“We don’t stop playing because we grow old-We grow old because we stopped playing.”
George Bernard Shaw
“I always loved the signs on the outfield walls, and I’ll never forget the one in Philadelphia. It said, ‘The Phillies use Lifebuoy soap,’ and underneath was scrawled, ‘And they still stink.” Joe Garagiola
Bags packed, malaria meds not needed, pulmonary embolism dissolved, and my neighbors have brought me an incredible wardrobe of colorful and fancy compression socks. With the changes in flights, our original departure from Charlottesville disappeared, replaced with Philadelphia and a six hour drive, but with free parking and the opportunity to try out the socks.
After a lunch at the Best and the Wurst, a restaurant on the Rancocas Creek in Riverside, New Jersey with my brother, and Chuck and Nancy Perritt, Chuck once again shuttled us to the Philadelphia Airport for the early evening flight.
Delta uses a floating mile chart for award tickets, based upon current prices. At the last minute and the spike in prices, their award ticket redemption cost increases accordingly. Awards are available but at two or three times the points. While Delta earned our gratitude in cancelling our initial ticket without any fees, their system did not allow to re-book at a reasonable rate. United does not use this approach. While their award tickets stay at the same level, they are limited in availability.
On Delta, the Charlottesville (via Atlanta and New York) to Milano fight transitioned to a Lufthansa, United’s partner, Philadelphia (via Frankfurt) to Paris flight. Venice, Torino, Chambery, Lyon, and Dijon became casualties to the schedule change with an upside of a cheesesteak and a shorter flight time, and one less connection The pilgrimage to the Rhône Valley and the Syrah grapes will need to wait, c’est la vie. While I was initially relieved the flight was shorter, it was indeed difficult to sleep- yes, we had a crying baby across the aisle which kept everyone awake for the seven hours. The short connecting flight had seats in front of two small children who kicked the seats and jumped up and down throughout the flight. Needless to say, when we arrived at 10:30am local time (4:30am EST) we had not had any sleep.
On our arrival we expected to find daytime high temperatures in the seventies, lows in the fifties. These maps illustrate the relative latitudes of European and North American cities by transposing them on the opposite continent. Paris lies farther north than any city in the contiguous United States.
If you are a Millennial and you do not know what a map is, google it. Maps became extinct somewhere between a telephone booth and an encyclopedia. What we expected and what we got were two different things. It was hot and humid with intermittant rains. We checked in at the Grand Hotel – just across the street from the Paris Opera House. With only 30 minutes to spare, we quickly changed and were on time for the scheduled tour of the opera house in hopes of meeting the Phantom.
Our hotel the Intercontinental Le Grand, welcomed us with some strawberries and fruit juices, plus an incredible view the the Palais Garnier, fifty yards away.
Like a pair of Zombies, we fought the constant urge to close our eyes whenever the tour leader stopped and somehow made it through the 90 minute tour which was totally spectacular.
This opera house is the 13th in Paris. The previous dozen were all destroyed by fires. The use of candles for lighting had a lot to do with the fires. Enter in gas lighting. The new opera house was designed by by Garnier, a 34 year old architect. He won the contest by submitting the new design when the Emporer called for a competition for a new and safer opera house. It is here the story begins of The Phantom of the Opera.
A short walk around the corner to find the bakery resulted in two sandwiches, which we promptly brought back to the hotel, ate, and went to bed. It was still light out and before long, the lights illuminated the opera house outside our window. We slept for 14 hours.