July 6, 2019: Travel Day from Paris to Barcelona

Saturday. GT2 Day Twenty Eight. Barcelona, Spain.

I got a great night of sleep last night. Almost eight hours of total sleep, and two hours and forty five minutes of deep sleep. The no CPAP, nasal strip plan seems to be working out well. Dominica said that I snored some early in the night, but that I changed positions and it was fine after that.

I was up at seven thirty this morning. I feel great after my day of low calories and high exercise. My body really needed that. I laid in bed for a bit after making sure that Flickr and YouTube were still moving forward. About three hundred and fifty more Flickr pictures from Paris posted this morning, but for some reason did not get put into the trip album, so they are going to be hard for people to find. Flickr glitches, it could not quite complete the process, but at least the pictures uploaded.

Three YouTube videos posted during the night, as well. There is only one more, at the moment, that I want to upload and can’t. It is just too large to manage to get posted in the time left here. But only one is pretty good. We were unable to make any more talking videos during our time in Paris because we have a been in a silent “no talking” apartment.

I showered and got myself ready for the day. Dominica got up a little after eight and spent the morning packing. We have the apartment for most of the day, so we can pack up, go out and do things, and leave our luggage here until it is time to head to the train station, which is very nearby and on our local metro line, but we are going to take an Uber because of all of our stuff and not having active metro tickets any longer.

I got all of the pictures currently on my phone uploaded to Flickr this morning, too. That was another forty seven. And I managed to get to the backlog of ones that were missed, which is another one hundred. Who knows what the Internet situation in Spain is going to be like.

Madeline was up and dressed at a quarter after eleven. Then the girls started their packing. They seem to have wanted the morning to just rest. When asked what they wanted to do, it was just “I don’t know.” I would prefer to be out walking and seeing more of the city, but today is going to be warmer, and we do not have unlimited time.

Dominica and I feel that we need to call our Uber to leave for the station at two thirty to make sure that we have plenty of buffer time. Missing a connection just sucks so much. So our activity window is pretty tiny. We need to go eat lunch so that the girls can make the long train ride. Once we get on the train, it will be over seven hours till we have a reasonable way to eat again. Then we are going to the local super market to stock up on snacks and stuff for the train itself. That is easily an hour and a half to even two hours of activity right there.

I managed to even get my phone emptied onto the hard drive this morning so that it is fully ready to go. Only things that are going to be “left to keep going while we are out getting lunch” are charging my Jackery, and uploading the final batch of pictures to Flickr. So no Lumix today, it is packed. It will be phone only for pictures today. No separate backup for me, just the main one. We are heavily consolidated. I am very excited for future travel that there is a possibility that I do not need a CPAP bag to take with me. Carrying that is an immense pain. Yes, it is always a “free bag” on flights, but it is a useless bag that I have to manage every day. And it is really awkward to carry. And not really all that small or light. Getting to travel without that would be amazing.

I forgot to mention yesterday that since leaving Firenze we have not found an ATM (except for in Switzerland, but that would give us Francs instead of Euros which would not be useful) and we were running out of cash. We have to have cash for our check in in Barcelona, and it is pretty useful in general. So we should be all set now, enough cash, we hope, to carry us through until we are done in Europe. ATMs are super hard to find in Paris.

Madeline today discovered that she has been carrying rocks since Crete in her day bag. And she has a jar of Nutella in her backpack. She carries some heavy stuff.

The girls had their bags packed and were ready to leave the apartment at a little after noon. I had been ready to run out the door to take them to see more stuff since just after nine, just in case they had decided that they needed to do more things. But now we are relaxed and ready to just get food, get snacks, and head casually to the train station.

Lunch at Shiso Burger was awesome. Dominica got the salmon and said it was the best food of the entire trip. Madeline got a cheeseburger and also felt that it was her favourite food of the entire trip, I guess she likes Japanese. Emily got a burger as well and liked it. I got the tuna burger and it was quite good, but I’m not sure if I would call it the best food of the trip. The girls split a French fry. Dominica and I split an order of spiraled potatoes. After all of these years, this was our first time getting those.

Then we walked down to the grocery store and spent half an hour getting food supplies. All cookies, candies, and chips for the train. I would have liked to have gotten a sandwich to take for later, but it seemed unlikely that it would remain good for so long in the heat.

We got back to the apartment at one thirty. One hour to kill before we head to the train station. The last one hundred Flickr pictures that I had uploaded completed while we were out. So my upload job is done. I quickly uploaded the six pictures that I took over lunch as well. Time to shut down the laptop and get that and the hard drive packed up. The Jackery is still charging and will be the last thing to get packed before we leave.

By early afternoon it was pushing ninety degrees and very humid. Emily and Dominica struggled to sleep last night from the heat. It just never cooled down. And the little fan and single window in our apartment were just not able to keep up with the cooling demand, especially when the air outside was moderately warm all night. Now with the air hot and the sun coming in through the window, it’s very warm. Good time to be leaving, but it will be not very nice carrying out back packs down six flights of stairs and getting to the train station. Hopefully this train is air conditioned. It is the TGV, again, so we are likely in good shape.

We will be in Barcelona late tonight. Then seeing the city all day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and then on Wednesday afternoon we fly back to New Jersey. Only three real days of seeing the sites left to go.

I made a final apartment tour video and we checked out and headed down the six flights of stairs with our backpacks on our backs to go to find an Uber to take us to the train station, Gare de Lyon. The walk was short, but the day was getting warm, so already starting to sweat without even leaving the Latin Quarter.

We got out onto the main road and called the Uber. Took about fifteen minutes to arrive, traffic was moderately heavy. We were picked up in a big Renault, their version of the Nissan Maxima, so we fit easily. And off to the train station we went.

We arrived at Gare de Lyon with an hour to kill before our train was to depart. We have first class tickets so wanted to use the lounge, but that was in Hall 3 and we were in Hall 1 and the girls did not feel like walking any extra, and it is hard to watch the status screens from a different hall. Dominica desperately needed coffee, so we hit Pret a Manger and got some food and coffee for her. At this point, I am completely weened from caffeine again. So I have been avoiding coffee for the most part, I’ve only had maybe four cups this whole month. I got an avocado and pine nut wrap that was really incredible.

We were told that we would be told where our train would go ten minutes before it was scheduled to go. We were doing way better than that. We looked almost twenty minutes before and saw that we had been posted on the board and we were sitting right at the right platform, A. So to be extra safe, we attempted to board fifteen minutes before departure time (five is the norm, ten is often the max possible at a terminal.)

We walked down platform A, but the train there said the wrong train number on it. This is not good. We walked the entire length of the train and found that our train was going to be pushed by this other train and we have to board at the front of the second train. The trains were so long that it was nearly an eight minute walk just to get from the head of the platform to our car on the train. Because we are in first class, we are at the “front” of the train so have to walk the entire length of two trains. Rather a weird punishment for first class. (And it turns out that all of first class has to face backwards for the entire trip, which makes Dominica sick!)

Once we finally got to our car, the people in front of us tried to board and realized that the doors did not open. They were only boarding the train from the other side, but had no information anywhere to tell us that! We didn’t even know that the other side of the train had a platform, because we were on platform A and it was open and the train was labeled for us and everything. Not a single indication that we were not in the right place, none. But every indication that we were in the right place, from other people doing the same thing, to the main boards, to the platform boards, to the signs on the side of the train. Everything. We were 100% sure we were in the right place until the people in front of us panicked and ran.

Remember, this was an eight minute walk with heavy packs on our backs just to get far enough to find out that we were not able to board where we needed to!! That meant that not only did we have to back track eight minutes, but we had to circle around the train, get onto the other side, and do eight minutes along that side of the train, too! So about eighteen minutes to get there, and the train was supposed to leave in much less time than that! We were totally screwed.

We started running and ran the whole length of the train. Dominica almost immediately had an asthma attack because of the running. The girls got to the head of the platform first, with just a minute or two before the train was supposed to leave, but they wouldn’t let us on to that side of the platform without the tickets, which Dominica had in her bag. So they were stuck at the gate. There was a way to just walk between the two sides, but as we tried to just board some guy blocked us and made us go around further, further causing unnecessary delays from not properly labeling or instructing people where to go.

Finally Dominica got there, we showed the tickets, and they told us to run to the first door. We went as fast as we could and the conductor told us that we had to get on to the “wrong” train, the one that is pushing ours, because they were not going to wait for us to get to our own train, even though we had been in the process of boarding for a full fifteen minutes and were clearly in distress.

We lept onto the wrong train, just as the doors closed. So now, what do we do? At least we were on “a” train, but we did not know where it was going or what to do. We figured that since this train is pushing ours, we would have at least one stop where they would need to separate the trains, so our theory was to walk through this train to the very front, be ready to jump off at the first stop, run to the first car of the next train, and board and work our way through that train to get to our seats. There was no conductor to tell us what to do or what was going on. All we knew is that we were sitting in the entry way of a train that was pushing ours and no idea when it would stop, when they would split, where this one was going. Dominica was crying from her asthma attack and her heart was around 130. This whole thing is insane.

Once everyone had settled a bit, we started the hike through the train. Dominica was not doing great, so took my orange backpack and I took her heavy backpack and we walked the entire length of the train being bounced from side to side running into seats. A very tough walk for the four of us. Even I was getting motion sickness from that. And the train was really warm, I was literally drenched in sweat after all of that. There is no moving air and the air temperature is quite high, mid-twenties or higher. Even the girls were really sweating and could not cool down.

We finally got to the very front of the train and met a conductor who explained that yes, we were on the wrong train, that there were “no seats” available as it was full (this was not true), and they told us that the only real option for us was to sit or stand in the cafe car and wait until the next stop where we would need to do what we had thought, run from this train to the next and get on there. The next stop was two hours away!

So for two hours, because of Gare de Lyon’s screw ups, we were not in the first class seats that we paid for, but were instead stuck camped out in a cafe car that was not properly climate controlled and had no power to charge anything. It was awful. Even after two hours of trying not to move and fanning myself with Dominica’s hand fan, the moment I stopped I would start dripping with sweat again, it was that hot. Even Emily’s entire back was wet with sweat, that never happens. It was so hot and everyone was so worked up that we really didn’t eat while there, either. At least SNCF brought us four bottles of water to help out. But we are pretty unhappy, this is by far the worst train situation that we’ve ever had to deal with in all of our years of travel.

At two hours into the trip, in southern France, we worked our way back to the very front of our train, and sat in the well for fifteen minutes to make sure that we were completely ready. And when the train stopped we had three minutes to disembark, cross the length of our cars, two engines, and get past as many cars on the next train as we felt that were safe before it left and then jump on to our own train and, once on, slowly work our way forward the full length of that train to finally find our seats.

Finally, after all this time, we have air conditioning (it is still on the warm side, but just a little, this train is many degrees cooler than the other one, it was shocking how much different the temperatures were kept) and seats. Big first class seats that recline, and have their own dedicated power at each one. Now we can relax. And we could eat our food that we had brought with us.

Internet was very intermittent on the train. These trains all advertise that they offer wifi, which they do. And it is free. But it isn’t wifi that connects to the Internet, which is what everyone means by having wifi. Instead it is wifi that goes to a private network and is useless. So all that we have are our phones connected to the 4G service, and that goes out quite often when going in a train (due to speed, tunnels, remote areas, etc.)

It was a very long day. We are so burned out from that stress. It was about two and a half hours of really high stress and worry that we were not going to make it to Barcelona. Now we know that we are going to make it there, but it has already been a long day of worrying.

Four hours of boring train ride, but at least we got to see lots of Provence.

We arrived in Barcelona on time. The last part of our journey went well. Now we have to find our apartment, which is pretty far from Barcelona Sants, where we arrived. We looked at the metro, but eventually decided on just getting a taxi (there is no Uber here.) But that was easy and not all that expensive.

It was eleven thirty when we got to our apartment. The girls were really hungry, so Dominica and Madeline waited at the apartment for our host to arrive. Emily and I went looking for food. Thankfully it is Barcelona so places stay open very late. We got pizza right around the corner from the apartment, just a margharita for ten Euros, and walked back to the apartment with it.

This apartment is four floors up, quite a bit better than the six floors that we had to deal with in Paris, and the stairs are way better, but it is still a lot of climbing. We ate our pizza and pretty much went straight to bed. We gave the girls the bedroom as the only air conditioner is in the living room and Dominica needs it incredibly cold, and I need air movement but am okay with it being warm. The girls like it so much warmer than we do when sleeping and can’t sleep if it is cool at all (which is weird to me, because I sleep something like forty degrees above my idea temperature just fine.) I can sleep in anything from about thirty to eighty degrees, upper temperatures only if there is air movement. And I just assume that below thirty gets too cold, that’s the coldest that I have tried and it was awesome, so I assume that I could sleep in the twenties just fine, too.

It was a little after midnight when we all got into bed and off to sleep. The apartment is small, but seems pretty good. And the wifi is great, the best Internet service that we have had the entire trip! That is a huge relief.

Tomorrow we are in Barcelona, but that is literally the extent of the plans that I know. I have no idea what we are going to be doing or even when we are getting up.

July 5, 2019: Catacombs and Valentina’s Exhibit

Friday. GT2 Day Twenty Seven. Paris, France.

Today is our last full day in Paris. Tomorrow morning we are here, then we take the train to Spain for the last stop of our trip. I think that I slept well last night. I left my watch charging all night and did not wear it. So I am just guessing, but I think that I slept for at least eight hours. I feel good this morning, at least. I was awake by seven.

By this point, everyone is done with the trip. Backpacking like this is always hard. It wears you out really quickly. The high cost of this trip is very fatiguing, for sure. And the constant struggle to manage the food situation which takes several hours of every day. It makes me dread the whole day knowing that nothing I do will change the fact that no one will plan or make a food decision until it is an emergency and then somehow I’m expected to fix a situation that no one could decide on themselves with days of warning. It’s to the point that I don’t even want to eat with anyone and would almost rather not eat at all and just wait to get back. The constant walking is wearing everyone else down, they are soar and exhausted. That’s the one thing that isn’t affecting me, I’m still enjoying all of the walking and don’t feel like we are doing enough each day. Yesterday, Emily and I did twice as much walking as Dominica and Madeline, and it still didn’t feel like very much to me. I can city walk all day. And the lack of solid Internet is wearing everyone down. Emily kind of likes being forcibly disconnected during the day, but that only works if she gets to reconnect at night when she returns and often that has not worked. And, of course, the European bathroom situation is always going to wear you down as an American. Dealing with odd, often non-working showers and toilets is a bit much day after day. And tomorrow is a moving day, another day of all of our stuff on our backs. No one is looking forward to that. It’s just all the things that add up. And then the big thing, I really miss the kids. They are so busy all day that they never have time to talk, and with the time zones being off we don’t line up much.

Only five more days at this point. We fly home on July 10th. One more night in Paris, and I believe four nights in Barcelona. Home stretch. Only one more travel day, and that is all a single train. Way easier than most of our travel days.

Emily was up around eight thirty and ready to go pretty quickly. Dominica woke up Madeline at nine. We headed out the door to start the day just before nine thirty. But without a plan as to what we were going to do for food. It is too early for Madeline to eat, already too late for Emily, and Dominica is in desperate need of coffee.

Even with all of our experience, it still seems like we packed too much. Mostly this is because of the extreme heat, but I could have used one more tee shirt, and several fewer long sleeved shirts and I never needed pants, only shorts. Now this was an extreme case of unpredictable weather, but still. Better planning for the future. Travel is a hot activity, there is always tons of walking and most places keep their indoors much warmer than we are used to, and public transporation is always warm.

On our way to our first destination of the day, the Paris Catacombs, we stopped by a boulangerie on the end of our street. This was actually a pretty painless breakfast. I had hoped that they would have more than they did, I was hopeful because of all of their breakfast advertisements in English and their long list of options. But when we got there, most of what they advertised was not available and they just had some croissants and muffins. Dominica got croissants and the girls got muffins and made due. I was not hungry, as I never am in the morning, and did not feel like all of the calories and carbs made sense just to eat them. I’ve not really been in the mood to eat for days, I just keep eating to hang out with everyone.

We went straight on to the catacombs via the metro to get there roughly at opening time. The line to get in was just under two hours long! So it was a very long morning of just standing in the warm sun.

It was about noon, because the catacombs open at ten, when we got to enter. Going into the catacombs involves a never ending circular staircase that gave Dominica vertigo just to go down. Once down, you spend roughly an hour in a group limited to just two hundred people, walking about five blocks of Paris underground, but in tightly winding mazes so it is way more than five blocks worth of walking. The first half is just seeing how the tunnels under Paris are structured. Then you walk through the world’s largest ossuary with something like six million people’s bones kept there. Dominica did the audio tour, the rest of us either listened occasionally or just read the signs.

Dominica says that she enjoyed it. I have no idea if the girls did or not. I have to say, I did not enjoy it. Not that it isn’t interesting, but I found no reason to see it. I have seen plenty about the catabombs on television or youtube that I already knew everything that I cared to know about it, and seeing it in person was just unpleasant. I don’t see any value to standing in a room with the dead as if they are a tourist attraction and found the whole thing a bit distasteful even before seeing hoards of millenials posing as couples in front of the dead to take selfies. Even if it was free (it is not), and even if there was no wait (there is), and even if I didn’t have to decent a long staircase (you do), I would still not want to have gone into it. I’m not saying it was terrible, just not worth going into even if there was no effort involved. But in the real world, there is quite a lot of effort involved to get into it. So my recommendation is a hard pass, this is a pretty strong “no reason to waste time or money on this” item on my list.

It was after one in the afternoon when we popped out and feeding the kids “real food” was a top priority. Not an easy thing to do where we were because there was no food around us having popped out in an unknown part of town. We did some searching, but they couldn’t decide on anything that they wanted, but they needed to eat quickly. Dominica finally found an American cafe a fifteen minute walk away so we headed there. But when we got there, the prices were just insane and there was every chance that they would not like the food anyway. There was a McDonald’s not that far away, so we opted for that. Just as American (moreso, I’m sure), but far cheaper and guaranteed to be able to feed both of them. So McDonald’s it is (at this point, I don’t know why we try to eat anywhere else.) Emily got a Big Mac, Madeline got chicken nuggets, Dominica and I got egg McMuffins. I was not going to get anything, not feeling hungry and not wanting to eat, but the egg and cheese McMuffins are only two Euros here and Dominica was ordering so I decided that I should get one. So awesome that is France the egg McMuffin is meatless by default, and so much cheaper! Huge win, there. So I just had my sandwich. An egg McMuffin normally has 300 calories, but I’m sure that the meat has to account for at least 50 calories of that, if not way more.

After food we were going to go to the Palais de Tokyo to see Valentina’s exhibit there, but Madeline wanted to do some shopping and on the way we passed by the Forum where Emily and I went shopping yesterday. It made sense to go there first and do the shopping now. The Palias is open until midnight (it opens at noon or we would have done it early this morning.) The girls started shopping and Dominica got the idea (that I had been thinking all along) that maybe they would want to just stay in the mall while Dominica and I went to the museum on our own. The girls do not like museums and are not into art in general and really, really are not going to like modern art. Plus modern art tends to be somewhat adult in nature. I thought that she was going to have a hard time talking the girls into it, but they loved the idea. So that made things way easier. They don’t have to be bored while we “museum”, and we don’t have to be bored while they shop.

On our way out of the Forum we spotted a real Belgian waffle place, so we stopped and grabbed one to share. It has been so long since we’ve had a real one. We got one with chocolate chips, whipped cream, and cookie crumbles. So good.

We had to make a few train changes to get to the Palias de Tokyo and on our second hop accidentally went the wrong way and had to turn around. But overall, getting to the gallery was pretty easy and the Palais itself was just outside of the metro station, so a super easy walk.

Valentina’s exhibit is the main thing at the museum right now. So it was really easy to find. It was a large exhibit, taking all of two floors of the Palais, so took us a long time to find her work, but it was pretty easy to find and we knew the piece that was on display. So cool seeing her work in a major Parisian museum! She was pretty excited that we went to see it, too.

The museum was super warm, we were sweating something terrible. There isn’t any AC there, and the sun was cooking it. They even had the doors open to try to help.

Working our way back to the Forum by train was easier as we knew what we were doing. We got back and found the girls pretty easily. Now that clothes shopping and museum stuff are done, next up is souvenir shopping. The Arc de Triomphe was ruled out for today as the girls had had too much walking already. Dominica’s feet were really killing her.

The souvenir shopping that they wanted to do was near Notre Dame, just a sixteen minute walk away. But I got the “we aren’t going to walk that far, are you crazy” so we had to try to take the subway, which I always say is way too much effort for short journeys, no one ever really considered the time standing around, the time getting to and from, the stairs to climb, etc. It is not as little effort as people like to imagine.

It took us about five minutes to get to the platform, that’s not much. Then we stood there for at least ten minutes. It was very hot and while walking is easy on your feet, standing still on hard surfaces is not and it was starting to hurt. Dominica even made a comment that at this point I should mention that had we just walked we would already be there. I said that I could probably still start walking and beat them there, and even if I didn’t it would be more pleasant. She said to go ahead and walk and see. So I did.

It turned out that I left just too late and got caught in an insane throng of people trying to get out of the train station. It was so packed behind us that I was legit scared and at one point went up an escalator with people on every step just to get to the top and be pushed off of it with nowhere to go and just people being crammed in by the force of the escalator. It took me fourteen minutes just to escape the train station!

Once outside I got Dominica’s text that they had announced, just after I had left, that the train was never coming (someone explained to her that THAT train was never coming, but one would come in half an hour or so, in theory) and so the station had turned into a panic of people trying to find alternative trains. She and the girls had been trying to get out then, too.

Once out of the station, I timed the nice, easy walk to the souvenir store and, yes, it was sixteen minutes. They were so exhausted from the subway situation that they stopped for iced teas. I got to the shop and sat on the curb and caught up with people via my phone while I waited for them. I was there for over twenty more minutes before they arrived. I always walked back to go looking for them, it took them so long. All in all, the total time it took to get to the shop was an hour for them, all in an attempt to “maybe” mitigate sixteen minutes of walking by a small amount.

We shopped at a few places on the island for maybe thirty or forty minutes. Then we walked over the bridge to the Latin Quarter and shopped there for a bit, too. This day feels pretty wasted to me. It feels like the entire day has been just riding subways, standing in ridiculously long lines, waiting for people to arrive, or standing around idly while people shop. Other than one hour (or less) of seeing a modern art museum, I’ve effectively done nothing today but stand and wait. It’s making me sore and tired.

While I was just standing around while they shopped, I did some scouting and found the absolutely perfect restaurant for dinner, a real gourmet burger place that had great looking American style burgers, Asian burgers, two kinds of veggie burgers, and a salmon burger. Finally a place that both girls have to like, Dominica can eat at (at very least their mushroom veggie burger will work for her), and I would actually maybe like. I showed Dominica and she agreed that we could not find a better place and that this was absolutely the dinner choice. I told her, that I’d show the girls, but if they didn’t decide to eat here that I was just giving them the apartment keys and letting them figure out dinner on their own. It is after seven at this point and I’m minutes away from getting “in trouble” for not having fed them, as if somehow I could possibly come up with whatever food they wanted at any given moment.

So as we finished shopping in one stretch and were passing the burger place I showed it to them and got “how can we be hungry so soon” and “I can’ t think about food now”, even though we are later than food emergencies have been every day of the trip, and we ate lunch extra early compared to normal by at least an hour. So a food argument is guaranteed now, we will walk away from that shop and within twenty minutes I will be in trouble for not having found food and fed people already. It’s a no win situation and I can’t mentally handle going through it again. I handed Emily the apartment key, said that they could eat wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and that I was going to see the Arc.

I set out on a many hour hike. First back the way we came, then down the Rue de Rivoli until it became the Champs-Élysées and walked all of the way to the Arc de Triomphe. On the way I stopped and bought a 1.5L bottle of water that I went through entirely on the walk to the arc. I was very dehydrated today. The walk was great. I feel really good and am getting exercise, fresh air, and really seeing Paris. More of Paris than we have seen so far!

On the way I got the see the Vendôme Column, which is so much like Trajan’s in Rome, and the Egyptian Obelisk, and the Concord (where the guillotine took its toll on royalty during the French Revolution), I walked the entirety of the Champs-Élysées, and saw the Arc de Triomphe at sunset. It was an awesome walk.

From there I turned somewhat north and walked to the seventeenth arrondissment and went to the Parc Monceau and sat for a while there and refilled by water bottle in the fountain (drinking fountain, that is.) Then from there I worked my way back to Notre Dame via the city streets and got to see so many cook neighbourhoods. Paris is such a cool town.

Dominica said that they all did gyros again for dinner. I’m kind of glad that I missed that, I love falafel but getting it in France is not the best, or the cheapest. It’s fine once, but as a regular “only thing to eat” option, it wears pretty thin pretty quickly. Really at this point, just thinking about eating is stressing me out so much that I don’t want to do it at all. I skipped dinner tonight entirely, I keep looking at restaurants all over the city and see what looks like it must be great food, from street food to real restaurants, but even considering eating anywhere just makes me feel crappy and I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m not feeling hungry at all, we have been eating so much more often than I would naturally eat that I am just overwhelmed with food. So a day of just 200-300 calories is probably just what my body needs, anyway.

On the street back going through the 8th, I found a real, authentic Parisian “not for tourists” macaron shop, so stopped to get some for Dominica. She had said that that was the one thing that she had missed out on doing while we were in France.

She texted me that she had actually bought some, too. She said that I got ripped off paying two Euros per cookie when she only paid eighty cents. We will see.

As I crossed the Pont Neuf, the Eiffle Tower was doing its twinkling light display that is pretty amazing. That is a must see. Very cool.

It was close to midnight when I got back. In all, I did twenty nine thousand steps and well over thirteen miles of walking today. My watch claims that I burned more the 300% of the food that I ate today in extra activity calories alone.

To offset that a little, Dominica and I ate some macarons. She had already tried most of the ones that she had bought. She had gotten more like a dozen. But mine were slightly larger, each. We tried both and she immediately agreed that the ones that I had acquired were absolutely worth the extra money. The difference between them was pretty huge.

I got a few hundred more pictures posted on Flickr, and several hundred more started. I got three videos uploading to YouTube. And I called it a night. I took a cool shower and got into bed at about twelve thirty.

Tomorrow’s plans: I actually don’t have a really good idea of what we are doing tomorrow. Emily told Dominica that she wanted to see the Arc tomorrow. But I suspect that the lure of staying in the apartment with Internet access, knowing that we have a travel day coming will be pretty enticing. Dominica told me that we are going to get burgers for lunch at the burger place that I found today. We are not in a hurry to wake up tomorrow. Our train does not leave from Gare de Lyon until after four in the afternoon, so we have a bit of time today. Our apartment does not need us to check out until three in the afternoon. We will be packing up in the morning and keeping our stuff in the apartment until it is time to go.

We have a direct train from Paris to Barcelona. The train is about six and a half hours. This will be a great chance to see a lot more of France. This trip is making us criss-cross the country in places we have never been. Which I am enjoying.

Barcelona is our final stop. Only one more city, one more apartment, no more car rentals, only one more travel day. This is it, the real final stretch. We will be home in the US in under a week.

July 4, 2019: Eiffel Tower

Thursday. GT2 Day Twenty Six. Paris, France.

The kids arrived down at Waverly, New York for the celebrations and family reunion last night and are staying there until Saturday. Mia is at a kennel for the first time. Poor girl, I doubt that she is enjoying that at all. She gets such horrible separation anxiety.

I got decent enough sleep last night. About six hours overall, but more than two and a half of deep sleep. Plenty for me.

This morning we had to all be up early so that we could head to the Eiffel Tower to get in the stand by line for people with no tickets. We tried to leave by before eight when Dominica wanted, but really it was close to nine. We took the subway and got to the tower right at nine as it was opening. We were glad that we did not go much earlier, as the line was only a little more than half an hour long, so having gotten there earlier would not have shorted our wait very much.

Seeing the tower was really cool. It is so much bigger in real life than it appears in movies. So impressive. It is amazing that 130 years ago it was the tallest building in the world, and remains one of the tallest today. The observation desk is still the highest one in Europe. It is so mind boggling to think that people in the 1800s were coming up to the same points and standing in the same place, looking out over Paris.

We, of course, got tickets not just up to the lower decks but all of the way up. The elevator system is really impressive. You ride first to the first floor, then the elevator changes tracks, then you ride to the second floor. Then you switch to a different style of elevator and ride a more traditional kind straight up to the very top. The views of Paris are really something.

We really enjoyed the Eiffel Tower and did a lot of pictures. When we came down we went out on the lawn and did hundreds of obligatory SnapChat pictures for the girls. All in all, it was almost three hours at the tower.

We rode the subway back to Notre Dame and returned to the Latin Quarter for some lunch. Emily wanted a burger. Dominica wants Indian food. So we ended up splitting up. Madeline and Emily went to a gyro and burger place that they thought looked good. And Dominica and I went to the Bombay Cafe located directly under our apartment for palak paneer and salmon curry. We also tried cheese naan, said to be a specialty of Indian restaurants in France: it was very good.

Dominica’s feet really hurt so she was done for the day. We walked the six flights back up to our apartment and relaxed for about an hour. I worked on getting more media uploaded, and offloaded whatever I had on my phone and camera to the laptop. I charged up my phone and got it ready for round two for the day. Dominica fell asleep pretty quickly. Emily changed so that she would have on a different outfit for the second round of pictures for the day, and so that she could be in sneakers as everyone’s feet were getting pretty worn out. I did some laptop updates while we were sitting around. The apartment, without having any air conditioning, gets pretty warm in the afternoon sun. Even with the fan going it was not very comfortable.

At three thirty, Emily changed and we set back out to go see more of the city. We started by walked to the Louvre and taking a few pictures there. That is one impressive site, well worth seeing even if just from the outside.

There was supposed to be a Pandora store at the Lourvre, according to Google Maps, but there wasn’t. It turns out that Google Maps put the store right in the middle of a giant traffic circle.

We searched and found another not ridiculously far away, in an area that we have not been. Emily decided that she wanted to start by going that way. That was a nearly thirty minute walk on its own. What we ended up discovering was “the forum”, the giant central mall of Paris. It was so huge and so impressive. A giant architectural piece, five stories going mostly underground. Emily could not believe how big it was.

The Pandora Boutique was inside of the mall. We had to search and walk the mall for a while to find it. She found a charm that she wanted and bought it. She got a uniquely Greek one, and now a uniquely French one. She now wishes that she had bought the one in Italy and wants Dominica and I to go back and find it for her.

Before leaving the mall, Emily found a clothing shop that interested her and spent fifteen or twenty minutes shopping there and bought a tee shirt from Paris. On the way out of the mall I spotted a “Mi Store” that I thought was a Xiaomi store, and I was right. (Xiaomi owns Huomi that makes my and Dominica’s watches.) We went in and checked it out, it was pretty cool. Xiaomi makes a lot of cool stuff, including phones, watches, and scooters.

After our long shopping excursion, we started walking in the direction of the Arc d’Triumph and went by a large church, and found a row of cafes on the park there. We decided to stop in for afternoon refreshments. Emily got a cosmopolitan and I got a Fiero Tonic. It was very good. The service was really slow as they were busy and there was just one guy so we were stuck there for at least an hour.

When we were done, I had guessed that Emily was going to need food and that we should head back as, by the time that we were back, it was be after seven. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to go back, but by the time that we returned to our neighbourhood, as I had predicted, it was a food emergency and too late to make decisions about it.

We walked the Latin Quarter for a while looking at all of the menus trying to figure out where we could all eat. Dominica had woken up while we were at the cafe and had been so asleep that she had not known that we had left or that the afternoon had passed, nor that Madeline was there with her. We had her and Madeline get ready so that they could just come down and join us once we found a place, but we never did.

Once Dominica and Madeline joined us, the three of them argued over food options for probably fifteen minutes and finally decided that we would have French food one time, and that it would be tonight. There are so many essentially identical places here, we just chose a near one and went in.

We all four did Prix Fix menus, which is what ever single French shop does here. Dominica and I both did hot goat cheese salads and salmon fillets for dinner. Madeline and Emily both did French onion soup (new for both of them) and bœuf bourguignon. For dessert Dominica and Madeline did an upside down apple tart, Emily did a chocolate cake, and I did creme brulee. I think mine was the only one that was really good. Overall, no one was too impressed with the food. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Nothing special at all. Other than the creme brulee, none of it was as good as what we would get back home, and none of it compared to Spanish, Italian, or Greek food. And the prix fix menu meant too little of what you really wanted, and too much of stuff you didn’t want, and just is a bad idea. So we did French food one night, no need to ever do that again. I had wanted to get the escargot, but was force because of the idiotic menu design, to choose between that and the salad which I also wanted. I was sad that I chose the salad because neither the salad was all that good, nor was the goat cheese. Not up to par with New York goat cheese that I am used to. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I expected it to be having just come from Italy.

Our after dinner plan was Fourth of July drinks. Emily and I had a plan to get red, white, and blue cocktails and do pictures for the holiday. So I scoured the Latin Quarter and found Rosie’s Smokehouse which was a US themed BBQ place that had a late happy hour and live music. We went there, but sadly they had run out of blue drink components! So no blue drinks for us. Emily was very disappointed. The live music was done well, but was nearly all the Beatles (why are we doing British crap-pop in am American bar on the Fourth of July?) so not my thing at all. The drinks were disappointing. My pina colada was not good (and was yellow, why would it be yellow?) Emily got a strawberry daquiri. Madeline got a white russian.

After dirinks everyone was tired. So straight back to the apartment and our horrible six story climb back up. That climb is so brutal that it really discourages us from going out casually. Once we return, we have returned and that is that. You can’t just “run out” to grab something like you would like to do. It’s exhausting to leave the apartment, so you have to really make it worth it.

Most everyone was asleep pretty quickly. I worked on Flickr and YouTube posts for a while, but fell asleep early myself. Tomorrow’s plan is to visit the catacombs first thing in the morning, then go to the Palais du Tokyo to see Valentina’s work on exhibition there. Then off to the Arc d’Triumph. Not sure if we have plans beyond that.

At this point, only four meals left in Paris. Two will be gyros, and one McDonald’s, Emily has already decided. So just scheduling each of those and then picking one last place to eat is all that is needed. You would think that we would have crepes more, but every crepe place in Paris is identical, has a terribly limited menu, and doens’t make crepes very well. They make them fast, but not well. And they are pretty expensive.

Overall that is our food experience in Paris: no variety. All over the city it is the exact same menus over and over again. No variation. In Greece, every crepe place has a giant, unique menu, for example. In Paris, they all have the same menu, and it is tiny with just a handful of ingredients. Same with the people selling things on the street, every “book seller” by the river sells the exact same set of things. There has to be a single supplier for all of them. And the junk beggars around the tourist sites, those people who walk around begging you to buy junk from them, all have exactly the same junk. They even display them in exactly the same manner. It’s all one thing under the hood. The lack of variety in every aspect of the city is pretty amazing. Granted, we are only seeing so much of the city, but it is miles and miles of it, and there is just no variety. This extends to cocktails, too. The same handful of drinks repeated ad nauseum. No one makes “any cocktail” like in the US, they all use pre-set lists, that are basically all the same.

Hopefully there will be a few hundred more Flickr pics by morning. Fingers crossed. The Internet is not super fast here, but it’s serviceable. Takes about two full days to upload one YouTube video, though.

July 3, 2019: Musee d’Orsay

Wednesday. GT2 Day Twenty Five. Paris, France.

It is so nice to have Internet again. Real, working Internet. Our connection here in Paris is second best of the trip, second only to Rome. But Rome we had very so little time, here we have it for about twice as long. In Rome we were not so backed up as we are now. Now we are very behind after three locations (Naples, Umbria, Tuscany) where we had essentially nothing. So last night and early this morning are purely “media management” time for me. Emily worked on social media posts last night all night, she has been waiting for that to work.

Dominica was up a little before eight, having fallen asleep really early last night. I was up until about one and got up at eight this morning. I worked on uploads and SGL all morning. By nine thirty I was showered and all ready to head out, but we are letting Madeline sleep as much as possible. She has gotten so little sleep and was passing out on the train anytime that there was an opportunity, so she is able to sleep when given the chance. But we keep waking her up and making her go do things first thing in the morning, so she rarely gets a chance to sleep.

One of the food complications with the girls that only really matters when you travel is that Emily can’t eat for the first hour after waking up, much like me, but unlike me has to eat very promptly after about an hour. I have zero desire for food for at least two hours after I have first woken up, at first food sounds terrible and later I just have no appetite. But Madeline always needs food, almost as an emergency, within the first hour of waking up. So if they wake up at the same time, or Madeline first, we have an impossible conflict that means that we cannot solve the issue with a single meal. So basically two “food emergencies” that conflict, guaranteed, every day unless Emily wakes up thirty minutes before Madeline, is already ready to go, and Madeline gets ready as quickly as she can, and we find something right away that they can both eat. Then the complication is finding what they both eat. Emily has to have something other than bread for breakfast, Madeline basically can only have bread like foods for breakfast. It’s the kind of complication that you never consider until traveling like this and all food comes from restaurants in an unknown area, open at unknown times, and they need to get sleep, but want to do things, and expect us to find and select all of their food for them. Every day is a pretty big challenge just for that.

Today’s plan, if we have one, is to wait for the girls to wake up naturally and to not want to go back to bed after doing so, and to upload as much as we can while they are sleeping. Then we will immediately venture out to our immediate area to find breakfast, my guess is that we will be looking for crepes. Then we will walk to Notre Dame, which is very close, and walk some of the gardens nearby and see the famous museum with the impressionists, the Musée d’Orsay. Dominica is leveraging the Planet D Three Day Paris Itinerary for ideas.

One of the consistent mistakes that we have been making on this entire trip is staying up too late and doing too many activities in the evenings and not getting up really early in the morning. The weather has been so hot and we keep missing doing things early in the morning when the weather and light are best, and instead doing all of our activities in the hottest parts of the day, so the toll it is taking on us is extreme. That’s not always the case, we’ve managed to do some really early mornings, but so often those are travel mornings and burn us out, and not activity mornings. Like yesterday.

No chairs in this apartment. There are some stools along the wall, but that is it. This place is tiny and with the beds in place, there are only the beds to sit on. Ten o’clock rolled around and Madeline was still asleep. Even Dominica is starting to get hungry.

Today should be a really big picture day. So much to see and do. Although if we do the museum as we have planned, and Dominica has already bought the tickets, then that is a big part of the day in which we cannot take any pictures. My goal is to get us up to four thousand pictures on this Grand Tour 2 photo gallery on Flickr. We are well above three thousand now and have not been in a real new location for a bit. I would really like to make a video this morning while I am waiting to get going, but we are in a silent “no talking” apartment so can’t do that.

It was about ten forty when we left the apartment and walked down the six flights of stairs to the ground floor. We are right in the Latin Quarter, in the middle of everything. This is a great location, I love it. We have like eight creperies alone on our block! And maybe forty restaurants total, all in one block. It is insane.

We started the day looking for food. Pretty much Emily discovered a couple of gyros places and that was what she wanted to have. So we found a nice gyro place and sat out on the street. Dominica and I had falafel. The girls both had chicken gyros. It was all very good and the girls were very happy. Emily ate the whole thing. Madeline did not, but ate as much as she reasonably could have eaten, so it was a big food success.

After our super late breakfast, or super early lunch, we went walking to Notre Dame. That walk was not far at all. It was really cool to see. The reconstruction is heavily underway and we really got to see a lot of it. We walked all around it as closely as we could, which is really not all that close. The damage is very extensive and you cannot go anywhere near the actual building.

From Notre Dame we walked along the Seine for a long way, see the Pont du Arts which was so famous with the lover’s locks that had to be modified so that the locks would not keep being added and bring down the bridge from the extra weight. It’s all plexiglass now.

We did lots of shopping at the little street vendors along the river. The girls got some souvenirs and we got some small wall decorations for the bar. I found a Campari poster, for example.

Our first big thing of the day, other than eating in the Latin Quater, seeing Notre Dame, shopping in the famous book seller’s row, and walking along the Seine, was to visit the Musee d’Orsay, considered by many to be the finest art museum in Paris. It was one twenty when we finally got there, it was quite a good walk, and we stayed until three. Dominica and I did Rick Steves’ audio tour of the museum and saw basically everything. The girls started the tour but gave up basically right at the beginning and never saw most of what the museum was famous for: the impressionists. This is the museum of Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro and others. Just room after room of the most amazing material. But they saw very little and were not into it. Dominica and I thought that the museum was amazing. Really awesome. The girls, are pretty much done with anything like this for a while. Too much art and tours.

At three we left to start walking towards the Luxembourg Gardens, supposed to be a highlight of the city. It was a bit of a walk and Dominica’s feet were really killing her and we needed to take a break. Emily was ready to eat and wanted crepes, but we struggled to find a crepery that would allow us to sit and eat. We settled on a cafe where Dominica and Madeline got coffee and I got a Aperol. We sat for a little bit until Dominica could walk again. Then we back tracked to find an affordable crepe place.

Dominica ordered crepes at the first place, but they were out of bananas. Emily only wanted crepes with bananas. So I left the three of them there and I hoofed it a long way back the way that we had come and found a crepe seller that we had seen on a corner, bought crepes for Emily and Madeline and a slushy for Emily because she cannot have ice cream, and walked back to them with the food. It turns out that Dominica had already gotten Madeline a crepe, but didn’t want to tell me, so Madeline ate the first one and hid the evidence while I was gone and then attempted to eat the one that I bought for her too! So Madeline had nearly three or four times as much to eat as she normally would. I got nothing, as I do not like crepes in general and when I do it is not sweet ones and there is just no savoury crepe that I’ve seen that I can eat that looks any good in Paris yet. But I had a few bites that Madeline could not finish. And not surprisingly, I didn’t like it.

From the crepes it was off to the gardens. More walking. In the gardens we really just did pictures. There was extremely little to see. It is a nice garden but nothing to write home about. Madeline was pretty surprised by the quality of European gardens compared to the parks back in Texas. She had not realized what real parks were like.

By this point the girls were really tired and wanted to get back to the apartment. Directly back we went, but only to the area, not to the apartment itself as we are in a six floor walk up and they did not want to walk all of the way back up six flights of stairs if there was any chance of needing to come down there again.

We got back to the Latin Quarter and the girls shopped for a while. Then we needed to kill some time before they were hungry enough to eat so we picked a bar and sat outside and had some drinks. Dominica and I had Aperols. Emily had a sex on the beach. Madeline had something like a Blue Lagoon.

While we were having drinks we quickly went from “not yet hungry and can’t think about where to eat” to “too hungry to make a decision, need to be fed now”, all within thirty minutes. This is why it is so challenging. Dominica was determined to have Indian food for dinner and was going to send the girls off on their own if they didn’t want Indian, too. I was really hoping for at least one French meal today, but no luck. The girls got Dominica to compromise on Thai so that they could eat with us. So Thai it is.

The restaurant was uncomfortably tiny and the food was beyond bland. Probably the worst Thai that I can remember having. It wasn’t “bad” like gross or anything. Just totally lacking in flavour, spice, or really anything. The ingredients seemed to be of fine quality, but the taste just didn’t exist.

We stopped at a tiny Tunisian bakery just downstairs to try some goodies. We got maybe half a dozen items. Don’t worry, I took pictures. Neither Dominica nor I have ever had Tunisian desserts before. We are very interested. The girls would not even look at the food and had no interest in trying it.

After dinner we climbed the six flights back up to our apartment and, as always seems to happen, the Internet was out. The wifi was totally offline. Dominica emails our host and after about half an hour it was turned back on. So that explains why so many of my uploads that I had set up to run today had not completed. So instead of uploading four videos today, only one got uploaded. I got more uploads started and worked on massaging those all evening.

Around ten thirty Dominica and I tried our pasties. That was a fail. Some were moderately okay, several weren’t really edible. There was nothing that we really liked. Oh well. Can’t win them all. Today has been pretty rough, though. Other than a good falafel sandwich this morning, I had a terrible leftover crepe, horrific pad thai, and train wreck pastries. This is my punishment for not just getting escargot and a fondue like a real Frenchman would do.

We are amazed after weeks in southern Europe as to how late the sun is out here. France is so much farther north than we have been, and it is so much farther west while not changing time zones that the sun does not set until around eleven!

By the end of the night, a lot of pictures have been uploading to Flickr and likely everything from Tuscany will make it by morning, unless we lose the connection. We had about fifty pictures left to upload at midnight to get to that point. So that is one to two hours for that to wrap up.

A few more videos have uploaded to YouTube. So anyone following the channel there will have some stuff to watch. Only a few minutes worth, but something. Some of the Tuscany videos are there now. Hopefully at least a couple make it during the night.

Instagram (and WhatsApp) are down today. They’ve been down for most of the day. So anyone trying to follow along there is going to be having problems. Instagram went down for me while I was at the first cafe with my first Aperol. I tried to post about that and it failed. I figured that the problem was my Internet, but Paula filled me in to the global Facebook infrastructure outage later in the day. A day after CloudFlare had such a huge outage.

I am wrapping up the SGL update and about to get to bad at half past midnight. This is night four, that I am heading into, without a CPAP. So far, so good. Not a single notice of snoring yet.

We have to be up super early tomorrow because we have to get to the Eiffle Tower very early in the day. That is our first thing of the morning.

July 2, 2019: Luzern and the Day of Trains

Tuesday. GT2 Day Twenty Four. Paris, France.

We were up at five this morning. We all felt awful. I managed to get about four hours of sleep, which is amazing. Three hours of light sleep, and one hour of deep sleep. Realistically, that was the best I could possibly have hoped for. So we are calling that a victory for the second night of attempting to sleep without the CPAP.

Today, we go to Paris. But first, we are spending half an hour in Milan, and a little time in Luzern, and a little time in Basel. So the actual activities of the day will be in Switzerland, but we will sleep in Paris tonight.

We were out the door at forty past five. Ten minutes later than we had wanted to be. So early. This is not fun.

We piled into the Ford B-Max for the last time and pulled out of the gated little parking spot that we have and drove out of Montecatini Terme. Off to the Firenze Airport to drop off the car.

We fueled up just before the airport. The drive was super easy and the A11 dead ends into the airport, so you can’t go wrong. There is a gas station just before the airport so it is as simple as can be to top up the tank before returning the car.

The tough thing is that the car returns are not labeled in any way. Nothing. We used Google Maps and it took us the wrong way on some one ways, but we were in a hurry and there was no traffic since it was so early in the morning so we just went the wrong way and found the Hertz drop off, dropped off the car with the key drop, and caught the shuttle bus to the airport. Once we got to the airport, the Firenze city tram is right there.

We could not catch the first tram because there wasn’t time to buy the tickets before it left. We tried to catch the next tram but they had two there at once and the one with the driver turned out to not be the next one. That was not good. The trams run about every five minutes, so these were not huge blows to our time table, but with getting fuel, having driven around a bit looking for the drop off, missing the tram our time was slipping and if everything ran on time, we would have maybe nine minutes from the time that we got to the outside of Firenze train station until we had to be boarded on our train and at this point we were not even sure how to get from the outside of the station to the tracks, nor which track we were looking to get to! A lot to go wrong in a very small window.

I should note that we found a great ATM at Firenze Terminal and we had intended to use it this morning to get more cash at a better rate, and obviously did not have time to do that. So that really sucked. I am not sure if Dominica has realized this yet or not at this point (writing this just before midnight.)

So the third tram was a charm and we rode into the terminal (Firenze is actually a terminal, not a station, regardless of how many times I accidentally call it a station.) While on the tram we could see that our train was delayed about five minutes (fingers crossed, we really do not want to miss this train) and eventually that it was on track ten. The girls had not spoken one word all morning at this point, and were really unhappy about being up so early (but hey, Emily is the one that scheduled this, I had tried to talk her out of it.) We were all set and made a mad dash out of the tram to try to catch our train.

We actually did pretty well and had probably three minutes to spare. We got onto the train, and it was pretty much immediately in motion. What a sense of relief. Missing that train this morning would have cascaded to so many other connections! We have a connection in Milan, another in Luzern, then one in Basel to deal with today. We could have missed all three!

So this first leg of our journey is from Firenze in Tuscany, to Milano in Lombardy. We were all so tired, we all napped pretty heavily on this first bit. Madeline literally slept the entire way and basically didn’t even know that we had been on the train. She was out like a light. Emily attempted to sleep but could not as there were too many people making too much noise. Dominica nosed off a bit. And even I probably got thirty minutes or more of sleep in. Maybe an hour! I dropped off several times.

We got to Milano and never even entered the station proper, there was not enough time. We only had about thirty five minutes before it was time to catch our SBB train to Luzern. Madeline and I attempted to get us breakfast while Dominica and Emily tried to find a rest room. Because of lines and the immense size of the terminal at Milano, it took them a good twenty five minutes to use the rest room that is right there on the platforms! Insane. We almost didn’t have time to make it to our next train. The place where Madeline and I were was so busy that we could not get any food or anything there, there wasn’t enough time. Thankfully Dominica and Emily spotted a sandwich shop on the way back from the rest rooms, texted us, and knew to just grab whatever they could there. Madeline and I grabbed all of the luggage and met Dominica and Emily at our track so that we could get right onto the train. Cutting it pretty close all day, today.

On this train we have a four person table so we can all sit together and eat. That worked out really well. Dominica got me a bagel that was just loaded with veggies. It was fantastic. She and the girls got sandwiches, she and Emily had focaccia. Madeline got a plain sandwich, but it turned out to the Swiss cheese that she can’t eat. Then the three of them had muffins, too. Huge ones.

This trip from Milano to Luzern was just the most incredible scenery. Madeline fell asleep again for nearly the entire trip. Emily slept some, but managed to see a lot of it, too. It is impossible to describe how gorgeous Switzerland is.

Once we got to Luzern, Dominica was tired and did not want to go out sight seeing with us. So she just took all of the luggage upstairs to a cafe and camped out there with a large iced coffee, some waters, and a comfy little spot to read and overlook the train station. Emily, Madeline, and I set out to walk around the really touristy little downtown area and get pictures.

We hit the arch, the famous wooden bridge, bits of the waterfront, some of the main shopping streets. We did some shopping for souvenirs. I was super excited to stumble on a Jack Wolfskin shop. It was one of those shops that I found my awesome traveling hat at in Hallstat, Austria in 2012. I’ve not had that hat on this trip and I have been so sad. I bought a new one, just like it, in black today for thirty dollars. This is awesome. I will throw out my seven dollar paper fedora from Greece today, it is terrible for traveling days. It just gets so hot and cannot be packed, it is too delicate.

We did all of our stuff in about an hour. It was not terribly hot, but it was pretty warm. The heat wave is breaking for us, finally. But the sun still made it more than we wanted to stay out doing for too long. So we returned and relieved Dominica. We all went down to the grocery store two floors down and did a little shopping for cheaper snacks to take on the next leg of the train with us. No one was really in the mood for a meal yet, so Dominica did some research and figured out that there was an earlier train out of Luzern than we had planned to take, and that our tickets were good for it, too. So we hopped an earlier train and headed off to Basel with the expectation that we would find dinner there, rather than in Luzern.

I have a new Twitter account now for people who want to be able to follow along with the never ending travel stream. Putting it anywhere else just did not seem to make sense. So if you are on Twitter and want to see where we are and what we are doing at every moment, just follow @takeflightscott

It is only about an hour on the train from Luzern to Basel. Very easy. We got there and had close to two hours, because we had arrived so early, before our train to Paris. We walked all over to see what food there was. There was not much. Luzern had loads of food options like Turkish, Thai, Cafes, Burgers, Fruit Smoothies, and more. It was really good, and the grocery store there was large. Basel had a tiny grocery, a couple little cafes, a pretzel stand, and a Nordsee. Dominica and I were excited to see a Nordsee, we need something different. Madeline managed to find a pretzel sandwich with salami that worked for her. Emily ended up trying a butter pretzel and found out that they sell them cold here, which did not make her happy. And she eventually got fried shimp at Nordsee. I got the standard Nordsee fish sandwich. Dominica got the Nordsee pulled salmon on a bagel and it was completely amazing. I am so sorry that I did not get one. We have to find another Nordsee before we head back! We hung out in the Nordsee until the girls and I ran to the Coop grocery to get snacks for the last train, then we headed down to platform five to catch our last train of the day.

My dad will be excited because we got to ride the TGV today, which goes up to 320kph and holds some speed records like around 574kph! This route took us from Basel right over the border into France and across France to Paris. A little over three hours. The ride was comfortable and went well.

We arrived in Paris on top, around nine thirty. We are all so tired. We started so early, and doing all of these trains and connections is just tiring itself.

While trying to figure out the subway, Dominica figured out that with four of us going such a short distance that it would be cheaper to Uber than it would be to take public transportation. That made the decision easy. We went to the pickup point and called a car and got a nice, quick drive to our apartment. We are going to be here for four days.

It was a bit of a walk from where the car dropped us off to the actual apartment. This apartment is in a totally crazy district near Notre Dame that is so jam packed with restaurants. It’s like something out of a movie, I can’t believe that this place exists in the real world. It was crazy. We wound through this intense maze of streets with more food than I have ever seen in one place before, then found this unassuming door on the alley, put in a code and went into a little courtyard behind all of this madness, down a long hallway in the back, and then up six flights of stairs super quietly (we are told that the neighbours are insane and that we cannot even talk in the apartment) and up to our apartment. This was super tiring since we are carrying our backpacks and bags with us as we do this climb.

The apartment is tiny. An itty bitty room with bunk beds and two other beds in it. One little window to keep us cool, no air conditioning, a small desk fan, and, well that’s all. This is the real Paris experience. This is the kind of apartment that real people live in in Paris. So small, so old.

We probably should have gone out for dinner, but not one of us felt like doing that. Emily asked me to get photos uploading since we finally have some Internet again. Not fast, but it works. So I set up, sitting on the corner of my bed, uploading pictures to Flickr, and writing todays’ SGL update. It is nice to get to do real media maintenance for the first time in a week. I am just now uploading the first pictures from our arrival in Tuscany. So that is a full four days in Tuscany, including our trip to Pisa and the Cinque Terre, and our time in Firenze, that has all been lagging behind. And I think that there are some videos that have yet to be posted from as long ago as our last day in Rome!

The weather is actually really nice tonight in Paris. Even with just the one window, the air feels good and sleeping will not be a problem. That is important, tonight is the night to make up a bunch of lost sleep. We are so lucky that we got to Paris on the first cool night. It has been a week of hell here, record setting high temperatures as recently as yesterday. Without air conditioning this could have been so terrible. But as it is, this is not a big deal at all. The fresh air is quite welcomed.