anecdotes, Europe, France, trains

A month on a train in Europe… Tours, Amboise, and Paris

The last part of my month in Europe was in France.  Becky had her heart set on visiting the Loire Valley, which is where there is a beautiful chateau and wines aplenty.  Though I had been to Nice at that point, there’s a big difference between the South of France and the Loire Valley.  We stopped in Tours, exhausted from all the travel, and got a room at a chain hotel.  I want to say it was a Holiday Inn or something similar.  Becky was horrified and disgusted because chain hotels don’t have charm.  She wanted to look for a place further in town that might be more French. But I was fucking exhausted from two days of intense travel and needed to sleep before I tore her head off.

I didn’t actually get to see much of Tours, but I do remember going into a music store there and seeing a wall of CDs with no cassettes available.  James Taylor had come out with his album, Hourglass, which I had heard a couple of songs on while listening to VOA Europe in Armenia.  I bought the CD, but couldn’t listen to it until I got home.  I remember being really bummed out about that because I love JT’s music and needed something to soothe me.

Tours, France Courtesy of Wikipedia: ( 

After one night in Tours, we moved on to Amboise, which turned out to be a really beautiful place that looked kind of like it came from a fairytale.  We found a pleasant three star hotel and checked in, then visited the local chateau, which looked like it was the biggest show in town.  It was actually pretty nice– and there was good shopping, though I don’t remember having much money for shopping.  I did buy a couple of bottles of L’Occitane perfume.  That was pretty dumb, since that’s an international brand, but what did I know?

I also remember the food.  One place we went to gave us terrible service.  The woman who waited on us seemed hostile.  Becky drew a frowny face on our check and wrote “Tres mal” on the receipt.  Childish, I know, but it was kind of funny.  The waitress was a sourpuss and that was before I’d had the experience of waiting tables myself.  I wouldn’t do that today.

We went to another place that had the most delightful croissants…  It was amazing.  Other than that, I remember drinking a lot of wine and doing a lot of walking… and taking some really lame photos.

Amboise was pretty, but it was time to move on to Paris.  I remember pulling into the main train station and seeing the vast city from the tracks.  This was to be my last stop before I boarded a jet to Amsterdam and then one that would take me to depressing Dulles airport.

Chateau in Amboise Courtesy of Wikipedia: (

Paris in September 1997 was lovely, even though just weeks before, Princess Diana had died there.  Becky and I checked into a cute little hotel near Rue Cler and wandered along the Parisian streets.  I remember going to the Eiffel Tower, which was teeming with people.  We opted not to go to the top.  Incidentally, I went back to Paris in May 2009 with my husband and we made the same decision when we encountered the crowds.  Maybe if we ever get back to Paris, we’ll finally do it.

Eiffel Tower taken in May 2009

We never did make it to the Louvre, which kind of surprises me, given Becky’s love of art.  And when I went back in May 2009, we skipped it again.

I do remember Becky trying to talk some American woman and her daughter into sharing a cab with us… she wanted to save money and we were having trouble navigating the Paris metro.  I was kind of embarrassed by her boldness.  Then later, we went out to dinner and ended up sitting next to a Canadian woman who was very loudly and obnoxiously talking about her accomplishments.  I remember Becky saying in a very annoyed voice, “That was disgusting!” about the Canadian woman’s very public preening.

I, of course, was getting really tired of traveling with Becky.  I started making plans as to how I’d be getting home.  Becky had picked up a suitcase for me that I had shipped from Armenia.  It was in her apartment near Washington, DC.  We were going back to the US on different flights, so Becky said she’d give me her key and I could wait for her.  I figured that was the safest thing to do.

I called my parents to advise them of my plans.  My mom was in a foul mood when I told her I needed to stay in DC one extra night so I could give Becky her key.  Mom told me that was too much trouble for her and my dad.  I had no idea what was going on at home… or that I would be landing in the middle of a crisis.  I just knew my mom was being really bitchy to me, even though she hadn’t seen me in two years and I was coming home having triumphantly finished a two year Peace Corps assignment.

I ended up helping to pay for the last night at the hotel in Paris, but was nervous about the early flight and eager to get away from Becky.  So I took the bus to the airport and planned to sit up at Charles De Gaulle airport’s very uncomfortable benches.  I sat there for about twenty minutes, then remembered that at that time, CDG had a “Cocoon”.  Basically, it was a soundproof motel that wasn’t actually considered a motel… as guests were only allowed to book the room for sixteen hours or less.  The Cocoon had a bed, a clock radio, a TV, and a tiny bathroom with a shower.  It was very plain, but it was heavenly, because it was my room.  I slept like a dead person until about 5:00am and then got my early flight to Amsterdam.

The Cocoon is now closed, unfortunately.  I’m glad I had a chance to stay there, though… It was a blessing to have a safe, cheap place to spend the night before my early flight.  Charles De Gaulle airport is one of my least favorite airports and it was awesome to be able to get some rest before going home.  I was definitely going to need it.

Next… the flight home and family crisis.


2 thoughts on “A month on a train in Europe… Tours, Amboise, and Paris

  1. I'm very curious as to the nature of the family crisis.Few things soothe like the music of James Taylor. And he still has the voice when so many of his contemporaries have lost theirs. He seemed to have partied as hardy as anyone else did, but fate was kind to his voice, thankfully for all of us who love it.There are few people with whom I'd care to undertake an extensive excursion. I understand your frustration with Becky.Do three-star hotels and Holiday Inn-type accommodations have private bathrooms, or does everyone share the one at the end of the hall?

  2. The hotel bathrooms I encountered in my most recent trips to Europe have had their own bathrooms. If you get a one star hotel, though, you might run the risk of getting a hall bathroom. I'm probably closer to Becky than I am two my other two sisters. She's an artist and can be very funny when she wants to be. But she also has a hair trigger temper. When we were taking this trip, I was suffering from some pretty severe depression and anxiety, which made me a lot less able to deal with her drama. As we've gotten older, she's been somewhat more respectful. I think it has to do with my decision to leave her at my parents' house when she threw a tantrum at Christmas time (she had gotten a ride with my husband and me). She was being controlling and unreasonable, so we just left her there. She didn't talk to me for a long time after that, but I have noticed that she's become more subdued in her demands as I've become more assertive in dealing with her.I will write about the crisis later, after I've had some caffeine. Too much Belgian beer last night…

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