The train system throughout Europe impresses us more with every exposure we have. The high speed trains are quiet and relaxing, so much so that we barely noticed when we were traveling at 180 mph. We have also been surprised by the attitude Europeans have towards traveling with pets. Multiple times we have seen people bring their large dogs onto public transport. Often the dogs sit right on the chairs, but the conductor doesn't even bat an eye. Our train ride to Paris from Barcelona featured one such encounter, which distracted Maria and Giana often throughout the journey.
When we arrived in Paris we were disheartened to find it rainy and cold. Dad (Mr. Schena) had been in London for business the week before, and then had decided to come visit us in Paris. We met up at our hotel, which was quite an improvement compared to our quality of life on the rest of the trip. Dad introduced us to the nice Italian receptionist, Greta. Maria and Dad stretched their Italian muscles while Micah and Giana waited patiently. Up in our room, Dad handed over the medical goods we had so eagerly been anticipating. American cold medicine had never looked so good.
We asked the concierge, Carl Philip, for a recommendation for a good Parisian restaurant. He directed us to Les Poule au Pot. We took our first taxi ride of the trip, a true luxury. The restaurant was divine. The walls were decorated with small plaques representing famous people who had visited the restaurant before us. We schemed of ways to get our own names on the wall. Dad was thrilled to find good old Frank Sinatra on the wall.
After dinner we returned to our hotel in a taxi ride filled with American disco tunes. Mid ride we heard a phone ringing through the taxi speakers. The restaurant had found Dad's trusty iPad and was calling to let us know. We zipped back and eventually returned home, still enjoying the sound of disco.
The next day we searched for an American Express cash exchange store. We were dismayed to discover that American Express had discontinued the travelers check two years earlier. Dad figured the problem out though.
Afterwards, we took a whirlwind tour of the Orsay. We saw works of Van Gogh, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, and S()idsley. The collection of impressionist paintings was fantastic. Dad marveled at how much wealth the museum contained. We contemplated adding an original Renoir to our living room wall, but tabled the notion, for now.
We stumbled upon a surprise cafe for dinner. It was lovely and quaint, with couch walls and dark wood floors. Micah shared the story of his family's empire-building exploits. Dad, who loves a good empire-building, was entertained. Filled up with delicious food and tales of dynastic glory, we walked up towards the Arc d'Triomphe and then returned to the hotel.
The hotel bar ensnared us for a few hours that evening. We all hung out together sipping our drinks and discussing philosophy, politics, current affairs, and gender studies. Around 1 am we decided it was perhaps time to go to bed.
The next day Dad got a real taste of life on a European tour. We did a walking tour with - you guessed it - Sandeman's. Our Scottish tour guide had a tough hill to climb with Dad, given that some of the tour touched on WWII history of Paris. We all annoyed hearing about the founding of Paris, some of it's more interesting monarchs, a bit of the French Revolution and its effects on Parisian life, snippets of WWII Paris, and the Eiffel Tower's evolution as a worldwide symbol of Paris. Micah and Giana particularly enjoyed tales of Paris' anti-Cupid movement at the Lovelock Bridge.
After our tour we dashed through train stations all over Paris to reach a train to Versailles. Maria was particularly excited to see this lush palace, so we made sure to take a tour through the palace before visiting its gardens. It was a tad crowded with tourists inside the palace. Seemingly all of the tourists in France had all decided to visit Versailles on the same day. We pushed through the crush of people in the Sun King's abode, all the while wondering how he would feel about modern-day treatment of his royal palace. Out in the gardens Dad enjoyed ruining the symmetry of the shrubbery by planting an apple tree. After this small act of rebellion we returned to Paris.
For our last night with Dad, we sampled some home cooked food at a restaurant just beneath the Eiffel Tower. The food was exquisite. Dad regaled us with tales from his last few months before he took the plunge into self-employment at FutureVision. We were all simultaneously entertained and horrified.
Micah and Giana stayed up late Skyping the sigs, while Maria turned in early in advance of an early morning of work the next day. We woke up to say goodbye to Dad and then returned to bed for several more hours. Eventually we checked out and headed to the train station to drop our bags off. Unfortunately, France hasn't yet discovered basic amenities like bag lockers. This derailed our plans for visiting the Louvre without our bags. We let go of that dream and instead got Burger King fries while we waited for our next train. As we sat inside the station munching on our fries, it began to rain on us through the ceiling. We accepted this as Paris' last laugh and departed for Bayeux.
"Part of the ship, part of the crew"