We were up at a decent hour, tidying up our room and finishing any bits of packing left. We went down and had a quick breakfast, chatting with our hosts and the other guests for a bit, before settling our affairs and loading up the car. It would be a bit of a sad journey as we would be returning our beloved Twingo. Once we were all loaded up, and amusedly after our hostess had warned us of the dangers of pickpockets and the like in Paris, we headed northward. It had been raining fairly heavily in the early morning, complete with thunder and lightning, but it had thankfully stopped by the time we left. We listened to tunes and enjoyed the scenery and gradually made our way back to Paris. We opted to take the A highway (a toll road), but they were wider and faster and made our drive a little less stressful.
We eventually reached the toll booth, a massive expanse of booths in fact, and opted to use the credit card route for speed. However, after fumbling around with it for an interminable length of time, trying all of our credit cards, we eventually pressed the help button and someone came by and took our cash (evidently it didn’t like foreign credit cards, which would’ve been nice to know beforehand). We pulled into a busy rest stop to get D caffeinated again and to buy a bit of lunch. We wolfed down our sandwiches and were off, speeding towards the outskirts of Paris. Now I had more than a little trepidation about driving in Paris, and D did not allay my fears but actually confirmed that it would be terrifying for me. We followed my directions into the city, but unfortunately missed one of the turn-offs, and we were soon in the unknown. Thankfully, our big map book had a map of Paris, and so I guided us back in the general direction we needed to go. The streets of Paris eerily felt like being back in Bangkok a bit—no real sense of lanes or signalling or anything, though thankfully they moved at slower speeds than Bangkok. And of course the roundabouts were a terrifying mess of interweaving cars. But all in all, I think I fared fairly well, with mostly just seat-gripping and a few pained looks.
We soon amazingly found our hotel, and D parked French-style (hopping the curb) in front so we can unload our things. Our room was on the 6th floor, but mercifully they had an elevator. After we transferred our stuff to the room, we grabbed our car and made what should’ve been the short drive to the Europcar rental location. The address listed on the website said Place 18 mai 1945, so we made our way over there, with nary a rental car location to be seen. We called the office, but they were vague and not terribly useful in pinning down exactly where they were. We drove in a giant circle, crawling because of heavy traffic, and eventually parked. I ran into the train station and asked for directions, and they sent me to the bowels of the station. After much running around, I found them (they were actually in the train station, despite saying they weren’t really), and I ran back out to get D and park the car.
Exhausted but victorious, we bought 3-day metro passes and converted to public transit, taking the metro back to our hotel. We relaxed for a bit before changing into our suit and nice dress that we’d been lugging around France and headed out for our date with the opera house. A quick ride on the metro, and we were soon before the gloriously ornate Palais Garnier. We needed a bite to eat to tide us over, so we took a walk around to find a spot—most were fairly touristy or fairly expensive, but we eventually gave in. We opted for dessert for our pre-dinner snack. I had a crepe with ice cream, and D had a chocolate mousse with his two espressos. We finished up and headed inside to ogle the amazing interiors. The first time I was in Paris in 2008, D and I had gone to tour the interiors of the opera house, and I had vowed that the next time I was in Paris, I would see a show there. Fast forward two years, and there we were, about to see a ballet entitled La Petite Danseuse de Degas. We wandered through, stopping briefly to get D a little tiny bottle of whiskey to have before the show. D noted that the fabulously ornate ballroom alone pretty much trumped all of the chateaux we had seen in the Loire. We made our way up to the fourth floor to find our seats. Now we hadn’t paid too much, 21 Euro a piece, because there hadn’t been much else available. We had flashbacks to our Olympic experience, as we were probably the farthest seats away from centre stage (the very top row). They weren’t the worst seats, as we were largely centred on the stage, and we still had a very good view of everything. The seats themselves, however, were spectacularly uncomfortable, largely because there was very little leg room.
It was also rather warm, so we fanned ourselves with our tickets and waited for the show to begin. The show was beautiful and elegant—the dancing exquisite, set to excellent music. The costumes were sweet and very much reminiscent of the Degas paintings. Perhaps the only blemish on an otherwise superb evening was a mother and her kid, sitting in a weird seat up behind us (near where the spotlights were operated), who were occasionally quite noisy. The ballet was essentially the story behind a young girl who inspired one of Degas’ wax statues, and her trials and tribulations. It had the feeling of being almost a meta-ballet, as many of the scenes were in a ballet studio with ballerinas playing ballerinas. After the show, we took a walk down a nearby street that was lined with restaurants and sat down for a quiet dinner of pizza and pasta. Thank goodness the French eat dinner after 10 pm!