France Road Trip Days 3-6

Ok. We’ve got some catching up to do…

Day 3 and all hell broke loose.

After the president made his announcement it didn’t take long for things to ramp up in Europe.

We awoke to the news that Disney Paris was going to shut down and Airbnb announced a refund plan that would finally work for our pending reservations. Part of the reason we were dragging our feet was that we still had thousands of dollars in reservations that, at the time, we had no hope of getting back, but all that was changing.

It was time for action. We literally spent all day in the chalet desperately searching for a new plan. Every time we would come close to pressing go it seemed there was a new turn of events that muddled said plan.

Now I’m not saying that several thousand dollars wouldn’t have fixed our woes. It definitely would have. And if I’m being honest we could afford it, kind of, I guess. I definitely am not playing the victim card like so many of these lame articles I read. We’re not stuck, we’re just logistically challenged.

And the bottom line is we just didn’t want to shell out the cash and put ourselves in an unsafe situation. That may seem crazy to some. But for us, we were so concerned about reacting rather than devising a sound plan. And I have no regrets about not purchasing a flight sooner, especially after seeing the pictures and videos of the airport chaos.

We would have been one of those people. There was no way we could get back before the deadline so we would have been slammed in with the masses. We have managed to stay healthy through many days at Disney prior to leaving for Europe, and then trekking across 2 continents and 5 countries. We have been in control of our surroundings every step of the way.

All that would have changed upon our arrival into US Customs with hundreds of other travelers for hours on end, no thank you!

Of course, I’m writing this prior to return, so I guess we still have yet to see how all this will shake out for us, but we are optimistic.

We went to bed with the idea that we would fly back to London and catch a direct flight back to the states. The prices were far better than leaving out of Paris. The only problem was the flight was still several days away. But we thought we’d make the best of the situation and enjoy our little road trip through France. We would be able to lay low and not have a lot of contact with the masses. And wait for things in the states to calm down a bit.

We left the chalet and headed for San Sebastian.

This was our first experience with “the lockdown” of a country. As we walked through the quiet town it was becoming abundantly clear that things were progressing and fast. Most of the town was shut down or in the midst of shutting down. You would walk past one tapas bar and things were in full swing, crowds and plenty of pintxos to go around. But then there would be a long line of stores filled with frenzied workers trying to close up shop. The fliers posted around the town read that closures would start immediately and would run through April.

Upon attempting to enter McDonald’s, the only place we felt comfortable with trying to enter, we were quickly banished by the manager who again seemed frantic to get the doors shut.

Shoot, even McDonalds is shutting down?!?

After that, we got to the car as quick as possible and headed back over the border into France. As we drove along the deserted highway and traveled past the quaint towns we realized that our time in France may be coming to an even quicker end.

We were hungry but it seemed that every restaurant we passed was closed. We finally arrived at our destination, a little hotel just outside of Biarritz, and once again searched for food. We finally found a McDonalds that was open and stocked up on sandwiches. Wow, this was getting really weird.

On the beach in Biarritz, things were a bit more lively, nothing too crazy but it didn’t look abandoned.

We even found the crepe stand that Liv’s visited on her summer trip. We walked along the sand, picked up a couple of crepes and then went in search of hand sanitizer. We are big fans of soap and water but when out and about as we are so often lately hand sanitizer is a big deal. Of course, there was none to be found, the Pharmacist looked at us like we were crazy to even ask. It was a quiet drive back to the hotel, I think we were all feeling a little pressed to figure something different out.

Originally we thought that it didn’t really matter where we were, it’s not like there was any hurry to get back to the states, but when basic services start to fizzle out it makes you rethink things.

The next morning really did it for us. At this point, we had learned that the entire country of Spain was on lockdown, and from the looks of it, France was next. Not to mention the rumblings of the UK closing its borders. Yikes.

We knew all the restaurants were closed but word on the street was that grocery stores were still open. As we continued our way north, closer to CDG airport, we hit the same McDonald’s and found a very confused group of employees. They definitely weren’t open and again based on the fact that there were employees just standing around the front doors it seemed that there was a lack of communication on all sides. At this point, we gave up on cafes and restaurants in search of markets. That was looking grim as well. Every store we passed was closed. Finally, 2 hours later we came across France’s equivalent of Aldi, and they were open! Hubby and walked in and started grabbing a few things but within minutes we were told that they too were shutting down and we needed to check out immediately. We split up and grabbed the last of what we thought we needed, happy with our haul.

As we drove north we rehashed all of our options again. Once again looking at flights that were far from reasonable, and still not wanting to drop down into the chaos that was US customs.

We decided that with the potential shutdown of the border it was in our best interest to get to the UK ASAP. France was definitely headed in the direction of full lockdown and even if the UK followed suit they were probably a few days behind. So I changed our flights and got us on the next flight out of CDG to London. But first, we’d find respite in Rivarness, France.

Originally I booked this mobile home in an RV park because this was the portion of our road trip that we were going to tour the Chateaus of Loire Valley. It was still kind of fun to be at an RV park, a little bit of normalcy I suppose. I can imagine this place in the summer is quite popular! It was adorable. We had an easy night and no internet. So even if the world fell apart we wouldn’t know it until the next morning. There is definitely something to be said about not being dialed into the craziness. We made some pasta, that we had picked up at the Lidl earlier that day, and watched a dart tournament in French on the cute little TV. It was nice.

We woke up to a drizzly day. Just a couple of hours and we would be in the heart of Paris. I couldn’t leave France without at least seeing the Eiffel tower.

Here’s the outside of Chateau De Usse, dubbed the Disney Chateau. It’s said the Walt himself based Cinderella’s castle at WDW on this particular Chateau. It was beautiful outside, I can only imagine what it was like on the inside. And hubby had to deal with me saying “I feel like I’m in Cinderella” every time we hit another tiny french village!

Finally Paris!

We hopped out of the car real quick and took a few pictures of the Eiffel tower, and then at the giant roundabout around the Arc De Triomphe Hubby dropped me off and did circles while I snapped a few pics. Not exactly what we had come all the way to France for, but all things considered I think we’re doing pretty good!

In fact great. This is a big deal apparently. Probably one of the biggest things I’ve seen in my short little lifetime. And experiencing all this in foreign countries is an even bigger deal. But this is what sets people apart. These are the things that build character. And these are the moments that make you focus on what matters. The kiddos are handling things great, yes there have been a few tears, mostly frustrated ones from me, but all in all, our family has never been stronger!

Now, off to the airport! We dropped our rental car, headed for the gate, and anxiously awaited our flight. Despite the lack of hand sanitizer, not a drop to be found anywhere at CDG, it was a relatively painless process. And we even found coffee. Hooray for a hot cup of coffee!

Quickest flight ever across the pond. And if there were 40 people on the plane I would be shocked. It was easy enough to find our way through the Gatwick Airport, it was quite familiar after all. And our hotel is literally minutes away. We wanted to be as close to the airport as possible just in case. Four nights here and then it’s on a plane back to the states. I have many questions as to how all that’s going to go, it’s kind of impossible to actually talk to a person, but either way, I think we’ll make it somewhere that’s not here!