France 2014: Road Trip to Sarlat-la-Canéda

Last time we were in Argenton-sur-Creuse, in 2010, we took a road trip up to Le Mont St Michel in Normandy, a medieval town virtually atop a little island. Google it to have  a look. Is this a case of history repeating itself? Perhaps, but you have to expect medieval architecture scattered across France, which is part of the charm of travelling all the way to Europe.  Australia’s architecture is less than 250 years old, so even our old buildings are relatively new.

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France 2014: Les Fleurs d’Argenton

 

Around Argenton-sur-Creuse there are lots of lovely pots of flowers, whether they are lining the bridges that span the River Creuse, or decorating the footpaths outside the houses along the narrow streets.

Being a medieval town, most houses are constructed from stone, and the house we are in is over 150 years old. Renovated by my sister and brother-in-law, it provides all the comforts of home, and having no garden means less maintenance. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the flowers elsewhere.

 

Flowers along the Creuse

Flowers along the Creuse

pretty potted garden

pretty potted garden

a mass of flowers

a mass of flowers

France 2014: Etihad Experience and Beyond

The red-eye special has never been our favourite flight, but in this case it was even worse. WARNING: Do not read on if you don’t want to read about a negative experience, but at the end of the day these sort of things make the best anecdotes.

I have never before been on a plane where they virtually ignore you for over two hours before you get anything. In this case it was almost two and a half hours before we were given a meal. And bad luck about getting a drink; even water. EY461 was our first impression of Etihad and we were singularly, or doubly (because there are two of us) unimpressed. Even though the second leg of our flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris was better, first impressions last. I know we have been spoiled by the high quality of food on various cruises, but aeroplane food has now become quite second-rate and particularly because it arrived only lukewarm.

Arriving at Melbourne Airport, e-tickets and allocated seats in hand, we were rather disgruntled to find the plane had been changed and rather than having a cosy pair of seats near the tail end of the plane, there was a third seat. Fortunately the man who had the third seat was a slim, friendly fellow who happened to be wearing a really nice aftershave. Thank goodness for that, as when we had walked down the extremely narrow aisle an offensive waft of body odour accosted us. Remember, it could always be worse.

Our departure time of 22:40 ended up being 23:10. A few late arrivals appeared to have caused this, but I thought that was fair enough if there had been connection problems. The pilot made up some of the lost time, only to find that our own connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris would be delayed half an hour.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, suddenly that  connecting flight was delayed for three hours. Oh dear, we had already booked and paid for our train journey from Paris Gare d’Austerlitz to Argenton-sur-Creuse, having allowed a generous two and a half hours to get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the station.

flying into Abu Dhabi

in Abu Dhabi airport

Abu Dhabi airport control tower and palms

The narrow seats and aisles on the B777-300 hardly provide enough room for me, let alone a larger person. Intermittent sleep occurred. Meanwhile, we had put my laptop up in the cabin overhead lockers as I knew I wasn’t planning to use it on the flight and besides, my large handbag needed to fit under the seat, only to find that when I pulled it out to use it during our layover in Abu Dhabi, the screen was broken and hence I couldn’t use the computer. Spoke to an Etihad employee who took a note of this and told me to contact Feedback at Etihad and ground staff at CDG airport.

devastated to discover broken laptop screen

The highlight of the layover was spending AU$20 on two coffees and a muffin at Abu Dhabi, but it was worth it. I had also managed to sleep for forty minutes on a chair that looked a little like a sun lounge. Funnily enough, outside the temperature would have been at least 40 degrees, and yet here we were inside almost shivering due to the air conditioning. This paints an unrealistic picture in your mind of what it’s like in Abu Dhabi!

At CDG the Etihad booth was closed, apparently opening up three hours before the next flight, so I took a photo to prove that they were closed. Spoke to at least three other ladies who had various complaints against Etihad.

at CDG there is no ground staff

We caught the train into Paris on the RER Line B. Met Patrick, a very nice French guy with a good command of the English language. We exchanged details and Dutchy and I might catch up with him and his family in Perpignan during the next week.

We duly got off at the Metro station St. Michel-Notre Dame, only to find Correspondance to Line C was undergoing maintenance work, necessitating catching the Castor bus to Gare d’Austerlitz, and losing even more of our precious time.

I explained in French to the line of people at the Billetaire that I was Australian and our plane was late and the train would be leaving in ten minutes. They kindly let me get in, but in retrospect why did the ticket guy sell us tickets down at the far end of the train? I like to believe that he incorrectly thought he was giving us tix closer rather than further away, but qui sais? Who knows? As it was, this cost us 92 euros, which we hope to retrieve from Etihad, since it was all their fault. Having purchased the tickets, we managed to race to the platform with barely two minutes to spare; and it was the last train for the night. In our mad rush, I managed to fall over on the platform, skinning my elbow. One of the attendants helped us get to Carriage 16, where we collapsed into our seats with a sigh of relief. The 16 euros spent on the train on beer, wine and a shared sandwich constituted dinner.  Time passed quickly typing all my initial notes for this post on our fantastic little Samsung tablet and before we knew it the 2 1/4 hour trip was over and we were disembarking at Argenton-sur-Creuse station, with only a 25 minute walk left, with our luggage to reach our destination, which took, including the layover and transport, a total of 35 hours’ travelling. No wonder we were exhausted, not to mention jet-lagged. I told you not to mention jet-lagged!

typing up notes on our tablet on the train to Argenton

Dutchy is pleased to be on the train to Argenton

Hey, I’ve heard worse stories than this, and these adventures are all part of the travel experience. We got here safely after all, ready to relax.

 

Back in the Saddle? No, Back on a Ship

Dear Reader,

It has been almost a year since my last post on Travels With Princess and Quiquinou. Somehow other blogs and life in general got in the way. This is about to change.

Princess and Quiquinou are on a cruise to New Zealand, aboard the Dawn Princess. Funnily enough, we also did the same cruise one year and two weeks ago. Last year we travelled with another couple, and we tested out an interior room, while this year we are travelling as a couple in a balcony stateroom.

There will be comparisons of both as well as photographic evidence detailing some of our experiences, which, though similar, will be quite different. And that’s the beauty of cruising; each journey brings with it different memories. Happy cruising!

Dawn Princess Station Pier Melbourne

The Dawn Princess awaiting our embarkation at Station Pier, Melbourne.

The Banyan Suite at Thara Patong

Welcome to Room 1330.

Situated on the second floor (or third floor if you’re from USA – does that mean you have to walk further?), this nicely-decorated suite is so-named for the large tree that is just outside the balcony. Because it consists of a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and lounge, instead of one balcony you get a double one, with four wooden chairs and two tables. It’s the only room on that floor without a doorbell – maybe for honeymooners?

It’s fairly open plan, with a television in both the sleeping and living quarters.

Though a sumptous looking bathroom, with two basins, the beautiful bath takes an inordinate amount of time to fill, thereby detracting from the enticement of a bubble bath, and because the water pressure is not that great don’t expect a sea of bubbles. An assortment of goodies are provided and replenished daily: cotton buds, shower caps, dual-use hair and body wash, bodylotion, soap,  sanitary bags, and even a little sewing kit. The hair dryer is quite good.

In the kitchenette are a small kettle, basic coffee, tea, sugar and powdered creamer. Two bottles of Thara Patong drinking water are provided on a daily basis. An assortment of glasses caters for all drinks, but although there is a fridge and microwave, the only cutlery you get are two teaspoons and the only crockery two cups and a little caddy for the teabags. The minibar is reasonably priced, though not for Thai standards, but you can just duck downstairs to a nearby family mart for essentials.

It has a lovely view of the one of the swimming pools, but at night you can hear some of the music from outside the Tantawan Restaurant, and in the day sometimes there is loud CD music playing poolside.

The disadvantage of the set of rooms on this side is that there are no lifts. The more modern wing has elevators. Generally that’s not a problem but after excessive shopping the stairs are not a welcoming sight on days 30 degrees Celsius. At least the air-conditioning is more than adequate, but don’t expect it to be freezing cold. It is Thailand, after all.

We liked it enough to stay here in the future. Oh yes, particularly for bloggers: free in-room wi-fi for the duration of your stay.