Thursday, March 22, 2018

close enough

Put it this way: I'm not where I'm supposed to be but it could have been so much worse!

I had been monstrously busy all day yesterday and so it wasn't until minutes before leaving the farmhouse that I found out about the planned strike in France for this day. At the head of the striking forces -- rail workers and air traffic controllers. Meaning, if you fancy yourself flying in and taking a train anywhere in France today, you're in trouble.

My transatlantic flight was cancelled five times. And it was reinstated five times. As the agent put it -- in the end, the ball landed in the right court! We not only took off on time, but arrived a few minutes early. No surprise there -- Charles de Gaulle airport seemed pretty empty. It was the first time in my life that I stepped up to a completely deserted passport control. For whatever reason, the Detroit flight was granted a pass.

And now what? I'm supposed to take a train into Paris, then take a rapid train away from Paris. How do you do that when rail workers are picketing? My ticket is worthless. The ticket office is closed. Ah! Another piece of luck: you can take a commuter train just to the outskirts of Paris. I'm inching closer and closer to my final destination!

As we rumble along toward Paris, I call my reliable little hotel and ask them to hold a room for me. There just is no way that I can get out of the city today. The rapid trains are cancelled, the slow pokers are, well, too slow. Moreover, I don't want to get stuck if suddenly the walkout expands to even more trains, planes and automobiles. I've been in that pickle barrel drinking pickle juice before.

Okay, room at hotel made available. It helps to be a loyal guest.

Now, to find the second train that will get me closer to my Paris neighborhood. Metro? Nope, not functioning. Ah! The screens say there is a train going my way on platform 42. People rush to platform 42. The sign there says "Airport bound." Who to believe?

Everyone is confused.

I take the plunge and board the train. A lurch and a heave and we're off.  And soon after, I alight at Luxembourg -- my beloved station, my neighborhood, my final destination for this day.

At the hotel, the affable desk clerk checks to see if they are extending the strike for another day.

So far the answer is no, they're not. I quickly purchase a ticket for tomorrow. I am in business!

And this is how I open the window of my hotel room and see the Odeon Theater of Paris's Left Bank, instead of the deep countryside I expected for this day.


It is early afternoon. I am tired, but we'll forget about that. I am also hungry and raring to move, to walk, to shop for my grandkids -- anything to shake off the stiffness of a long flight.

I must eat something. No big production Parisian restaurant meal. Just small insignificant something.

Just down the block, there is this fairly new eatery. It's small and every time I pass it, I feel guilty for not stopping in. Because if not me, staying just down the block, then who?

I go in today. The emphasis here is on bio. That's fine. I'm a friend of bio (Euro slang for organic). The chalkboard menu has four items  to choose from. Oops, no, make that three. The chef has just polished off the fourth on his own lunch break.


I pick the vegetarian combo plate of soup, lentils and a microscopic sliver of quiche. It's actually just right. I feel revived.

Revived to do what? In my seven nights in Europe, I had already put aside two at the tail end for Paris. This day is an unexpected bonus, of sorts. What to do, what to do...

I don't want to think. That was the point of my days away from it all. I wanted no plan, no decision, no hefty schedule. I just wanted to walk.

And so I walk.

(Through Luxembourg Gardens, where, despite the cold, things are looking mighty green and pink, as compared to back home...)




(Looking from flower shop to the diners at Cafe Varenne...)


(... and from a kids' clothes store to Rue du Bac...)


It's a funny remedy for tiredness, isn't it? I walk from 3 until 7 in the evening and then I can walk no more and so I catch a bus back to my neck of the woods. You surely perked up on that one! I never take a bus in Paris! Paris is for walking and if the distance is too great  -- hop on a metro. But, one cannot have confidence today in anything that runs on tracks and so I take the bus home.


Just a few steps now...


Finally. Home. Yes, this place has that feel of comfy home. All that's missing is... well you know  -- my people.

In the evening I go to Breizh Cafe for dinner. That's the creperie down the street. I'd booked a spot at the bar and I'm sure glad I did that. The place is insanely crowded, always.

A crepe with scallops and spinach...


....followed by a crepe with honey and lemon.

I turn back to my hotel. Past shuttered stores and bars, and couples who seem oblivious to anything and everything...


And now I'm just too tired to do anything but eye the heaping pillows on the big bed in my wee hotel room. But I have no complaints: I'm not where I should be, but Paris is a good distraction from where I should be. And tomorrow -- well, I may actually get to where I'm going -- even as it will be time to leave soon after.