Thursday, December 09, 2010

not to Berlin, continued

It’s midnight in Paris: Wednesday is quickly becoming Thursday. I'm struggling to stay awake to put up a post. Alarms are set for some horrifically early hour, but I know I wont need them. I am on automatic pilot. I never fail to wake up when I have to.

We leave our Parisian hotel shortly after 6. Every surface is iced over from a night freeze. We walk very very slowly to the RER train for the airport. Goodbye Paris.


At the airport, we step over sleeping people, tired people, waiting in line people. We did the waiting last night. We’re holding onto precious boarding passes for a late morning flight to Berlin.

And then, just before scheduled boarding, the red sign flashes: canceled.

Oh, you can ask the whys and whereofs, and you can pretend to understand, but really it is all a mess out there in central Europe. Berlin, too, has the snow, and now it doesn’t, but it’s still recovering and who knows for how long.

We are told to retrieve our suitcases from some secret passageway and indeed, one shows up, but the other does not.

I mention this not because it is particularly novel – flights get canceled, suitcases get lost or delayed, sure, all that. But the attention we received from the Air France suitcase people is beyond lovely. Monsieur explains to me what steps have been taken and what happens in case my daughter’s suitcase does not appear with her in Berlin tonight. He asks us to check back in a couple of hours on the status of things and I wince slightly because the day is still young and our flight is way later and I would love very much not to spend the entire day at the airport. Part of it – yes, to pay our dues, but not the whole day.

Madam le manager steps in and tells Monsieur that he is a fool because she of course will attend to our suitcase issues and we should go into Paris and have fun. Monsieur turns to us and translates what needs no translation – she said I am stupid, he tells us. He does not appear to be diminished by her comment.

Monsieur asks us how we’re getting into Paris, the assumption being that this is our first venture there. Oh, if he only knew! Just this morning...

I say we will catch the RER train and he winces. So déclassé! That will give you a bad impression of us! Take the bus!

We thank him profusely for all his help, shaking hands all around, and head toward the déclassé RER.

And some forty minutes later, just after noon, we alight (again) in Paris. Hello Paris.

We’re at the tip of the Luxembourg Gardens and we walk along the icy snow-covered paths and it’s all so bright and lovely! Yes, sure, the flowers are suffering and Parisians seem rather dazed by this record snowfall (4.33 inches), but for us, it is supremely pretty and the air is only modestly cold (maybe 28 F?).


And now it’s time for lunch.

There is this great little place just a short few blocks from our hotel, from our Gardens, from where we are right now – Le Comptoir. I have never been able to get a table there – it’s extraordinarily popular and I can’t get myself to book a dinner more than a week or two in advance. But for lunch, they will find us a table, if we agree to wait a wee bit.

And soon a table opens up. Outdoors okay? Madame asks. Well, it is below freezing and I can see my breath, but madame assures us that we can have blankets and there will be heat lamps.


We sit at a wee table – me in the bright and warm sun, she under the heat lamp and it is so glorious and decadent to be eating lunch in Paris in this way! We laugh at our travels and I eat a lamb confit, and she eats a grilled oyster, and Madame brings a demi carafe of wine and it just doesn’t get any better than this.


And now we are back on the train, and now at the airport, watching the screen for that moment when the sign will change from “on time” to either “now boarding” or “canceled.” Which one?