Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Strolling the Seine - cats, paperback books and locks

We had a few hours in Paris, 3 hours less then planned for due to a delay on JFK tarmac. We managed to get out of airport, catch the RER B and head to Saint Michel-Notre Dame station. A very central station for a quick visit. Peak at the Notre Dame, find my bearings, a bank machine and a cafe for nourishment. Crisscross over the Seine and take a stroll towards the Eiffel tower. Notice the vendors have an affinity for pictures of cats, paperback books and Tin Tin comics. Spot the Eiffel tower on a ped. bridge, perhaps named Locks of Love. Discover the Eiffel tower is an hour walk, so we snap an ultra zoomed in picture of it and head back to the RER.

Before we embarked on this layover adventure I had googled "what to do in Paris on a 10 hour layover". The answers confirmed (mostly) that seeing Paris in 10 hrs was worth it and doable.

I also wondered about whether I should bring a stroller or not. I'm a person of ease and didn't want to lug around anything extra. But if baby L would be more comfortable laying down and sleeping ... a dilemma.

Here is how it worked for us - 1 adult, 8year old and 15mth old:
We arrived @ CDG around 11am, 3 hrs later then our ETA.
Terminal 2E
The airport was not busy.
Our checked bags were going straight on to our destination.
There are no lockers in the airport for carry on bags.
We spoke with an Air France attendant and she was helpful and did not discourage us from leaving. She gave us directions to the train and advised us to be back no later then 5pm, 2 hours before our departure. She also let us know it would be much busier in the evening, so we needed to account for that.
We walked through customs. No line ups. No questions. (Unlike crossing usa/can borders, they ask you how long you will be traveling, where are you going etc) We got our stamps and a nod.

Took the shuttle to the departures area / train platform. And then we followed RER signs.
Bought tickets at the green kiosks. Easy to follow instructions.
Got on RER B to St Michel -  Notre Dame  station.

We arrived in Paris around 1pm - approximately 2 hours to get off plane, walk walk walk, go thru customs. walk walk walk. get on train and a 45minute ride into Paris.

I opted to leave the stroller at home and carry baby L. in the Ergo and let her walk when she felt like it.
I wanted to have two free hands, to hold two precious little hands. 
We kept our time in Paris simple. Had we arrived @ CDG on time (3hrs earlier), we may have perused the rest of the trains to get to the Eiffel tower or ...  anywhere.

A light stroller would have worked as the sidewalks we were on were wide and flat. But one might have to carry it up escalators in the metro.

We used an ATM to get $$. This is the quickest way and supposedly the cheapest rates. But my bank is charging me 5 dollar international fee / transaction. yikes!

I do not like to be late, so we aimed to be back at the RER for 3:30, w/ 30 minutes grace time.

The train back to CDG was much longer (physically, like 10 cars long rather then the 2 car train in) and had many passengers, just as the attendant noted.

Arrived at CDG T2.

And although we used the metro tickets easily on the way in to Paris ... hold on to your tickets as you need them to get in AND out of the train platform ... we had a bit of a SNAFU on the way back.
When I used the kiosk to buy the return tickets something happened and a bunch of tickets came out of the machine.
We took the first 2 tickets and I gave the rest to my son to play with. I shoved the receipt in a pocket.
We got through the turnstyle onto the platform as per usual. (like, in all my experience, as the 1st time, a few hours earlier)
When we arrived at the CDG platform and departed the train and got to the turnstyle/exit, and sent the ticket through the slot, it was rejected.
And then mine was rejected.
Holding up the line, we moved away and I went into alert mode.
C. gave me the bundle of other tickets and we tried a few of these. All were rejected.
A man approached us offering us a way through the gate in exchange for 5 euros.
I don't easily give up and I KNOW I bought the tickets so I noted his offer and went looking for a real employee to assist us through.
I couldn't find any employees but I did find my receipt and realized I had bought the wrong tickets. 10 of them for 8 Euros. Since no one was around to let us through and since I don't like to attract attention to ourselves such as going under the gate - I would have gotten stuck with Lucy on my body, we approached the "entrepreneur", made sure his deal was real and paid him to let us through.
Financially, this didn't cost me anymore had I bought the correct tickets to begin with. Seriously though, I was thankful he was there as there was no one else around and we would have had to jump the gates and that would not have been smooth.

We made our way to Terminal 2F, through security. No questions asked. No smile. Just a nod. And then to our gate with another hour to wait.

If you are thinking of using your layover time outside of the airport, I highly recommend that you do!

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