Saturday, April 13, 2013

Caro's Big Adventure: the End of the Cruise

They say all good things must come to an end, and so it was with my lovely Rhone river cruise.

After our day at Macon (and Cluny) we sailed up the Saone (actually, we entered the Saone from Lyon, where there is a confluence of Le Rhone and La Saone, as the Rhone is not navigable north of Lyon), and ended up in Chalon.

Our last night on board was rather special, with a farewell cocktail party and special dinner, followed by a revue-style crew show. The so-called 'hidden talents' of the crew were best kept hidden, methinks, but it was a fun and funny evening, followed by some exuberant dancing (and at one point, Vojtech came up to me and dragged me onto the dance floor with him... my fantasy was then complete. He was so delightful, managed to do his job well, make me feel special, but there were no professional boundaries crossed, it was just some innocent fun *sigh*).

The next morning, however, the languid luxury was over, as it was 'Bags Out' at 7am (Gahhhhh!!!!) Being the organised kind of girl that I am (stop laughing!), and determined to suck the experience dry for all it was worth, I got up early, and had my shower and was packed up all before 7am. I put my bag out, and then waited for my usual morning coffee, which I had ordered for 7:30am. 

Even though the price of the cruise included all tips and gratuities, I felt that there were a few staff on board to whom I wanted to say a special thank you (the kind of 'thankyou' that involved a sum of Euros in a little card). These included Vojtech my butler (of course); the lovely Igor, the sweet young waiter who I had so much fun with in talking about my preferences for wine; Daniel the receptionist, who had taken me on a grand shopping spree in the ship's gift shop, and been generally delightful every time I had contact with him (when we were discussing my planned assault on the gift shop, he said that he would help me try on any of the jewellery in the shop, and was sure that everything would look lovely on such a beautiful lady. I asked him, "Are you flirting with me Daniel?" to which he replied, "Oh no, because that is not allowed!"), and also to the lovely Beata, my cabin stewardess. Beata was one of the behind-the-scenes staff, but whenever I ran into her, she would always greet me warmly, with a big smile. If it was in the morning, she would say, "have a nice day" and if it was in my way to dinner, "Bon appetit!"

Anyway, so bags were out, my morning coffee, and final farewell to Vojtech was done (sigh), and I was ready to leave the ship. I was on one of the two buses heading for Paris (different people were doing different things at the end of the cruise), and at 9am we set out on our 4hour drive from Chalon to Paris.

My cruise concluded with a night in Paris at the Radisson Blu hotel, near the Opera Garnier, in the centre of the city. Very luxurious and nice, but I was glad to only be there one night. It was the kind of luxury hotel you could find anywhere in the world, so not very Parisian in my opinion. On the advice of Nicholas, our tour guide on the bus trip, I booked myself into dinner and show at the Moulin Rouge for that night, and had a great time.

The Moulin Rouge is a Paris icon, and I felt it was a great way to spend my first in night in Paris for this visit. I was on my own, and was seated opposite an American woman who was also alone, and we had a great time chatting over dinner and talking about all kinds of things. It turned out that it was her birthday, and she was in Paris for work, deciding to treat herself at the Moulin Rouge for her birthday.  So when the mandatory photographer came round I suggested we get a photo as a souvenir, and it would be my birthday present to her. So we did.

Ahh, but before the evening, there was the afternoon! The hotel was very close to Les Galeries Lafayette, a huge department store in the heart of Paris. I had decided I wanted to buy an overcoat, so dutifully wandered around all the women's fashion floors, becoming more and more dejected that they only seemed to cater for what I tend to call the SGNT set (ie skinny girls with no tits). After seeking out a particular designer whom I had been assured catered for larger sizes, I still had no success. I bought myself a new suitcase, to fit in all my extra purchases, and some perfume (L'eau D'Issey, which also included a great swag of free samples from the salesgirl), did the paperwork to claim back the VAT on my purchases, and then wandered back towards the hotel. But then I saw it- a women's clothing store advertising 'les grandes tailles' in the window- so I was in there like a shot.

The very nice saleswoman spoke no English, but I managed to convey what I 
wanted. She tried on a couple of rather glam coats (one of which had a price tag of around 3000€, which almost gave me a heart attack), and when I said to her, "non, trop cher" (too dear) she got one of the other women, who spoke English, to come and help. We eventually found a gorgeous black cape-like coat that is made of wool and cashmere, with fox fur collar and cuffs, and the cut means it fits ok, and was a price I was willing to pay (especially with more VAT refund- I mustn't forget to get all that paperwork stamped and posted when I'm leaving Heathrow).

So I wore this gorgeous garment on my outing to the Moulin Rouge. 
First night in Paris-resounding success! :-)

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