Touchdown Paris, France. Finally. Unharmed. Grateful.
The airport was an ideal introduction to how visually stunning Paris would be. It was as if we were being transported between levels of a structure in space.
My bible, the King TripAdvisor version, proved to be a wee bit suspect. After loading our bags into the taxi, we found our driver didn’t take credit cards even though it was written in the bible that all cabs would. After asking another, then another, then another cabbie, we found one who would. I have since corrected the bible.
Traveling to our apartment, we passed the soccer stadium. That unfortunately conjured up the memory of Paris’s recent bombing there. Now, the Euro championship was being played at this and other stadiums throughout France and we wondered about security at the events. While terrorism didn’t dominate my thoughts, it was a new aspect to constantly consider and incorporate into even the simplest decisions we’d make. In addition to the usual out and about admonitions to bear in mind like “protect yourself against pickpockets, be sure the area looks safe, check your bill, etc.” were also “this large crowd would be a tempting target, where are the exits, does that abandoned suitcase look dangerous, who is getting into this elevator with me, etc.” I do wish that level of concern wasn’t needed, allowing for more of the passing thoughts along the lines of “did you see the heels on those shoes, how will that car ever get out of that parking spot, and check out the hairdo on that statue, etc.”
Paris is so stunning though that it readily hooked my mind away from those concerns. When we neared the heart of the city, the Eiffel Tower appeared all lit up and that lit up our faces. We were really there!
We arrived at our place on Rue de Grenelle in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés section of the 6th Arrondissement. I over-tipped the driver by so much that he asked me three times to verify the amount: mush for brains after that endless day. That would prove to be only the first of my financial missteps of the trip; this one cost just a few Euros but a later one would cause me to lose sleep.
The apartment was perfect – just as it was written in the bible!
Despite having already been awake for about 36 hours (us girls at least), our excitement meant no one was ready for sleep.
We opened the bottle of wine gifted to us by the apartment agent and it was very good. Over the next week, we would learn that ALL wine in Paris is very good. You really can’t go wrong, no matter how little money you spend.
At 2 am, we were still on our devices. If you take any solace in hearing about the travails of electronic communication snafus, especially when they happen to other people and not to you, do read on; else skip to the next paragraph. On my ancient smart phone, I could only get email (no texting or calling) but I couldn’t get email on the laptop or the iPad. Verizon, the great communications company, rejected my credentials on the laptop, though they were the same ones the cell phone was using. Isn’t it ironic that there is never a good way to contact the great communications company: no phone number for the phone company, no email address for the email provider? I initiated a chat with an agent who no doubt was from a part of the world where everyone should definitely have been asleep, but alas the steps failed. The agent suddenly just signed off and more amazingly, the chat button instantly disappeared. It never returned for the duration of our trip as if my problem was labeled as insolvable and Verizon wouldn’t give me another chance to waste their agents’ time. I filled out a “contact us” form, but of course, my email provider never replied. Now there really was no way to communicate with my communication provider. The Verizon wireless communications company, somehow still so separate from the Verizon landline/internet communications company, did provide a chat and the agent told me that my cell phone was too old for international use unless I had purchased some add-on before leaving. Nicely, he did advise I use my Apple text when there was WiFi so at least that worked. Hmmm. I had assigned Freeman the task of investigating cell phone usage for our overseas trip: given how much time he spends on phone, I thought he was an expert and therefore the perfect choice. Perhaps another not-one-of-my-best-parenting moments. To be fair, his very new iPhone6 could text, make calls, and get emails in Paris, so he’d done his job there. Don’t ask why my son has the brand new phone and I have the one that’s been handed down a few times. The final irony is that I own Verizon stock and have done extremely well with it. Not because I am the biggest fan of the company (could you tell?) but rather because there are always insanely long lines of people buying new devices at their stores. Plus if I’m going to give them a small fortune every month, everyone else is too, and I might as well get some of that.
So I would have to read emails on my phone’s teeny, scratched-up screen. And we wouldn’t be able text each other unless there was WiFi. And no phone calls for me. That meant we wouldn’t be able to just split up and rejoin at will as we moseyed about. We’d have to stick together or plan like the ancient travelers did 10 years ago.
There was a series of emails from Turkish Airlines, sent after we had left our house for the airport, notifying us of the bombing and stating the flight would be on time. Good to know! There was also a message from our Turkish contact, S, telling us about the bombing. While we were sad and a bit concerned, the level of upset in his words went much further. It seemed similar to what we had felt after the Boston Marathon attack: dismayed, vulnerable, unsteady, heartbroken.
Finally we’d had our fill of our personal devices and engaged in that traditional family bonding activity, watching TV. We tried to find out more about the Istanbul airport bombing. By the time we located the two English language stations in the middle of the 800 channels offered in French, the wine had nearly disappeared, which was our cue to sleep.