March 03, 2004
Mardi, 2 Mars

By popular request (i.e. one from Janine), I'll be posting my journal for your reading pleasure. Here's day one's entry...

The plane left O'Hare an hour and 30 minutes late 'cause of a storm that came through the area an hour before the flight left. It didn't matter too much, though - I had a 5 hour layover in Charles de Gaulle while waiting for the TGV high-speed train to Angers, so it's not like I had much to do. The plane arrived into Paris just after 10am local time, still an hour and thirty late.

I began walking around the airport. It's a very big airport with 3 terminals. I flew into Terminal 2, the larger and newer terminal with "Halls" A-G. Each hall could be it's own terminal, but since they're connected by something other than a bus ride, they consider it the same terminal.

It was a weird and interesting mix of people. Primarily French in natinoality and language, I enjoyed just walking through the airport, becoming familiar with the halls and the different stores, cafes, and check-in desks for each airline.

I was told it was really easy to get a GSM pre-paid S.I.M. card for cell phones out here, and I had my gears set to get one so I could call home or work without having to worry about being close to a land-line. It turns out that I had to go to Terminal 1 to get the card, which was a 15 minute bus ride from Terminal 2. The terminal itself is well known for being crazy-weird. It's a huce cylindrical building with a hollow center. Enclosed escalator shafts (yes... shafts) criss-cross within the hollow of the building, making for a oddly 1970's-futuristic feel.

Once back at Terminal 2, getting to the TGV was no problem. The station was outdoors, and it was pretty cold at the airport (close to 32F/0C, anyway). I got on the train and tried to find my reserved seat. I found seat 86, but in the smoking section. I got out of there pretty darn fast (2.5 hours of smoke isn't my kind of traveling) and found my actual seat 86 in the 'pas fumer' section, and sat down for one of the most unique rides of my life.

The scenery changed as quickly as the train was traveling. There would be small industrial areas, and then a small city center, and then nothing but rolling hills and the occasional farm house straight out of an 1800's era movie. It was honestly one of the coolest and most beautiful trips I've ever taken, and I'm sorry that I couldn't get more pictures of some of the houses and farms I saw. As soon as you saw them, you barely had time to blink while traveling over 100mph before it was gone and out of sight. I should use Janine's camera to get a 30 second film of the train ride. It would knock anyone's socks off!

Once in Angers, I got off the train and made my way toward to the hotel thanks to the non-English speaking information dude at the station. I know enough French to get by around here, thankfully. A gauche here, a doite there, and 15 minutes later I was unpacking in my home for the next 3 nights. The first thing I did was take pictures of the room (small for Us standards, but probably huge for European). The second was take a bath in the "european bathtub" (Only people from 505 Benjamin would understand that inside joke). The third was to get out of this hotel and walk around the city.

Angers is an incredibly cute and addictive town. Everyone's very firendly, everything feels clean and unique, and the shopping boutiques are more impressive than any high-end shopping mall d'Etats Unis. The coolest shops are the open-air pastry shops and bakeries. They're based in a normal storefront, but they cut all of the outer walls away and make the counter open-air. In 40-degree weather it's a bit odd, but these things are on every other block! I'll even see a few people walking around with baguettes or bags of pastries, just nibbling away while the walk and shop. If this is what France is like, I can't wait to see what Paris has to offer.

The scariest part of the evening was, of all things, ordering dinner. It's easy enough when you have a burger or pizza, but I like to try different, local things. I didn't feel up to experimenting with the hotel's restaurant on night #1, especially when every-other entree had some sort of fois gras, so I went wandering the streets for a different fair. La Boucherie looked innocent enough, with a cartoon cow as it's logo. I was able to read a good chunk of the menu (It was a steak place, and 'filet' was on every-other item) and ended up having a great meal! The steak was thin but very flavorful, and the meal included dessert and a darn good espresso. I was blown away by the wine, though. Most everyone wine (some also beer), but the house wine comes out of a tap behind the counter. A TAP! If the rest of the world can have their beer on tap, why not the French with their wine?!

Now I'm back in the hotel, ready to call it a night and try to get some sleep. I think I'm lucky if I got 5 hours of sleep Sunday night and 2 hours on the plane, so I'm ready to try and hit the sack. I'd like to be able to get on-line from my room, but it's either A) head down and pay money to use the hotel's Wi-Fi, or B) dial in to some number and let the charges add up. Not like I'm paying for it... Yay for business trips!

Posted by Austin at March 03, 2004 11:42 AM