Option A or B – or- A “shit or miss” first day in Paris…

After a return trip to the TSA desk to ask if we can go back on the plane (ya right!) and a wait at the Continental airline desk to file a lost coat claim, we are finally on our way to Paris proper…two hours after we have landed. The following is a summary of our trip from that point. I like to call this part “Option A”. We are “traveling light” with two, new hard sided carry on cases that weigh about 40 pounds each, a full size bag that we checked, two laptop cases packed to the gills and a Joe’s carryout bag full of cookies baked by Donna Broder., aka the cookie lady from Joe’s. Our first stop is the information desk at the baggage claim in the basement of the Degaulle airport. In broken French we ask, “Parlez vous Anglais?”. Everyone in Paris seems to say “a little bit”. I suspect they know pretty much everything you are saying, but just want to make you work for it. Here we get our directions to the Metro. We are to take the “lifts” to the lower level, go catch the shuttle to terminal 3 and then find the trains to the city. Have I mentioned yet that I haven’t slept in 20 hours and we are carrying 6 bags? After our relatively painless shuttle trip, we arrive at the first entry gates to the Paris Metro system. I look over and notice an attended booth where we can buy tickets. Christiana has designs on using the automated machine because she has done a good bit of research on how to use the Metro. I play along hoping to help her move on from “Coatgate” and give her the chance to feel good about something because that’s the kind of guy I am: patient and understanding. Well maybe one out of two…maybe?

The first tickets we buy fail to open the gates to the Metro train. Apparently they “need to be validated” she predicts. I remove our six bags, which from here on out I’ll just refer to as “our stuff” in honor of George Carlin, and we then proceed to look for the validation machine. A few more failed attempts, more moving of “the stuff” and we are standing in line at the attended booth I noticed 15 minutes ago. We purchase two full fare tickets from the airport to the city for about 18 Euros and then return to the unfriendly gate (that finally becomes friendl,y). The gate allows us and “our stuff” through the mouth that will lead to Paris. Yay!  The platform is one level below. There are two escalators, that are actual escalators this time, but neither of them is working so I drag our stuff down the not working escalator to the platform and we wait. Not so bad a wait maybe five minutes, but the nice thing is they have a board that tells you when the next train is coming. Very civilized I’m thinking. Our first real Paris Metro ride is in full gear now, not too much different than a ride on the “L” back home except for the language difference and maybe a bit more body odor, but I’m used to that from the plane so we’re doing good here. Tired but making progress finally.

About 30 minutes later we arrive at “Gar du Nord”, the Metro stop nearest our apartment, or so I thought. You see we had looked at a map and thought the walk from Gar du Nord to our apartment wasn’t too bad, but with all the “stuff” maybe we would just take a cab to our apartment to meet our “greeter” at about 1 p.m. Our trip planner leads me down a corridor to another stairway and I ask, “where are we going?” She says, “I am going to transfer us to the pink line which will get us closer to our apartment.” Huh?!?! I thought we were taking a cab from here, but keeping in mind that we are in the process figuring out this quest on our own I continue to play along, and move “the stuff” down another flight of stairs to the pink line, and we wait. Not too bad again with the “board” stating 4 minutes until the next train. It’s here that I find out that there is yet another train transfer ahead, and I start to put my foot down. We consider bailing on the quest and re-turning to “plan cab”, but the train pulls in and I move “the stuff “ onto the pink line and we continue. Predictably this brief train ride ends at the bottom of a staircase that goes up to the next platform, is this getting to sound like a pattern here? Well to cut to the chase (finally), two broken escalators, six staircases and three Metro lines later, with all of our “stuff” and we are at the Pelletier Metro stop, which is allegedly right by our apartment. We climb the final staircase to street level and believe or not, we have no frigging idea where we are at!!! Did I mention I haven’t slept for about 22 hours at this point yet?

We wander around the cobble stone street with our stuff and get misdirected by a few friendly locals before a man approaches us and says “May I help you with directions?” It turns out this is the person who is meeting us for our apartment and pretty clearly we stick out like a trainwreck of America tourista on steroids. Hallelujah!!!

Thank God we saved the approximate 10 Euro cab fare from Gar du Norde. In retrospect , “Option A”, aka “Cabbie, 5 Rue de Provence sil vous plait” sounds pretty good. Door to door service, no stairways, no smelly armpits, no cobblestone walkways with 170 pounds of “stuff.” At this point my girlfriend, realizing this says, “you’re going to kill me aren’t you.”  Well no dear. I love you and Paris would be lonely. I don’t want to have a Henry Miller like experience here.

Our apartment is small but about what we expected. Clean, safe comfortable, wifi, tv that we will never use all for less than $1500 for TWO weeks in Paris. Considering a bad hotel goes for $300 a night we for sure are in the “win” column. We need about an hour or so to regroup and decide what’s next. Food is definitely in order. CJ’s blood sugar is heading down again and we definitely want to stay awake long enough to reset our clocks and avoid/reduce jet lag.

We head out prepared to take Paris by storm (as best as we can in our states at the moment). We have shaken off “Coatgate”, washed up, unpacked, used our Serapis Bay negative energy essential oil cleanse and then…as we exit our apartment …for the first time ever in Paris…a drunk homeless person drops his trousers and takes a shit right in front of us holding on to a bumper of a car for leverage and position.

We both burst into hysterical laughter and began what would be an amazing and often surreal journey over the next 24 hours. Like I said, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of it. I’d say we made 197.36% of the next 24 hours or so. So amazing! Details to follow.

Train to London at 6:45 a.m. Off to bed…

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About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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