I am a very relaxed traveler… I just always assume it’s all part of the journey. I packed 15 dresses, 2 skirts, 6 tops, 3 swimsuits, and 7 pair of shoes… which may seem excessive, but my suitcase was only 35 pounds. I had a carry on with two changes of clothes(just in case), and snacks. I had to leave for the airport at noon – which is perfect… not stressful. The girls arrived frazzled, with overweight bags – so we repacked them, put some of their things in my bag, and had them leave behind a few things they honestly won’t need. I managed to get them to take some deep breaths and get less stressed. Although one of the girls can never really relax about flying.
We left for the airport on time. We all had TSA pre-check so smoothly made it through security and to the gate with plenty of time to spare. The flight was delayed an hour so we had a lovely meal at a sit down restaurant (vs a bag in our lap at the gate), with lovely dumplings and tempura green beans… normally I fly first class but that is VERY expensive for a flight to Europe so I conceded to fly not first class… I’m happy to be going – no need to be a diva.
We boarded the plane and got settled. I pre-loaded an iPad and a kindle in case we were bored with selections offered on the plane. I had 14 movies, a few series, and many books available. Good to go 😁 – it was going to be a very long flight but we were all set.
The plan was to change from our plane clothes into something clean and more chic at the airport, then drop our bags at the hotel and go exploring. In coach it feels as if you have a one foot square space to be in. Sleep was not possible.
We arrived at Charles deGaulle airport at 11am with all of us tired and one of the girls feeling sick (mostly from being overtired but she also has a very delicate digestive system). We decided to skip changing clothes and just get our luggage and get out in the air and maybe eat something. As we were walking down the ramp from the plane, following signs for baggage claim, I saw a huge herd of people. I thought to myself – gosh, they look uncomfortable… mental note plan to be early when leaving… assuming they were all waiting to get to gates. Winding down and around, I realized we were joining them… there must have been a thousand people… I have now been in a mask for about 16 hours, I’m tired, hungry, my ankles have swollen to an unrecognizable size, my body hurts from being cramped up so many hours … and this is the only way out. The lines do not appear to be moving at all. It took a moment to figure out the queue system and we got in the line for those with American passports.
It took 3 hours to get through customs to be able to get to the baggage carousel. The entire time we were questioning ourselves if we were even in the right place… the girls took turns being agitated and/or frustrated as this wasn’t the plan in their mind. Me, being the annoyingly optimistic person I tend to be, kept telling them “It’s okay… we’ll be through soon… just go with the flow… it’s all part of the adventure…” meanwhile it’s hot. It’s sticky. The people around us are unhappy in dozens of languages… I remember Mercury is in retrograde and that is likely part of the problem- we just need to chill about everything… so I announce that to make us all feel better – which makes a man near me literally roll his eyes… (yes, I am aware I can get on a nerve… I am very sweet and lovable though).
We finally get to the bags and I assume we will taxi or Uber to the hotel. I usually have a car service lined up but I was being easygoing and allowed the girls to take the lead on this as they felt it was unnecessarily extravagant (although I was so tired by the time I had my bag, I looked at all the drivers holding signs anyway – on the off chance the Universe gifted me a chauffeured SUV with air conditioning). Consulting their phones, comparing prices, they decided we would get a train pass. “Affordable and convenient” we could use it multiple times navigating around Paris… okay. In line for the train pass. Oops wrong line – must get in line for photos first – then back to the train pass line. Two more hours pass. (Welcome to Paris) we have now been off the plane for 5 entire hours but have not managed to leave the airport… which, by the way, is absolutely humongous!
Finally, train pass in hand, we are leaving the airport. I’m just going with the flow… happy for a moment of fresh air… I see a train but they say that’s not ours. Ours comes in 8 minutes. Then at last minute the girls decide it IS our train – they were looking at when it departs- so quickly we get ourselves and the three suitcases and three carryons on to the train and find a seat. It’s not a spacious train… it’s like an above ground commuter train… there is not a lot of room for our suitcases and we really wedged in with them. I asked the girls where we get off, how many stops, etc. They are busy trying to read the map… one of them says it’s a hour and 18 minutes until we get off – but then just a 4 minute walk to the hotel. I said I didn’t understand that… we are in Paris and the hotel is in Paris so why so long? They weren’t sure, but indicated Paris must be rather large… okay… I’m going with the flow… it’s all an adventure.
I chatted with a few people on the train. People got off… others got on… the plastic seats were hard and uncomfortable… there was no air conditioning and it felt like 100 degrees of stagnant air… the windows wouldn’t open and I’m still masked… apparently “rush hour” happens all over the world and this train just kept getting more and more full… people are packed in standing in every available spot… no air flow… then the train stops unexpectedly and stays stopped. Announcements are made… that I do not understand… no matter what country you are in, if announcements are made and the speaker doesn’t annunciate well, it’s hard to understand what is said and even harder if it’s not your language… factoring in various accents… you get the idea. The train is broken. Something about switches. We finally get moving again for it to break again a few more times… then a very tall man – maybe 7ft tall, very thin, dark skin, a woven looking thing on his head (akin to a yamaka) and wearing a long white priest-like robe makes his way through the people to where I am seated. Meanwhile I am so overheated, fatigued and smothered by my mask which has now been on my face approaching 20 hours, I’m feeling like I may faint – which I never have, but I imagine this is how you feel when you are going to.
This towering man in the white priest garb flashed a card at the man seated across from me. That man got up and the robed man proceeded to yell at me in French. From what I could gather, my luggage was taking up too much room. He was pointing at a sign, which I believe said the seat was for pregnant women, or those with disabilities or age… none of which seemed to apply to him… I apologized and tried to explain I had nowhere to put the suitcase and indicated I would ride standing. Others on the train started telling me to sit and just ignore him. He picked up my bag and hoisted it in air and set it on Meg’s bag – making me wonder how I would ever get it down again… I continued trying to calm him and ask him what he needed from me. The other passengers were angry with him and just kept telling me I was fine. I sat back down… tears welled up because it was such a long day. I put on my sunglasses so no one could see and pondered the fact he seemed to regard himself as some sort of holy man and no truly holy man would act so boorish. Then he picked another argument with a man who had to ride standing – indicating the standing passenger was encroaching on his space. It was getting very heated and more passengers were joining in against this bully – all yelling in French. I’m pretty sure swearing was involved.
Communicating with sign language, the girls and I agreed to get off at the next possible stop. You have roughly 30 seconds to get out – not an easy task with standing room only and all our luggage. With many pardon mois and much lack of grace we managed to get out… barely… suitcases tumbling over. That’s when they told me they made a mistake and we got on the wrong train, we were not in Paris and we were actually lost. That was my breaking point… the final straw… no more going with the flow… no more Namaste. I had to cry for a minute. The girls were overflowing with apologies about the wrong train, the mean man, their earlier grumpiness…(which just made me feel worse – I never want someone to feel bad because I’m having a moment). But also had to say I would never yell at someone who clearly was not from where I was and was struggling with the language… that’s just rude.
I told them to just give me a minute, it has been too long of a day. Then we ordered an Uber to come and find us and take us back to Paris and to the hotel. That did require some translation assistance… but I was so thankful to see a beautiful black Mercedes with air conditioning arrive to save the day. The good smelling driver loaded the bags and opened our doors further accentuating the fact I had spent hours smelling body odor and urine of countless strangers… merci beaucoup… I think I love you… still rush hour(s) but leather comfy seats and AC – I was beginning to feel human again.
Our hotel is in the 7th Arrt with beautiful old buildings all around. We pulled up to building with a discrete hotel plaque (no gawdy neon here!) and was greeted by the very pleasant hotel staff who wisked us to comfy chairs with lemon water as they sent our luggage to the room, eager to hear why we were so late to arrive and then offered us free adult beverages to help us relax and recover.
The concierge then made us dinner reservations at a place she thought we would like, ushered us off for showers and said she would show us where to go when we were ready. Dinner was a pleasant walk away and was absolutely amazing… after sumptuous food (that I should go into great detail about because it was so wonderful), more adult beverages and lots of laughter we went back to the hotel and went to sleep.
Today has been really lovely. I have mastered “le metro” and am now zooming all over Paris doing all the things… the metro system is fabulous! We went to a lovely boulangerie for breakfast and have taken a walking tour through the 18th Arrt sampling the food, hearing about the history, seeing the sites and then had wine, champagne, and cognac with the other people on the tour – a couple from England, a couple from New York, another couple from Colorado, and a couple from Spain – we had a special room we went to drink and toast to love and life in the hotel where Edith Piaf sang and met the love of her life who inspired her famous song La vie en rose. We are the three American women who made friends (and made them laugh for a while) with them and the 1/2 French 1/2 Italian tour guide who is working his way through interior design school. We laughed, shared stories, and had a wonderful time. I discovered I like cognac. Now we are resting a bit before showering again and taking the metro out for more adventures.
The time change has me a little thrown off. If you are in the western United States, I’m actually writing this from the future… it’s tomorrow here. It confuses me – LOL.
I am really enjoying Paris… a baguette with salted butter and white ham makes me very happy… I could just stroll the streets with one in hand forever and be deliciously content… and croissants make me happy. I can get behind a people who eat bread at every meal… and so many wonderful cheeses… I have not had anything not absolutely superb. I have found most of the people I’ve met are quite warm and friendly. I’m having a fabulous time now. I have two more days here before we journey off to Italy.