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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Trip to France 2

Was in France for a week recently on a business visit. This was a repeat of the trip I made in December 2016, however this time there were 4 of us rather than 3. Also, to avoid the 13 hours journey by public transport, we flew from Glasgow Airport and hired a car.

One small problem was that there is only one flight from Glasgow to Paris on a Sunday, and that gets in quite late, so we arranged to fly on the Saturday and spend a night in Paris (well, you would, wouldn't you!)

We got an early flight, got to Paris CDG airport and picked up our hire car.

It was a very well specced Opel Insignia with lots of electronic goodies, my favourite being the 'head up' display that projects speed etc onto the windscreen in front of you. As an aside, the car is branded as Vauxhall in the UK, but Opel elsewhere (except Australia and NZ where it's a Holden). It's built in Germany by a French owned company, but if they stick a Vauxhall badge on it, some people think it's British!

I had the joy of driving an unfamiliar left hand drive car on the right side of the road whilst trying to remember to use the clutch (I've been driving an automatic for the last 6 months), through the busy streets of Paris. As I mentioned in a previous post this included going round L'Etoile around the Arc de Triomphe. 12 roads join with no 'give way' lines or road markings! It wasn't that busy, and you learn the technique of 'going with the flow' and I got round it OK.

We got to our nearby hotel, dropped off our luggage, and went for a wander round Paris.

Sarah, Reiss and Louise at the Arc de Triomphe

Reiss, me and Sarah with the Eiffel Tower in the background

Now that's what I call a Metro station!

Saw lots of the sights, then got on the wonderful Metro to The Catacombs These are amazing underground chambers full of the skeletons of Paris's dead. There's apparently 6 million skeletons and chanbers lead off into the distance. If you are thinking of going I would advise buying your tickets online in advance. We paid 29 Euros, which included an audioguide, whereas a ticket at the door costs 13 Euros, plus 5 Euros for the audioguide. This might sound steep, be we went straight in whereas those buying a ticket at the door were having to wait 3 hours to get in.

Stop! This here is the empire of the dead.

After that we went for something to eat then got the Metro back to the city centre. It was now dark and many of the sights were illuminated. We got back to the hotel, soon after the others decided to go out and ended up at the famous Moulin Rouge. Me, being a lot older than them and I don't drink, ended up going to bed early!

Next morning I drove 200km / 120 miles to Vendôme where we would be based for the next few days.

Vendome from hotel room

I'll not bore you with the details, but we spent 3 long days at a factory looking at a piece of equipment, and the people there were superb hosts, taking us out to good restaurants for lunch and dinner every day.

The plan was that we would finish at the factory on Wednesday, stay the night in Vendôme, the drive up to Paris for our flight back to Glasgow on Thursday. However, there was heavy snow, airports were closed, flights cancelled, roads blocked etc. We decided to drive to Paris to then see what flights (if any) we could get.

Outside our hotel on Thursday morning

We set off on Thursday through snow that thankfully cleared as we got near Paris, returned the hire car, then found there were no flights that day. We stayed at a hotel at the airport having bought tickets for a flight to Glasgow via Birmingham, early the next morning.
We got the flight to Birmingham, and were called to the gate for the flight to Glasgow. While we were waiting we were told that the flight would be delayed by 20 minutes. I thought this was unlikely as there were no aircraft on the apron outside the terminal, and after a lot longer than 20 minutes were were told to follow an official who took us through a maze of corridors before taking us back to the entrance lounge where we were told to join a very long queue where 'things would be sorted out'. After about 2 hours we still hadn't got to the head of the queue, and on the phone we had found out that Glasgow Airport was closed, and there were no trains going north of Carlisle. All this time we were given no information by the airport or airlines! Eventually, we decided to hire a car and drive the 300 miles / 500 km home. Luckily the 3rd company we tried would hire us a car, and we got into a Vauxhall (Opel elsewhere) Astra and headed north. Once out of Birmingham, the snow cleared and it was a fairly uneventful drive to Glasgow.

Approaching Tebay on the M6
In Glasgow there was fairly thick snow and after I'd dropped the others off at their houses, I managed to get stuck. I was about to abandon the car and start walking when some locals came out of their houses and manhandled my car onto a drivable road - times like this you appreciate the kindness of strangers!
Got to about 2 miles / 3 km from my house when I hit something hidden on a snow covered road – probably a pothole. Just after the 'low tyre pressure' light came on – I had a flat tyre! I changed the wheel at the side of the snow covered road whilst being showered with slush from passing cars, and my hands were so numb I could hardly open the car door. Finally got going only to have to abandon the car 200 metres from my house and walk the last bit!!

It was a good and interesting trip, but I cold have done without the excitement of the last 2 days!

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