Trains, planes, and automobile
Paris has always been the ultimate trip, and in hopes of doing it well, I waited until I could go off-season; that meant retirement! I never imagined the hurdles that would need to be overcome to achieve this goal.
After reading and planning, I booked hotels, purchased train tickets, and set the date: April 2023. Alas, we couldn’t make it as we got caught by the three months left on your passport rule. Since I prepaid for the hotels to get lower prices, I was offered the option of moving the booking rather than receiving my money back.
Dates were revised to October, new train tickets were purchased, and plans were made. I wanted to take advantage of a fast train from Milan to Paris. A month before our trip, the booking agency for the train informed me that our route was canceled as they would be working on the tracks. So, no train.
I then explored options for cheap airfare and selected one with good travel times. So, all set. No, but no. After a quick trip to Florence, I discovered my passport was missing, and an extensive search unearthed nothing. We returned to Florence, the nearest American Consulate, applied, and received an emergency passport. I was then told France was one of three European countries that do not recognize this type of passport; I would be unable to fly into France. BUT I could take a train or drive as there would be no passport control.
I lost the price of the airplane tickets as the airline has a somewhat “Catch 22” about refunds, and then planned a car trip. It is about 13 hours to Paris, which means two days of driving. The quickest route is driving towards northwest Italy and going through the Mont Blanc tunnel into France. So, off we went, viewing some stunning mountain vistas, and as we approached the tunnel, signs alerted drivers to the fact that the tunnel was closed until December for maintenance.
The owner of our hotel guided us to an alternative route, which meant going an hour and a half back into Italy, traveling over a mountain range. Beginning to wonder if the universe was telling us we should not go to Paris, Mike carefully navigated steep paths and numerous switchbacks before ending the day by maneuvering in downtown Paris. We did it! We arrived at the “City of Lights” as the street lamps switched on.