After finishing my last blog post and the remains of a chocolate croissant at Kaffitár, I headed for what I hoped would be a quick purchase at 66ºN, an Icelandic clothing store. The weather forecast for Tromsø suggested temperatures near freezing during my visit, and that meant I’d not quite brought adequate clothing.
The nice ladies in the store pondered my request, had a chat in Icelandic, then gave me a couple of choices. I finally settled on a zippered wool jacket in medium (“large would be too big for you,” one chuckled). If was just a tax- and duty- free bargain (ha!) at $180: half the bulk of one of my Icelandic sweaters for twice the price.
The flight was as uneventful and uninspiring as the meal they served, which was just fine in both cases. It’s interesting to see the diminishment of service: there’s no choice in the meal; what used to be metal utensils are now plastic, and the size of everything gets smaller and smaller.
Charles de Gaulle airport was much as I had remembered: lots and lots of walking followed by waiting at the monstrous baggage carousels. It was fairly pleasant, since the flights were not full, and then it was off to find a guichet automatique, a cash machine. Last time, I spent 30 minutes to find the one functioning machine which had been hidden in the bowels of the terminal, but this time I was pleasantly surprised by two which were readily visible in the terminal.
Then off to find a taxi. I was near door 36; taxis were at door 18… but for some reason there were only even-numbered doors, so it was a quick walk. There was no queue, so I went to the first taxi in line, only to find that driver of the 3rd taxi was claiming to be first. Of course! No one disagreed, so off I went. Voluble taxi drivers can be fun, but this fellow turned talk-radio fairly loud, and drove relatively slowly. After about 15 minutes, he started commenting on the commentators, so at that point we started talking. you’re an american … and you speak such good french? incroyable!
I arrived at Hôtel de France to find that little had changed since my visit last May, and indeed since my first visit a decade or so ago. While there is a PC for email, guest information is hand-written on sheets of paper (there’s a stack for current reservations), and rooms are noted in a large book, written in pencil.
Wifi is more expensive than last year: rather than €25 for 24 hours of use within a month or so, it’s €20 for 5 hours.
After a bit of unpacking, a transfer of the camera equipment from the CompuTrekker to the SlingShot, and a brief nap, I went out to wander around. The slingshot works pretty well, at least when it’s not fully packed. The evening was warm and sunny, so a pleasant walk up rue Mouffetard, by the Pantheon, and into the Luxembourg gardens, at which point I realized that my new Vans were not quite broken enough, and I was losing layers of skin with each step, or so it seemed. Time to limp back.
I found a pharmacy and was pondering the various bandages – waterproof, stretchy, jungle-design, and was sorely tempted by the last ones, but the clerk assured me that they had special bandages just for what I needed – 5 for €8.80, in fact. I’m wasn’t quite able to understand all of the many benefits she described, but it seems that they’ll adhere for days – even in the shower! – and I should rub them before putting them on, to warm them up. So far, so good: they’re still attached.
Bandages in hand, I went to take care of my last concern before sleep: food. I stopped at a café not far from my hotel, ordered a ‘bloody’ steak for €18 and a quarter liter of Chinon for €7. Compared to the US, the beef was overpriced, and the wine was an exceptional value. ‘Bloody’ wasn’t quite correct; I’m pretty certain they’d passed the steak close to flame two or three times: the pleasant brown of the exterior extended 1mm into the steak, which was otherwise deep, dark red. ‘Twas pretty tasty, though a bit hard to chew at times. Potatoes were excellent, the wine delightful … and the cut-off bone, with a spoon in the prepared marrow was, er, um, untasted.
And so ended the first day; the second has dawned, so time for a coffee, croissant an a jus d’orange pressé and more wandering…