Trying to get my head around going back to LA on Tuesday. We’re in Paris for a few days because we fly back from here. Getting here was another adventure. Things had been fairly quiet in Calais over the last few weeks. But as soon as we got on the road on Friday, our driver received a call that there was a delay of a “few hours”. By the time we reached Folkestone, England to get the train ferry, a few hours had evolved into three. And by the time we actually got in the tunnel it was four hours. Once again it was laid the feet of migrant problems.
It was sweltering hot, which was a surprise because the last few weeks it’s been very cool. Our driver picked us up from the train station in Folkestone and drove us to the tunnel to take us across. But since nobody was going anywhere, we had to stay together until we got through the tunnel. Then he was to drop us at the train station in Calais where we’d get a train to Paris. This guy, like the one who brought us from Calais to London talked NON-STOP. Babbled. We were chained to each other in a mini -van from 9:15 AM until 6:00 PM. I felt sorry for the guy. His wife died, his family lives in the other end of England and all he has is his Mancoon kitty. Since I felt badly for him, I listened. But Jim was going out of his mind. He kept popping out of the car to walk around the traffic jam or through packed parking lot. Exhausted and hungry, Jim announced he was going to try and take a nap. The driver turned around and said “who do you reckon will be your next President?” I thought Jim was going to go through the roof. “It’s too early to predict,” Jim replied. The thing about our driver was that he wasn’t particularly interested in what you had to say. His question provided a way for him to talk.
We FINALLY got to Calais, three and half hours after our train left. Given our experience with coming over to the UK, I decided to buy insurance so that if it happened again, our tickets would be honored. I had to exchange our tickets and went to do so. It was then I had my 2nd meltdown of the summer. (My first being in London with our rental agent). The ticket woman was a stereotype of a French asshole. I handed her our tickets and apologized for our tardiness and explained that we were caught up in the Calais mess. She looked at our ticket and informed me I had to purchase two new tickets. I then explained that I purchased insurance so I was covered, to which she replied “you bought it on the Internet. “ Guilty. But the train company sold me the tix and recommended buying it! I began to argue, but she was insistent. Then our driver approached her and said he’d been transporting people all summer and all the tickets were honored when an incident closed the tunnel. She just shrugged her shoulders and said “you bought them on the Internet.” I asked to see her supervisor who had, of course, gone home. At this point we had eight hours into this disastrous journey and we still weren’t in Paris. There was NO way I was going to buy another set of tickets. Being pleasant and reasonable got me nowhere. So I decided to become the ugly and loud American.
Jim was with the dogs on the train platform, a long way from where I was dealing with the asshole. He told me later, he heard my voice, which tipped him off that I was pissed, but didn’t know what I was yelling about. Our driver pipes up “I think your husband would like you buy new tickets” and I screamed “Like hell.” That was the nicest thing I said. I called the woman various names and stormed away. I suddenly decided I had one last thing to say. The idea of me, an American, saying this to anyone was beyond the pale, yet I couldn’t resist. “This is why people hate the French. Because you’re arrogant assholes.”
One of the things I’ve experienced over many visits to Europe is all the animosity that remains between countries. The British hate the French, everybody hates the Germans and Germans don’t like the Greeks or Spanish. I’m eternally fascinated by how the past influences the present. In our country the same might be true but I’ve never experienced that first hand. To the contrary. To me it seems like Americans don’t have a connection to their history. They operate in the moment and the past is defined as post 9/11.
Everyone (all dozen) people in the station were in shock. I stormed out to the platform and found Jim. He feared the asshole called the conductor and told him not to let us on the train. I told him I’d handle the situation since I got us into it. To make a long story less long than it already is, we didn’t buy new tickets and the bloody tickets were never collected on the train PERIOD. We didn’t even need tickets! Apparently anybody could just board the fast train from Calais to Paris! By the time we got to Paris we’d been traveling for more than 12 hours. It was only when we arrived did we learn about the incident on the train from Amsterdam to Paris. Ever notice how terrorists tend to travel first class? I guess they figure if they’re going to blow themselves up, they might as well do it in style.
Anyone in Hollywood bought their story yet?!
The good news is our hotel is absolutely charming and in a gorgeous neighborhood. Because it’s Paris, we only had to cross one street to eat a fabulous meal in a lovely restaurant that allowed us to bring the dogs. We couldn’t be more comfortable or happy.
We spent the day strolling Paris, visiting Notre Dame and Musee d’Orsay. Because it’s Sunday, a service was in progress. Notre Dame is religion on steroids. There was a sign asking people not to take photos. When I realized I was the only one respecting that request, I thought, “screw it” and clicked away. I hadn’t been there in decades. I’m not even going to try and describe how remarkably beautiful it is and my pictures don’t capture it. You have to see it for yourself. Once again I ponder how people did this in the 12th century (when it first was built but evolved to what it is now over centuries) and today we can’t build shit that lasts.
Paris is indescribable so I won’t even attempt it. There’s beauty everywhere you look. It takes my breath away. It’s truly staggering. I wonder whether Parisians are used to it and take its splendor for granted? Does that happen if you live in an environment like this? I certainly understand their protectionism visa vie the rest of the world. They don’t want their culture usurped by the Americans or any other dominant culture. It’s a delicate line between maintaining your culture and excluding other cultures.