Squared away

Written 12 May 2011

Finally! All the reservations are made.

I ran into all the usual glitches: (1) the restaurant that replied to my query with the news that it had closed permanently a couple of months earlier; (2) the only moderately rated one that was inexplicably booked solid on our evening of choice, months in advance (a wedding, we speculate) and, conversely, the ones that laughed at me for reserving so far in advance; (3) the widely advertised e-mail address that proved invalid; (4) all the on-line forms that required cell-phone numbers (I got pretty good at shoehorning, into the little "comment" box, my explanation about not having a cell phone that works in Europe and that the number I gave was our hotel); (5) the hotel that insists we let them know in advance what time we will arrive, even though we'll be touring by car that day and therefore cannot be sure (promising to call if we would be later than 6 p.m. wasn't sufficient; I must call them en route with an ETA); (6) some slick reservation websites that worked perfectly and others that didn't; (7) the one brasserie that wouldn't take reservations more than a certain length of time in advance; (8) the ones that specify on their websites that they take reservations only over the phone (and the one that only tells you it doesn't when you call to ask why your e-mail was never acknowledged); (9) having to spell "Thistle" (a word that the French not only cannot pronounce but cannot even believe) 32 times over the phone (which, for reasons having to do with the band-pass characteristics of phone lines and the acoustics of human speech, never works, even in English; I can't tell you the number of times I've had to tell an American restaurant hostess, "Nothing under Thistle? Try under Phifple")—"T, comme Théodore; H, Henri; I, Isodore; S, Samuel; T, Théodore; L, Léon; E, Étienne. Oui, oui, Tay-Ahsh-Ee-Ess-Tay-Ell-Euh".

And the museum tickets! Because the Musée d'Orsay will only be open for about four of the hours we'll all be together in Paris, and because CJ really wanted to go back, I looked into advance ticket sales. If you buy your tickets early, then you can go straight to entrance C and by-pass the folks standing in line. So I visited the museum's official website, which directed me in turn to two places I could buy my tickets on line, from here. It emphasized that you cannot have your tickets held for pick-up at the musuem itself. I checked out both sites, both of which mentioned the possibility of tickets that you could print yourself but neither of which ever gave me a chance to choose that option—maybe it's only for customers in France. One, a sort of French Ticketmaster outfit, wanted me to specify the date and hour of our arrival and how many tickets of each of several grades (general admission, child, "young person," student, senior, school teacher, etc.), and it promised to send them to me by DHL express (for a hefty extra fee, of course). The other, the French book-and-media store FNAC, just wanted to know how many tickets—no dates, no times, no classes of ticket—and it specified that the tickets would be good for a year and that they would be sent to me by registered mail. I liked that last option (both cheaper and more convenient), so I went with the second site, only to receive shortly afterward an e-mail from DHL telling me how to track the parcel FNAC had just sent me. Drat.

Anyway, a few days later, I got home to find a big orange sticky-note on my door saying that DHL had tried twice to deliver the package (sure enough, the first sticky note had fallen off the door, and I had overlooked it). Call this number to ask for a third delivery try before the package was returned to sender, sign the form permitting delivery without a signature, and leave it for the driver. After a fruitless couple of hours trying to get somebody to answer the phone in DHL's "delivery problem" office, I gave up, called DHL's general number, and started exploring the phone tree. After several tries, I got hold of somebody in the department of "new accounts" who cheerfully assured me she'd take care of it. Sure enough, the tickets arrived safely the next day. And highly "securitized" they are, too, multiply decorated with little holograms, metalic seals, and bar codes.

Meanwhile, our travel agent has sent us our TGV tickets, so I think we're entirely good to go!

A couple of years ago, friends gave us a glass cheese board in the shape of France, on which names of some of the best-known French cheeses are printed in their appropriate regions of origin. I am delighted to see that Lyon is at the epicenter of a veritable hotbed of delicious varieties, surround by, e.g., Fourme d'Ambert, Bleu d'Auvergne, St. Nectaire, St. Marcellin, Reblochon, Beaufort, Tomme de Savoie, and Comté. Yum. Bleu de Bresse doesn't appear on the map, but we're sure to encounter it as well.

And the food. Lyon is famous for it. In particular, it is known as the capital of offal cookery. I've been studying the on-line menus of some of our restaurants and forming an ever-expanding list of stuff I have to be sure to eat at least once while we're there.

Just Google-Image any of the above for photos. And stay tuned. Other great dishes are sure to present themselves . . . .

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