Church on Mountain
Leaving Jordan. Happy but would have liked to spend longer there by the end. Andrew was great, and although the Cliff is not the most fancy place, he is a gem.
Grabbing our bags we tried to take a taxi. The first refused to turn on the meter, and only wanted to take us to the airport directly. The second wanted 5JD and the third was just a car. They wanted 3JD. finally we managed to catch a taxi to the trusty North Bus station. 2JD with Meter. However he kept asking how the car was, and whether we wanted to take a tour. Even though he knew we were off to the Airport. At the bus station we were harassed by taxi drivers as soon as we got out of our taxi. What were they thinking? We caught a taxi to the bus station, just so we could catch another taxi? On finding out we wanted to go to the Airport, they kept telling us how expensive it was by bus, and that it would be cheaper to pay the 12JD to have them take us there. Not accepting this, mainly because we are sick of taxis, we kept walking and found the bus. It seemed like an eternity of telling people no, we are not interested. In reality it was only a few minutes. The busses to the airport are clearly marked, and easy to find. They leave on the hour, and only cost 3JD a person. Better yet, they are proper buses and have storage for bags. We cannot say we were not worried. The express bus is comfy, and pretty good. It just isnt express. It takes about 1 hour for the bus to get there, and considering how far it is, that’s pretty good.
At the airport, we had to go through security before we could even get our boarding passes. This should be easy. Put your gear on the xray machine, and walk through the metal detector. No. That’s too simple. Andrew was told to join the women’s line with Anna, and after going through the que, was told that he would have to go back to the Mens. No surprise. They were feeling up the women (by a woman), rather than letting them go through the detector. So Back in the Mens line, I was told to go back to the women’s. No. That will not happen twice. Stripping down anything metal, belt, shoes (in case I had stepped on metallic chewing gum) Wallet, etc. The same as any airport over reacting to non existent terrorist threats, and justifying the money they get from governments to increase security. Considering if anything was to happen, it would be a baggage handler, rather than a passenger. However you have to be seen to do something….
As Anna was stuck with the bags, I breezed through easily. Just waiting for the people in front to pass through. On the other side, I found someone going through Anna’s bags, as she stood there looking annoyed. It was all good though. They didn’t find the stash of 10,000 year old antiques we were smuggling out of the country in the broken wheels of our suitcases ;). That done we were allowed to go get our passes. Nope. Still not done. On leaving the table where all the contents of Anna’s bag were examined under a microscope, we came across a jumped up little turkey that wanted to prove he was important, and sent us back to the table to go through it again with my bag. I was a bit miffed by this stage. We were getting bent over before we could leave the country, and I do not like the feelings associated with this. I started to lose my temper.
The bloke assigned to go through the bags was also surprised. He was good enough that between him and Anna, I could cool down while he did his job. Still, If your airport is incompetent enough that you cannot use an x-ray machine, let us know at the start, and we will try flying from a different country. I am sure Israel can do it better…. On looking back, it was only westerners that were having their bags checked. Male or female, it did not seem to matter. We talked about it, and it seems as if it is payback. Imagine being a Muslim going through customs in America. I would not like to be that person. So this could be a bit of leveling the playing field. Completely understandable and probably nowhere near as bad as what some people would have to go through. We have heard stories of well paid Jordanians with no criminal history that are Catholic, but are still refused visas to visit family in New Zealand and America (not sure about Australia, but would not be surprised) so let them.
After feeling like a pinball for the last 45 minutes, we were allowed to check in. This all went smoothly. Customs and Immigration was a breeze. Seriously. It was really well done, smooth and easy! The airport itself is pretty boring. Expensive shops, food at three times the price of an expensive restaurant, and bad seating, so we made our way to the gate to wait. When we were there we found a power point to charge the Ipod. However I had forgotten to pack the adaptor. Typical.
Our second flight on Royal Jordanian started out well. A shuttle but out to the tarmac. It was a smaller plane, and it turns out that it was only half full. Score. Before we found this out however, we found out how much leg room there was between the seats. I was surprised… There was lots! More than I have experienced on most cattleclass flights. It was great. During the trip we had multiple servings of wine. Not the best, but as it was the first we had drunk in a while, on a Muslim airline, it was pretty good. The food was even edible. All in all, a great flight and we have to reevaluate our opinion of Jordanian air after this. I would even go as far as recommending it (If you don’t get the standard 747 that we had on the way here.).
Our arrival in Paris was greeted with no fanfare, and very little ceremony. Just the way we like it. Immigration was a breeze and it was the first time I have ever cleared customs before the baggage has left the plane. Seriously, we were waiting at the carousel for about 20 minutes before the bags arrived. Normally Customs and Immigration are a pain in the everything. In Paris it is walk to the start of the line. Give your passport and wait for 20 seconds then go through. There was only one small issue. Anna did not get a stamp, and was not happy at this.
Catching the train to the city also posed no problems. It is nice being in a western country again. Just not used to the prices any more. The ticket was a fortune! Well, 27E (euro) for the two of us. Still it is a shock.
The metro is very clear, and easy to find your way around, again a pleasure. Just the steps up and down were a pain. To Gar De Nord (North Railway Station) and change to Line 4. Simple. Really it was. The hotel is just around the corner from the metro station, and although they don’t speak much english (not surprising) we checked in and checked out the room. The matress was a bit springy (not enough padding on the springs) but that was solved with a few blankets under the sheets. The room is a good size and the shower was tiny. Still this is Paris. They only discovered running water in the 1990’s. It will do us for the next couple of days nicely. It even has powerpoints. (If weird french ones that don’t fit any of the plugs we have)
As we had made it in good time, and it gets dark late at this time of year, we set out to get our bearings in this strange big city. This is not onerous, as we know if we get lost, it is only a metro ticket home. Our current objective was to find the big church on the hill. Sometimes this appeared over the Parisian skyline of 7 story high buildings, but more often than not, was out of sight. We found every staircase we could going up. Walking past a lot of Bars, and Cafes demonstrating the love the french people have of sitting or standing out on the sidewalks watching life go by.
We made it up the hill eventually, and it was worth the walk, as the view over the inner city of Paris is fantastic. Apparently a lot of other people thought so as well. The place was more packed than a pub giving out free beer. There were people everywhere. This is a bit unsettling for us now. Living in the desert, and being in weird places during the off seasons. Crowds are a bit of a novelty at the moment. The babble of voices, people pushing past both ways, cars honking their horns and hawkers trying to sell key ring sized Eifel towers.
The building itself is impressive. Perched on top of the hill, rising up over the city. We had approached the back way, and fond an impressive set of stairs leading directly down the hill. It seemed that this is one of the prime viewing spot for sunset. The church is Sacre Coeur. A perfect gothic cathedral rising up out of the hill. The inside is as ornate as the outside, and a perfect place to start enjoying the french ambiance.
As we were leaving the area, we wound back around the hill towards Montmartre, passing live music and lots of artists. caricatures, painting, lots of small galleries and plenty of restaurants. We started looking for a place to get a drink, and considering how many terraced cafe there were, this was a surprise. They were all full. Eventually we found a place near the hotel. It was good to sit for a bit and have a drink. On the way home we picked up a (very un-french) pizza, from the local Tunisians next door. Surprising them with our shukran (thankyou in Arabic). A good start to our stay in France/Europe.