Subject: Vienna Travelogue - 1
29 of December 1999 - Monday Our bus to Hendaye was leaving Bilbao at 7.30, so we had to get up early in order to catch it. We had bought the tickets a week before, just to be in the safe side. The bus arrived into Hendaye at 9.20, having stopped in San Sebastian and Irun. Then, we had to wait until 10.30, the hour of departure of the first direct TGV from Hendaye to Paris. Previously it used to be at 9.40, so now we had 1 hour to sit at the Café de la Gare, and had three cups of tea while waiting. There is an early TGV at 6.30, having to change in Bordeaux and arriving into Paris around 12.00.

The train leaves on time, but there are a few stops between Hendaye and Bordeaux, and afterwards there are plenty of work in the railroads, meaning that we will reach Paris with a delay of around 20 minutes, at 16.30.
>From Montparnasse we get a taxi to our hotel near Gare de LīEst. And here we got another nice taxi driver to add to our list. There three of us, each with a carry-on and a small bag, but very bulky due to the winter coats, so I wanted to sit in the front, but I wasnīt allowed. The cabby had his cigarettes and his newspaper sitting there. So, we had to manage to squeeze into the backseat. There was a big traffic jam, and when we arrived to Gare de LīEst, our driver wanted to drop us there. There were many people waiting for a taxi, so I guess he saw business. I had to remember a few words in french I didnīt even know I could say, with a little help from my mother, and we got dropped at the entrance of the hotel, just two minutes from there (137 FF, including luggage). I say we could have done by metro, but not with my mumīs girlfriend.

The hotel is O.K., although I have found that the IBIS in Portugal or in the french roads are better. The good thing is that itīs located really near from the trainstation, and we had a very early train.

We left our carry-ons at the rooms, and headed straight to the nearest metro station in Gare de LīEst. I bought a carnet (10 tickets, 55 FF), and got the metro down to the Louvre. We enter into the shop gallery from the metro station and got out towards the Arch du Carousel. There werenīt a lot of Christmas decorations yet. The weather was fine, and I got a few pictures of the Lei pyramid. We walked up towards the Champ Elysees along the Rue de Rivoli. I wanted to stop in Angelina, but it was a bit late, so we went on walking. We had to stop in Place Vendome, because my mumīs friend wanted to see all the jewellers. I think she is only happy when she has a diamond nearby.

There were plenty of policemen all around Paris. It looked like a high-security event was taking place.

It wasnīt really cold, and we saw the big Christmas ferriswheel on Concorde. We crossed the Seine through the Pont Alexandre, and there it was. All the new illuminations of the Seine, and a really bright Eiffel Tower. The previous week was probably very cold and icy, because there was still salt on the footpath in the bridge. We decided to walk up to the Quartier Latine, and have dinner some place there. It was only 19.30, and everywhere was almost deserted, except for a few tourists. So we began to walk along Boulevard Saint-Germain.

There werenīt so many people sitting in the Café de Flore or Deux-Maggots, but of course, they are also expensive enough (23 FF or 24 FF just an expresso, 41 FF a beer). Afterwards, it was just window-shopping in all the restaurants we found along the way. We were really hungry, only had a rice salad for lunch, and it had been a long day. I would have settled for a japanese restaurant, but Gabi wasnīt very keen on raw fish, so my mother opted for a small Greek restaurant just off Rue Buci, really scruffy looking. I think itīs called Orestis, and it was founded in 1928. Everything seemed to come from that year. It had long tables, with paper napkins and paper tablecloth. The decoration was mainly hunting, not very greek, really old lamps, but the owners were greeks (nice people) and most of the people sitting there were french people, they seemed to be habituals. Mum and myself shared a green salad, moussaka, nice, and apple tart (really good, this one), and Gabi had a green salad. They wrote the order on the tablecloth, and that was. 92 FF altogether, not too bad for Paris, I think, and we had a nice dinner (although I think it was the beginning of our holiday companion from hell adventures, because Gabi kept complaining all the time).

>From there, it was time to get a metro back to our hotel, and get to bed. It was going to be a long day, and we had to get our beauty sleep.

Back in the hotel I called home to check on the family. Thanks God for the mobile phones. They are really useful, although itīs still expensive to call from a different country than yours.

Iīll post at the end of the travelogue the name and addresses of the hotels, with comments for the database.

More later... Covadonga in Bilbao