Monday, August 11, 2008

Paris 2008 - Hostages

31 Juillet (Jeudi) - We were up around 08h00 getting everything together for the journey back to the US. We had already changed our schedule several times because I get fidgety when I have to be some place at a specific time. For some reason, I remembered our plane leaving at 14h00, when in fact, it was to leave at 13h40. I believe in getting to the airport at least a couple of hours before flight time because you never know what kind of glitches you're going to encounter.

Robb went down to the gardienne's office to ask her to call a taxi. The taxi dispatcher told them it was too late, we should have called earlier. Another glaring example of how illogical Parisians can be. There are taxis all over the city just sitting, waiting for a fare, so how can it ever be too late to pick up someone? As much as I like the bus drivers, that's how much total disdain I have for the taxi drivers of Paris.

Mme Chicha's mother showed up a little after 10h00 to inspect and begin her clean-up (bed linens, towels, etc.). Evidently, she is the 'crew' who comes in and cleans up before the next renter arrives to take over the place. She is a delightful woman; cheerful, competent and talkative.

Robb had already taken the bags down to the lobby, so after we got the 'all clear' on the shape of the place, we went down. I stayed with the bags while Robb walked down to Place Léon Blum to fetch a taxi. He returned in a few minutes and we were on our way to Orly Sud. We had no trouble getting a couple of baggage carts and then we were off to find the check-in counter for L'Avion. It was, of course, at the far end of the terminal, but check-in was easy and quick. We had about half an hour to kill before boarding began.

The plane was freezing and I spent a good deal of the flight under my blanket. About an hour before we landed in Newark, it warmed up enough for me to feel comfortable.

We were shocked in Newark when we went down to get our bags. Evidently, American airports now charge $3.00 per cart for baggage carts. The very same carts we used for free in France. On the plus side, we didn't have to haul the bags to the Continental ticket counter. We simply pushed the carts to a drop-off area where they tagged them for the next flight and sent them to the proper airline baggage area. We had almost four hours to kill between planes.

The Continental flight to Fort Lauderdale went rather quickly because I managed to sleep most of the way down, even though feeling like I was stuffed into the tiny coach seat after the roomy, comfortable seats on L'Avion.

When Robb went to pick up our bags in Fort Lauderdale, two of them were damaged. The handle was falling off his smaller bag and somehow they had broken the wheels off his large bag. I know they don't handle the bags gently when loading and unloading the planes, but that seemed a bit unreasonable to me. We found a baggage handler who loaded them onto his cart and took them out to the taxi stand.

We were home a little after 01h00, sad to be back in the US, but glad the travel ordeal was behind us.

1 Août (Vendredi) - It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. This, our longest ever stay in Paris, was a very mixed bag. We learned a lot that we previously had not known, and in a way, wish we still didn't know. Paris is not the paradise we had thought. We would still prefer to live there (or some place in France, maybe Toulouse), but we no longer have the blinders on our eyes.

That's especially true if you have any kind of handicap that prevents you from climbing steps or walking long distances. Paris is not handicapped friendly.

We met some really nice people and we had some nice adventures. We saw some places to which we had never ventured before, and were glad we had the chance to see them. We had always avoided La Défense on previous trips, but it was much better than we had expected. Riding buses as much as we did this time, was a new and interesting experience, though not using the métro as often really cut into our ability to get around. I regret that we never tried using the Noctilien, the after hours bus system.

Before we left for Paris, I was anticipating a more interactive experience due to knowing several bloggers. It didn't turn out to be as interactive as I had hoped. They were friendly enough when we contacted them, or joined them for their outings, but it was less than I had hoped. I mean, I know they have their own lives and friends and such, but I kind of thought at least one or two would call (they all had our number) and suggest a get together for a drink or something. No one did that. It was disappointing on a major scale. I suppose we were spoiled by our friends in Toulouse, who went out of their way to invite us for drinks and dinners.

9 Août (Samedi) - We went to our favorite French restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Sage. Again, we were shocked at the noise level and the place wasn't even crowded. Our favorite waitress, Edith from Limoges, France was on vacation in France. We had a waiter named Pablo, from Equador, who practically hovered over us during the entire meal, which wasn't that good. In fact, we noticed that most of the staff we saw were people we hadn't seen before. We wondered if maybe the place had been sold, but Pablo assured us it was under the same owner, but with a new manager.

We were drinking our café, when Pablo informed us that an armed robbery was taking place just down the street. I turned and looked out the window, and sure enough, the parking lot was crawling with police cars with lights flashing. Naturally, some of us had to go ourside for a better look. According to the people who were already out there, the supermarket down the block was being held up and the gunmen had hostages. The police told us to get inside because they were expecting gunfire.

The restaurant manager handled it quite nicely by offering everyone free drinks (wine or coffee, since they only have a beer-wine license).

After a half hour, everyone was getting a bit anxious to get out and get on with whatever they had planned, but the police weren't letting anyone leave.

Finally, about an hour later, it appeared the police had gotten inside the store and they were relaxing their vigil. Robb suggested we try to leave, so we got into our car and drove to the exit. I stopped and asked the policeman there, if we could leave and he told us to go south because they still had the northern section of the street blocked off.

We haven't seen or heard anything about what actually occured or how it turned out.

11 Août (Lundi) - I won't be posting any further entries here until we travel again, possibly Atlanta, Georgia in September. We're thinking we might move there and we want to check it out. Geoff has a friend who lives there, and has for several years. Maybe we can pick his brain.

If you're masochistic enough to want to read about our dull lives any further, just click on "Whatever" on the top right of this page.

À bientôt, mes amis.


Marie Reed said...

Haha! I can stil comment on your old blog so that you get little messages! I hope that you are settling in nicely and having fun catching up with friends and family!

Megan said...

Sorry your stay in Paris wasn't as great as you had hoped it would be. But I think that is normal. Once you stop being a "tourist" and see what life is really like for people that live there... There are good parts and bad parts, like anywhere. If you had come to Marseille, I would have loved to meet you. I think other bloggers are just busy with their lives, work, vacation, etc.
take care

Misplaced said...

Starmen, thanks for the writing- I enjoyed it immensely. I particularly liked your observation that it isn't all ideal in Paris. I'm sorry we never got to meet when you were here- perhaps our paths will cross again.

Ms. Glaze said...

I completely understand 'the best of times and worst of times'. Paris can be frustrating in the summertime with most of the locals out on vacation and downright hostile in the winter depending on how cold it is. However Springtime in Paris is always pleasurable.

Parisians (and ex-pats included) aren't always the most welcoming until you really stay awhile. It's almost like they don't want to invest the effort if they know you'll be skipping town. Excuses, excuses.

Totally off subject, but I love the music in the background...

Ms. Gaze

Marie Reed said...

Hi mister! I still think about your health bunches... Maybe when you comment and aren't feeling well you could put in the code fls - feel like shit... then i could ummm pray for you even though i'm not religious! you just seem like such a cool guy and i am always so glad to see quirky cool starman!

Megan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Virginia said...

Well I for one am interested in your travels in France. Thanks for visiting my Paris blog. that was my second trip. Had a ball. As luck would have it, my daughter has invited me to go with her and her two children the last week in May. we will rent an apt. in Paris for 3 weeks and then on to Fontaine-Fourches for a week in the country. BTW, I lived in Ft. Lauderdale from '74-77. What a small world, oui?

Peter said...

I spent now, very late, considerable time reading, not all, but a large part of your Paris experience. A pity we didn't know each other last summer, I would with pleasure have joined you now and then.

Could the place with the total view of Paris you missed be Parc de Belleville? Anyhow, it's one of the highest points in Paris and the view is much better than from Montmartre.

See you next trip!!

Megan said...

Yeah, me too, I don't really like being tagged. Makes me feel like I am being put on the spot, then you have to tag other people, and the people you don't tag sometimes feel like "why didn't she tag me?", plus blogs full of nothing but memes are rather boring to read. Ah well.

Virginia said...

I hope you'll follow our adventures. Thanks for your nice comments on my blog as always,

Jacob said...

Your blog is most interesting. We fell in love with Paris on our first trip and want desperately to go back for a longer stay.

You've given us some things to think about, for sure.

We live in Fort Lauderdale for 20 years...well, in Pembroke Pines and then in Boca for a bit and then in Pine Island Ridge - 595 & Pine Island Rd.

Love Ocala, though.

Thanks so much for stopping by Paree...

Jacob said...

Okay, Starman - where do you live in Ft. Lauderdale?

Also, wanted to let you know that I intend to spend some time with this blog in the very near future when I get a little more time...

Thanks again for all your fine comments on Paree! Much appreciated!