Kay and I finished packing last night, and are ready for France!
After leaving home at 11 AM and driving to the airport in Little Rock, the car was parked at the Comfort Inn, luggage was transferred to their van, and we were dropped off at Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport. After quickly obtaining boarding passes and checking luggage, we effortlessly passed through security, and arrived at the United Airlines gate at about 12:30 PM. We began noticing cancellations popping up on the TV monitors, caused by ice and snow problems at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. We were assured that thus far our flight was OK. More cancellations occurred, and then at the last minute, our flight was delayed, putting our connection to Paris in jeopardy. After waiting almost an hour, our flight was canceled! Consequently, we missed the connecting flight to Paris. Fortunately the gate attendant was far more responsive than the ticket counter employees, and reconfigured the flight to Paris via Houston and Newark—departing tomorrow morning after 9 AM arriving in Paris Wednesday AM. So, it was back home for the night. At home, we had decided to cancel the trip entirely until Kay and her sister talked, mutually deciding to continue.
We awoke early to a new day on Tuesday being cautiously optimistic. With boarding passes in hand, we quickly checked baggage, and began the two hour wait. Shortly before boarding, the flight to Houston was delayed, putting the connecting flight from Newark to Paris in jeopardy. Some time was made up in the flight to Houston, but we found the flight from Newark to Paris delayed! Taking off an hour late, we were, at last, Paris bound. With tailwinds near 140 mph, the pilots made up for some lost time by crossing the Atlantic in just under 6 hours.
(Note: We really enjoy Viking Cruises—but flights made through Viking Air are very disappointing. We are beginning our 3rd Viking cruise, this time via United, our first flight was delayed, then canceled, we missed connecting flight to Paris, and so far have missed one day of the cruise and two excursions. And on Tuesday, two legs of the flight were delayed—causing us to miss one of the two key excursions of the trip! While the United Airlines gate attendant went above and beyond, the ticket counter folks were unhelpful, a bit ignorant of company policy, and generally gave us bad recommendations! Viking cruises are awesome—one you board the ship. However flights made through Viking Air are very disappointing. We are on our 3rd Viking cruise, this time via United, and each of our three trips have had significant flight issues, with attendant delays and missed cruise activities. Our pleas to Viking (via our travel agent) to travel one day early, have been met with very strong discouragement. Please, Viking, accommodate our needs, we don’t want to discontinue traveling wit you. And, oh by the way, I’m still waiting on the promised communication within two business days; it’s only been four.)
Good fortune came our way as we passed through the passport check rather quickly, claimed our luggage, and met Nan, George, and the Viking agent at the exit, all without issues. However heavy traffic, combined with flight delays, resulted in our arriving on the ship, Viking Rinda, just after 9 AM, and missing the Versailles excursion by less than an hour.
After a light breakfast, everything was unpacked, and we were off to LaLa land for a long nap, trying to offset jet lag.
Napoleon’s Chateau de Malmaison—After our nap and a light lunch, along bus drive delivered us to Napoleon’s Chateau de Malmaison. Chateau de Malmaison is a French château near the western bank of the Seine about 10 miles west of the center of Paris. It was the residence of Empress Josephine de Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon. It was the headquarters of the French government fro 1800 to 1802, and Napoleon’s last residence in France at the end of the Hundred Days in 1815.
Notable were Josephine’s music room, library, and chambers, and Napoleon’s bedroom and office. The formal gardens, while not opulent, were nonetheless impressive.
Also impressive was the Rural French countryside where row crops abounded. Evidence of recently harvested fields of soybeans, corn, and beets (for livestock feed) combined with the absence of urban areas was a delightful surprise. Never in my wildest imagination could I have realized the beauty of France.