21 January 2009
Our London break is over as we arrived in Paris yesterday to begin the next stage of the adventure. My biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be allowed on the train with all of our baggage, especially my aforementioned “dead body duffel.” The Eurostar people didn’t even blink twice about that, and I later learned why as I watched people getting off the train with more baggage than a pack of covered-wagon settlers. Talk about looking like Oakies! But, I digress. While the security staff didn’t mind my disgustingly large bag, they did take offense to one of Jon’s suitcases- the one with his knives inside. Now these knives are wrapped in a towel and covered from one end to the other with brown packing tape. It is going to take a laser beam to unwrap the damn things! However, Jon was made to empty out his entire suitcase (thank God there weren’t any dirty undies in there- just chef coats and chef pants and chef shoes and chef gear- do you see the theme?) and then they ran all the contents through the security conveyor separately. They still weren’t convinced that he is a chef though, so they demanded proof (the entire suitcase full of chef supplies was not enough, obviously). So, Jon showed them his acceptance letter into cooking school. They shrugged their shoulders and let us through. Annoying, but at least they were WAY nicer than the TSA!
Other than that, the London stage of the train ride was a piece of cake. So easy, in fact, that I was nervous. I knew that Donovan’s Law could be lurking around any corner. And indeed it was—we got to Paris at 5:15 PM. There were absolutely no luggage carts to be found in the ENTIRE GARE DU NORD. They did have ones chained to rails at measured intervals, however, I’m sure as some sort of sick joke the station staff like to play on tired and haggard tourists. It took fifteen minutes to get our bags from the train platform to the main part of the station, and this only happened because I begged one of the staff to help us. I then wandered around the entire station a second time giving a better search for the driver of the car I ordered to pick us up. No dice. I have a cell phone. The company has my number. No missed calls. So, I call them. Turned out that the guy waited a few minutes for us, and when we didn’t come out with the rest of the crowd from the train, he left! No call, no text message, nothing! The dispatcher told us he could get another driver to us in 20 minutes- keep in mind we had already been milling about with our HUGE bags for 30 minutes at this point. No thanks. We decided to take our chances in the taxi line, instead. Luckily, we found a cab willing to take our bags and us on the second try. We actually totally cut off these kids with three carts full of luggage, but they were slow on the up-take, and I was over it. You snooze, you loose, children. Grrrr!
So, we’re in the cab. I’m sad because all I really cared about in all the inaugural festivities was the swearing in and Obama’s speech. It was 6 pm at this point and the cabbie had the coverage playing on the radio. Now comes a moment I will probably remember for the rest of my life. We’re speeding through the dusk-darkened streets of Paris. Brick walls on both sides. Suddenly we pass into a huge open space. On our left is the Louvre. On our right is the Eiffel Tower- all lit up and lights flashing to mark the hour- a bit of sunset left in the sky beyond it. On the radio, Barack Obama is being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. It was history in the making- not just national history, but my personal history as well. The moment took my breath away. Thinking of it still does.
And the rest is history- we get to the hotel. A sour-faced madame at the desk greets my request of a porter or a cart to help with our baggage with a smirk and the reply, “We don’t have anything like that. Not in a two-star hotel.” Hah! We wrangle the bags up to our room ourselves. Run out to grab a bite to eat. Find a Scottish Bar with CNN blaring coverage of the Inaugural Parade. There we spend the rest of the evening, drinking pints of Carlsberg and making friends. Yes, our first night in Paris, and we made friends. There is Olivier- a very nice Parisian of our age. There’s Ariana- an American girl who cut out early because she “has a French lover, and if you know anything about French lovers, they do not like to be kept waiting” (I am not making this up. The girl actually said this.). And J.P., a Red Bull swilling (straight up with no Vodka), Brit who offered Jon a job!! He’s a chef at some little Bistro over in the 11th. When he found out why we’re here, he asked Jon if he wanted to come work at the restaurant. We’re going up there in a bit to check it out and see if J.P. is legit or just a drunken promiser of meaningful employment. I hope it’s the former.
That’s about it. We scouted out some banks today and explored our new neighborhood. We move into our apartment tomorrow at noon! So excited! I have to go now though. There’s a glass of wine and a slab of cheese with my name on it, and if you know anything about my belly, it does not like to be kept waiting. Ciao!