Day 1: Montreal to Paris - Grampies Track the Tortes (2019) - CycleBlaze

March 19, 2019

Day 1: Montreal to Paris

Today is Day 1, since we have arrived in Europe, but we won't be pedaling for a few days yet.  

I'll include in Day 1 a little of "last night", which saw our night flight to Paris.  Some sort of interest or adventure came about right away as we tried to get rid of the last of our Canadian change at Trudeau airport. Of course, airports are expert in getting rid of your money for you. I expected that as I picked up a bottle of water and an orange juice, and the cost was over $10. I kind of robotically paid that, but within seconds asked myself "$10, that can't be right?".  So I looked in my hand and saw that I had not the normal extreme ripoff $3.00 591 ml bottle of plain water, but the super ripoff over $5.00 bottle of "mineralized" water.  So I turned to the man and said "Oh, I picked up the wrong bottle, here's my receipt, I'd like to swap"

That of course threw things into a tailspin, because it was outside the usual routine. The man said he would have to call his "team leader". "So call", I said (there was still an hour before boarding).  A lot of calling and head scratching later, $2.00 landed in my hand. Well good, except that I was supposed to be getting rid of my money!

I now had about $3.90 in my jeans.  So after going back to the gate to deliver water and juice to Dodie, I returned to the stand and asked the lady there (figured the man needed a rest) "How much are these Danish on the counter?" She didn't know. "We'll, how can you sell them if you don't know the price?" I asked.  I should say that in none of this was I looking for a squabble, just information. It turned out that if the staff entered a product code at the register, the price would be revealed. But they could not engage the register if they were not making a sale. I handed the lady all my change and said "How many could I buy with this?" (It was a pile of very small danish). She carefully counted the money and replied that she was not sure, but thought I was likely 10 cents short.  We eyed each other for a pregnant moment, and it was clear she was not going to help any further. So I took my treasure trove of change off down the departure hall, and landed at another shop.

"How much are these (fairly large) danish?", I asked.  I had already decided to weigh in with my credit card if my pocket trove was not going to be up to this. The lady carefully counted the change, and declared that I had more than enough. (Not that any of these places are brave enough to actually place their inflated prices on or near the products.) So she poured some of the coins back into my hand, and took the rest. The returned portion of the coins I dumped into the tip jar, because I had by then also figured out this way of getting rid of annoying money. But when the lady got to the all knowing register, she declared that I still owed her $1.01. "But, but, you just had me dump all my remaining money in that jar", I sputtered.  Another pregnant staring match.  The lady called over her colleague for a confab. You did not put as much as $1.01 in the jar, they concluded. Staring match.  I took $.50 from the jar and handed them this plus my credit card, which they ran for $.51. 

I returned to the gate and announced to Dodie "Ok, I have gotten rid of all that Canadian change!", and told the above story. "Well now", she replied, "Based on that dismal performance you are relieved of money management responsibility for this tour". You just can't win!

As we walked along the ramp to the plane we happened to run into the pilot. The the man we were looking for! Joe had helpfully drawn a map of how to get from Montreal to Paris, and had asked us to give it to the pilot. To the fellow's credit, he received this extra guidance with good grace, and even seemed impressed that it came with a lot of stickers on the back!

Transat's GPS may or may not agree with this.
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I really don't want to give the impression of being crabby, because we are not. We are excited to be finally starting this tour. But when we got to our seats on the Airbus 330 I was amazed at how narrow somebody had dared to make them. Without a tape measure and some web research of seat widths, I can not give a properly comprehensive account of this, but I can say that when some food came I was actually unable to eat it. Human mechanics dictate that you need some elbow room for your hand to reach your mouth. I just couldn't manage it.

If somebody wants to help with this, I did see that the seat was exactly the width of my two outstretched hands, like in the photo. How wide is that? How narrow has the industry contrived to make these things in their most advanced money grabs?

How wide are two Steve hand spans?
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Finally at Terminal 3 at Charles de Gaulle, and nursing bruised/cramped tail bones, we were reminded of how Europe features a little less coddling than is the norm back home. So you walk down a long stairway off the rear of the plane, and cross the tarmac to waiting buses, to be ferried to customs and immigration. With her fixed knees, Dodie could do the stairway, but the very high step up into the crowded bus was more than the knees can do as yet. Dodie balked, and attracted two Transat staff. One said accusingly "Why did you not book assistance? Why did you walk off the plane?".  But the other said "Hop into my mini van, I will drive you over there". 

Immigration and customs was what we have come to expect for the EU. Not a word was said by anyone. Just stamp stamp at immigration, and a stroll past customs. Actually we might have appreciated a nice young agent asking us how long we intended to stay and what we were doing. That way we could have blithered about cycle touring, as if this blog is not enough! But no, all they had was an animated screen with one of three actors displaying a Welcome to France sign. Good enough!

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Both Dodie and I now have quite heavy colds. We can not even blame the Montreal kids, since they are fine. But Montreal got us with this somehow. Despite feeling very weak from this and from the flight, once we reached Gare du Nord, we searched out the "international" branch of SNCF to see about those errant train tickets from Bregenz back to Paris.  After asking a fair number of very sweet station staff about where to go, we landed in a line to get into a line to see an agent. I judged that it was too much waiting for the off chance that the agent would know or care what we were talking about. But Dodie hung in there, and I have found that her intuition is good on these things. 

Amazingly, the agent did turn out to know and care about what we were talking about. Even more, the record showed the address change (to our friend Bernie in Austria) we had done over the phone. But the agent worried that the post office would not deliver to a home where our name is not on file.  So she sold and printed  all new tickets and assured us that the method she showed us to get a refund on the original tickets would work. And wow, not a Gallic shrug in the whole session!

Our plan to walk in Paris and to meet with an old friend got scuppered by both feeling so sick. So here we are sitting in our perfectly adequate one star hotel downtown, just being grateful that we nonetheless got one roll of toilet paper each, good for blowing your nose raw.

Tomorrow, Austria?

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Janet Anspach-RickeyYou poor things! I'm sending lots of healing thoughts your way and hope you are back on your feet and in your pedals soon. What is the weather like there?
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3 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesHappily the start of this trip, as you will see 9ver the next 3 days does not involve cycling, but rather getting to the starting line and visiting some dear friends. We are actually beginning to feel better and expext to be fine by Saturday when the actual cycling begins. Thanks for thinking about us.

The weather is fabulous here. The nights and early mornings are cold, but the days have been sunny and pleasantly warm.
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3 months ago