The Grey Skies of Paris

Written by admin on January 22, 2007 – 3:15 pm -

It’s only the very beginning of November and already people are slinking around the exterior walls of Paris’s buildings. And now that clocks have been set back an hour (a week, sometimes more, earlier in France than the US), it feels as if it’s the middle of the night.

When Paris is grey, there’s nothing like it to make some residents want to jump from windows. How many studies have been done documenting direct correlations between light and people’s mood swings? Perhaps, some of the vacations to which the French are legally entitled, are realistically methods and means of keeping them working constructively and conscientiously in their offices.

OK  – today is one of those days when it feels as if the sun never shines nor will it ever again. It’s been the same for over a week and if you work at home, you can order your groceries on-line and avoid having to rip off your pajamas.  That is, unless you have an appointment in the “real” world where that attire wouldn’t be acceptable.

Even though Bonjour Paris’s mantra is people should never come to the City of Light for the weather, those of us who live here and aren’t on the tourist circuit, occasionally want to set our hair on fire and head someplace sunny. That’s one of the reasons some people have houses in Provence; once the TGV crosses the Valence border on its way to Avignon, it’s often akin to arriving in another weather system — a mistral may be blowing down the Rhone River, but at least there’s sun. You’ll see people sitting in wind protected nooks and crannies with their heads facing the sky trying to absorb every ray of solar energy.

Friends and I’ve been known to take advantage of last minute deals that come flying across our computer screens. We’ve gone and been places that aren’t high on our must see lists – but at the very least, they were sunny and gave us a needed break from what felt like a Faulknerian cloud. Naturally, this is an extreme reaction but who knows?

The weekly cyber announcements from  last minute sites just hit my email box; they’re filled with deep discounted deals that are of the moment. Because of the current Euro – dollar exchange, if you want to go to the US for the weekend, it’s yours for the booking.

There are shopping tours, theater trips and — even though there’s no guarantee until you press reserve whether or not you’ll be flying charter (more than likely, it will be in the far back section of an Air France flight) – the booze is free on European carriers. At least that will ease the pain of the less than glamorous “get to airport hours early” cow herding (coupled with security hassles that are part and parcel of hitting the skies these days).

With some of these bookings, you won’t know in which hotel you’ll be housed immediately. But these trips are cheap. Often they’re terrific buys as airlines like full load factors and hotels count on room occupancies clocking in at a certain level.

After looking at the prices, it’s quite possible it costs less for the French to visit Las Vegas than it does for US based residents. And why does the Air France fare from Paris to the Big Apple cost less than $500?  You can’t get transport that cheap if you’re originating in the States. What happened to parity unless there are a ton of taxes added when you press the button?

Even though web site travel booking is up, people are accessing call centers. Expedia.fr has succumbed to posting a telephone number so you can hear the sound of a real live voice. Naturally, this is after being kept on hold. But that’s the norm and who doesn’t want to scream? Is voice mail an asset or a curse?  But, that’s another article all together.

The destinations to which I invariably gravitate are Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Istanbul and other places I might not choose if left to my own devises. The cultures are so different… but there’s sun! Plus, they don’t take forever to reach from Paris and you don’t need to combat jet lag. Remember, supposedly, it takes one day for your body to acclimate to each hour of time difference. That’s a luxury business travelers can’t afford.

With these “buy now or soon” sites, you may be able to choose the precise date for the weekend or if it’s a charter flight, you’ll invariably have some choices immediately and others further out. There are a few other options such as how many stars the hotels have plus different activities. More than likely, breakfasts and dinners are included in the package. Once in Tunisia, there wasn’t a meal where a variation of fennel wasn’t served. Seeing some rendition of it in the early a.m. isn’t my cup of tea. But you don’t have to eat it and there’s always that country’s version of bread and accompanying condiments.

One of the cheaper than cheap trips was enticing enough to cause me to head to Cairo with a group. Some of us were mighty surprised when we were sitting on camels. None of us were sure we would have opted for that journey had we had the time to contemplate it, but Egypt was an experience, and seeing the Pyramids is a must-do.

If you aren’t duty bound, take the leap and hop on one of these last minute trips. If you’re not crazy about the dinners in the hotel or pension, you can always splurge and eat elsewhere.  You won’t even feel guilty with the tiny euros you shelled out! And who knows, you may experience an adventure you’ll never forget.


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