Orleans without getting lost. Or at least not really lost. By 1:30 p.m. were here on the suburban edge of Orleans at the Formule 1 Hotel.
Formule 1 calls itself a “super budget hotel,” and at 27 euros for a clean room for 3, it certainly qualifies. Rooms are tiny, but not too tiny. A double bed on the bottom and a bunk bed on the top, a sink in one corner and a desk in the other, with TV above. Washrooms and showers are just down the hall, and work on some magic “clean themselves after every use” system, which appears to actually work.
Of course in our catatonia, any bed looked inviting, and after checking in — using a automated credit card kiosk at the front door — we were all fast asleep.
A couple of hours and an auto-shower later, we got back in the truck (Oliver refuses to let it be called a van or a car) and drove into the rainy downtown Orleans afternoon.
We found the (very pleasant and helpful) tourist office, walked around the old city, had a snack of Thai food at a take away place, and then settled in at a bizarre Catalan tapas bar outfitted with comfortable easy chairs, loud punk music, and a very child-friendly bar keep who gave Oliver a glow-in-the-dark bracelet.
We ordered “Catalan pizza,” which turned out to be creme fraiche, potatoes, ham and cheese on a huge piece of toast. Very filling and just what we needed. Halfway through our meal and very tattooed and pierced couple came in and sat down at the table just behind us. Oliver found them fascinating, and spend the rest of the meal staring at them.
Fed and rested, we walked back out into the rainy night, found our way back to the Formule 1 in the suburbs, and fell fast asleep.
As I type, it’s 7:00 a.m. The air is fresh, the rain has stopped, and it’s 10 degrees outside. Off we go…