Getting on our Air France flight to Paris involved the usual routine of going through security, waiting, boarding, getting the luggage settled, and trying to get as comfortable as possible in your seat. Right away I noticed our aisle seat partner was Mr. Fidget. He must have had too much coffee or some such caffeinated drink because he couldn’t sit still for anything. The good thing about this was the fact that he was up out of his seat off and on during the entire 10 1/2 hour flight which gave us multiple opportunities to move around as well.
The flight attendants went through their drill of explaining all the necessary safety information in French then in English. The only reason I understood any of it was because I knew what they were supposed to be saying. Even their English, spoken with the same lilt and accent as French was fairly unintelligible. We used our limited French to get in the spirit of the trip while communicating with them during meal service. It’s not too challenging to say, “Vin rouge, s’il vous plaît.” But it gave us the confidence that we had brushed up enough to navigate through our journey in French when necessary.
Besides eating to entertain ourselves, we read (Why We Love France but not the French) and watched movies. There were a million choices on individual screens. I always jump at the chance to watch a romantic drama when I don’t have to share so my choice was “The Vow”. Mr. Fidget was bilingual — maybe British. He watched several movies and some TV shows non-stop until we landed. If it was in English, he had French subtitles and in French he had English subtitles. I should have been doing that, but I didn’t want to make such a lesson out of it. At one point, a man collapsed onto the floor as he passed by us and the crew had to administer oxygen until he was finally able to stand again and be escorted back to his seat. The flight attendants didn’t seem very alarmed and took him back to his seat in a rather business-like manner. Perhaps some people put on such an act hoping to garner a seat in first class. I was just worried we would be diverted to some unplanned landing location.
We slept fitfully as one usually does on such a flight and arrived with the typical fatigue and discomfort of sitting in one place for too long. Deplaning, going through customs, and picking up our large checked bag were uneventful. Then the fun of navigating the French public transportation system with all 3 of our bags began. This always the moment when you ask yourself, “Why did we bring all this stuff?” The first step was to take the RER train into Paris. Norman had one of our two smaller bags tethered to the top of the large rolling bag. Due to the combined size and weight of these two bags, we were unable to use the escalators. Fortunately, there were elevators but using them to get to the train required many extra steps. We were well equipped with Euros, but had few coins — the only type of currency accepted in the ticket machines. Credit cards are an option but apparently not for us as the machine refused the efforts we made to use ours. Once Norman secured €18,50 in coins, we were finally on our way with two tickets for this leg of the trip to our apartment in Paris. After about 45 minutes, we arrived at the Metro station where we had to transfer to the local subway. Here we encountered no elevators, few escalators, and LOTS of stairs both up and down in various directions in order to arrive at the platform for the correct line. By now, Norman was about ready to leave the large bag behind and we almost had to as it barely fit through the luggage gate. We had a short ride on the Metro, negotiated another maze of stairs and arrived on the streets of our Paris neighborhood ready to make the last haul on foot. We did this at a rather frenzied pace since by now we were almost an hour late for the agreed meeting time with the owner of the apartment — all the while our minds trying to convince our bodies that we weren’t completely fatigué.
Finally, we had arrived at our destination. We entered the building code we were given and rang the apartment. The owner, Madame Faure, a jovial older women came down to greet us and escort us to the apartment via one very tiny elevator. She was wonderful and patient about explaining everything and wanted to be sure we approved of the accommodations before she accepted the rest of our payment as if we were going to make another choice at this point. However, she did not speak or understand any English and being exhausted both physically and mentally at this point, we were more than challenged communicating with her. We managed and at last had the keys to our apartment which we decided we should try out to see if we could get back into the building after Madame Faure left. This experience produced the most anxiety of the entire day.
Norman went downstairs and out to the front of the building with one set of keys and I stayed in the apartment with the other set. The key fobs contained a sort of remote which we did not really understand how to use. He was gone for too long so I knew something was wrong and he was probably stuck outside meaning I needed to rescue him — no cell phones to communicate with each other. For a few minutes we hung in the balance of me locked in and Norman locked out. I really couldn’t figure out how to get out of the building. What if we were stuck for rest of the night with no way to call anyone for help? This was not a good way to begin a vacation. After several minutes, I made it out the front door and holding it open for fear of being locked out too, shouted to Norman who had begun walking around trying to figure out how to scale the building or at least, break in. Then we figured out that all you had to do was swipe the key fob over a rather inconspicuous security logo to gain entrance to all the doors. What a relief! Ok, now we were in control and on our way to a fantastic adventure.