Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Paris: Getting There Is Half the Fun

Did you know that it's virtually impossible to adhere to a mostly fruit-and-veg diet in Paris? Well, it is. Their idea of a salad is a few artfully arranged leaves of lettuce over which are draped luscious slices of country ham, thick wedges of pate, and beautiful, seductive cheese. What's a kidney patient to do? I started off the week tentatively nibbling on bread and modest charcuterie plates to keep body and soul together; by the end of our visit, I was mainlining foie gras and impeccably roasted duck breast -- though, unlike Garrick, I did draw the line at escargots and sweetbreads. Ah, Paree!

Our travelling day was not without hiccups. The flight itself was smooth enough, though none of us got sufficient sleep on the plane. Arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport, the wait for the checked luggage was interminable. We finally managed to load our two trolleys sky-high with bags and made our way out to the cab stand, where we hoped to find a vehicle large enough for six passengers plus baggage. The dispatcher kindly radioed for a mini-van for us, which entailed more waiting. When it finally arrived and we loaded it up, Michael realized that his computer bag with laptop and lots of irreplaceable -- um, stuff -- had been left behind at the baggage carousel half an hour earlier. Leaving the kids and my parents with the mini-van, he and I made a mad dash back to the carousel with fingers crossed (airport security loooooved that little maneuver). Luckily, it was still there, and we finally all bundled into the cab and started off for the city.

I didn't remember (or realize) how far from the city Charles de Gaulle actually is -- in light traffic, it's easily 45 minutes or more, and we were in the thick of morning rush-hour. The kids nodded off and I tried to locate the part of brain that used to be fluent in French while my dad and the cabby chatted for the hour-plus drive.

Rather than pay a small fortune for hotel rooms, we had decided to rent furnished apartments (one for me, Michael and the kids, one for my parents) in a building just around the corner from the Sorbonne. En principe, this was a great idea -- we had kitchens, comfortable living space, and we spent about 25% less than we would have at a hotel. In practice, however, there were no full-time staff on hand to assist us with check-in. We phoned Stephane, the building manager, as we left the airport, and phoned him again when we got to the hotel. We then stood, exhausted and drooping, in the building's (benchless) courtyard with our mound of baggage for 45 minutes for him to show up and give us keys to the apartments.

(My father, in a stroke of brilliance, took the kids around the corner for a chocolat chaud and pain au chocolat at the nearest cafe. As painful as the wait was without them underfoot, with them on hand it would have been nigh unbearable.)

While the kids got hopped up on chocolate, Stephane finally arrived with keys to my parents' apartment and the news that the second apartment would not be vacated and cleaned until around 3 PM -- a good 5 hours hence. We hauled the bags up 4 flights (the elevator was en panne), dumped them in my parents' apartment, tucked the kids into the (only) queen-sized bed, and then I blew my top. Unfortunately, Stephane had left to attend to something else, so my top-blowing was largely without effect. He eventually reappeared with the "good" news that the previous renters would in fact be checking out sooner than anticipated, and that we would be able to get into the other apartment at 1 PM. He left the keys with us, and we started organizing the bags -- which is when my dad realized that his carry-on napsack (the one with 1,000 euros in it) was not amongst the heap. Quickly realizing he'd left it at the cafe, he scooted back down (four flights of) stairs and found it safe and sound. Phew.

You would think that the drama would have ended there, but no. 1 PM finally rolled around, and we wearily staggered to the second apartment. Lo and behold, neither of the keys Stephane left us worked in the lock, necessitating yet more phone calls, more waiting, and more delays. We finally got into the apartment around 1:30 and promptly fell down for naps.


AnnL said...

Oh, dear, not an auspicious start to your vacation. Looking forward to the next installment. And, pics?! Where are pics?!


nutmeg said...

You're getting me excited for our trip to Italy. Sort of...

wolvie said...

Hey kiddo - glad all worked out.

You ready for MD in late Oct? :-)