Thursday, October 23, 2008
Escape from Paris!
As you read this, imagine if you will a small clock is ticking in the lower corner of the screen a la “24” and picture me as Jack Bauer (but better-looking and less adept with firearms).
Monday morning came around cold and rainy in Paris. The travel agency, where I hoped to find my camera, didn’t open until 9:30 am. We needed to be out of the hotel and to Gare de l’Est for a 10:40 am departure. The travel agency was a good 10 minute walk from the hotel. The Gare was a 40 minute cab ride (tres cher but no need to haul baggage up and down Metro steps) or a 15 minute Metro ride (ugh). Now, do the math.
After breakfast and checkout, I bolted out of the hotel at 9:05. Arrived at the Travel Agency at 9:18. Waited impatiently in the rain. The young woman who waited on me the day before arrived at 9:33. Yes! She had my camera! She indicated I should wait there until she went round the back and opened the door. Waited impatiently in the rain. Checked watch: 9:40. Looked through window and saw young woman answer the phone. Waited impatiently in the rain. She opened the door at 9:43. She searched for my camera, found it, and I was out the door at 9:44. I jogged (yes, jogged) back to the hotel. Arrived at hotel at 9:50. Grabbed Joe and we headed out the door and made it a few blocks over to the taxi stand. It was now 9:55 am. End of part one.
We had been warned by the hotel concierge that, this being commuter time, we may have difficulty finding a taxi but at the stand there was one lone driver waiting for a fare. Yay! As we approached, the young Vietnamese man rolled down the window and looked at us inquiringly. “Gare de l’Est, s’il vous plait!”. I made a move to toss our bags in his trunk. Instead of hopping out of his cab to assist us, he smiled sadly, shook his head, and rolled the window back up. What the hell?
There were no other taxis around. OK, time to go to option #2: The Metro. Although we stood right next to a Metro stop, it went to Austerlitz and not Est. We would have to walk (jog?) over to St Michel and grab the #10 line to Est. It was now after 10 am and our train was leaving in less than 40 minutes. We arrived at the St Michel Metro station at 10:10, rolled our bags down two flights of stairs and made our way to the turnstiles. But where was the ticket machine? The only machine at the turnstiles renewed passes – not what we needed. I went back to the Metro entrance and looked around. No ticket machine. No ticket kiosk. No exceedingly helpful Metro clerk waiting to assist me (/sarcasm). I went back to where Joe was waiting with the bags. The clock was ticking and we had absolutely no idea what to do. Just then, a young man rounded the corner, winked at us and, in one graceful motion, vaulted over the turnstiles. Joe and I looked at each other. Screw it.
There was no way I was vaulting anything, but I saw that I could easily squeeze under the turnstile. I did so and then Joe passed our luggage through. Now it was his turn. My hubby is 6’2” and there was no way he was squeezing under anything. Vaulting was not really an option either, but before I could say anything ex-ironworker Joe began to climb up onto the turnstile, over the door, (using my luggage as a step-down) and to the other side. That’s right, my 73 year-old husband ditched the turnstile like some punk-ass kid from the Bronx. Awesome. We giggled on the subway all the way to Gare de l’Est and made our train with time to spare.