Robert Frost

The best way out is always through.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bonjour PARIS! (June 8th, 2008) Day 10 (Part 1, because I am long winded)

Oops! This had happened before. We woke up late (did we sleep through the alarm or maybe it didn't go off?--Who knows?) and rushed to pack up our last few things to take our two trips to the airport. We didn't fly out until 10:30 am but in trying to get there in plenty of time we needed to be at the airport by 8ish. I remember sweet but rushed goodbyes (everyone a bit groggy). In two trips we were on time to the airport and even though a carry-on bag was slightly overweight, the Spanish check-in attendant saw me emptying the bag of diapers that it was full of and kindly allowed me to carry it on board "as is" for "la bebe". Muchas Gracias, to her understanding my plight and to our entire Spanish experience.
Our Spanish flight to Paris was another rowdy experience, but poor David hit a wall and found it hard to keep his eyes open during the lively flight.
Sophia mingled and was out of her car seat--she loved the freedom.
Once in Paris we claimed our luggage and steeled ourselves for our journey to our Paris apartment. What a journey it was. First though we found/stumbled in to our shuttle from the airport to the Paris train station. And I didn't realize that it's path would be right through the 14th arrondissement neighborhood that I stayed at in '93, '97 with Crusade during our ministry time. I took a gasp of air in and David wondered if I was okay. I called out "Look!" to the patisserie that we frequented during my stays, the cafe we stopped at a time or two.
David and the girls looked a little blankly at my excitement of recognition of places from my past. And I was so struck with the odd fact that these far away places from my everyday life, have a cozy at home familiarity to me. How can that be? Thank you Lord.

Now for our adventure on the Metro. Picture a family of five, with luggage plus a bit of a cumbersome car seat, and stroller entering the crazy maze of escalators, stairs and passage ways that is Montparnasse train station. Whoa! is all I can say. During our trip I had been fairly unfazed with the cultural, language, everyday differences and would find our way around most situations with a lot of help from David. But at this multilevel, busy, crowded, busy, loud, bustling, busy, train station I actually had a moment of "Gulp, I don't know". There wasn't a sign that said "Jenny go this way to buy your Metro tickets and to your Metro platform"--darn it.

And nothing was distinct to me. No distinct Metro this way, tickets this way, trains this way, Help! this way. I stood still. David and the girls stood around me in a tight group with our luggage in between us trying to be as little in the way of the fast moving masses as possible. Then I looked at the time and realized that if it took an hour or more to get to our apartment that we would miss the greeter with our key. Now I had the pre-trip helpful e-mail instructions on how to approach our apartment (three entries and two security codes) but no key. So I first attempted (5 times) to call the manager. I couldn't follow the French voice on the phone in order to put in the correct amount of Euros in the phone. Gulp! I took one look at my tired crowd and knew I had to get us going. I left them in one spot to rest and hunted down a ticket booth. Once I found a ticket stall all my French left me after "Bonjour" to the stern looking man behind the glass. Then he asked me in English " I am sorry do I scare you?" As I smirked, I pleaded my question and confusion and he had all the answers--tickets, Metro times, and directions to our platform three flights down.

He hauled ourselves down,down, down to our Metro. And clumsily made our way inside trying not to push, bump and otherwise annoy any other travelers. Then the kindest thing happened that continued throughout our Parisian visit. A thoughtful, business dressed Frenchman (called this because he spoke French to me) tapped my shoulder and asked me to take a seat with my bebe (Sophia). I quickly and appreciatively accepted even when it was truly easier for me to stand with Sophia, diaper bag, and some luggage, because I was so thankful for the gesture. It calmed me a bit more to take in the moment around me. The girls were perked up by the small interaction and the fact that they enjoy the Metro experience.

We again bustled ourselves to our connecting train and finally made it to our stop. Here we had 100 and some spiral steps up to street level. There was a sign at the foot of the stairs to help us know what we were in for. Sophia loves steps but I dared not put her down as we didn't want to get overrun by the foot traffic. Then another kindness. A sweet Asian lady spoke French to me and asked to carry Sophia up the steps. Now, typically any mom would think "no way" but for whatever reason (The Lord knows) I complied (post your objections in the comment section, but it did happen) . And she kept step with me behind David and the girls and then at the top of the stairs she gently set Sophia down, told me how adorable she is, and bid me adieu. I called out a surprised "Merci, madame!" as she flitted away. Oh, my. Seems naive I know, but I couldn't help but say a thank you to the Lord for His kindness through strangers in quelling my anxiousness.
And now in this long-telling we come to what made our Parisian experience exceptional. Montmartre.
Montmartre is the 18th arrondissement neighborhood that in known for artists, The Moulin Rouge, the Sacre Coeur cathedral, and the picture perfect staircase images of Paris that we see in advertisements. When we came out of our Metro stop doors and faced the streets I noticed how peaceful it was.
A cafe with a spattering of people, noticing couples leaning over their small cafe tables and glasses of wine towards each other, in deep conversation, a small grocers (that we would hit later for our few provisions),

a chocolate shop with its imaginatively decorative window,

and a small park (I mean small 20 ft X 30ft.) with a couple of children riding their tricycles in circles while their mamans chatted at a nearby bench. It was such a lovely scene and so Parisian. We only walked a block and Voila! we were at the intimidating entrance to the 8 story apartment building.
I entered the 4 digit code and we crossed a darkish enclosed walkway to another door where I again entered a code to open the door

that led to the inner courtyard. Once in the large courtyard we saw another building (ours) behind the street side building we just entered. We went up the 10 steps to the first level.

Up a flight of stairs to our level and bam! a kissing couple on the landing. I tried to look away quickly and find our numbered apartment (and even though we were an hour late, I hoped to see our greeter, Preston) but once I found the door it was locked. The couple had stopped and was focused on me so I found my French again and asked them if they knew the apartment owners. The girl didn't but she knew the residents changed often and offered me a cell phone to make any necessary call. Nice! I showed her the number and she dialed it and Preston answered and welcomed us, and told me the key was under the mat! (Duh, Jenny) I then excused myself to get the rest of the crew and that was the last I saw of any neighbors for the rest of our stay.

But the apartment. Ah.

We had rented from a company called Perfectly Paris that had full, helpful descriptions and great pictures. And to our distinct pleasure, the apartment was even better than the ad. And cheesy as it is, I pinched myself in thinking that "I have an apartment in Paris". Yeah, I know it was only for 4 days, but it counted.

The girls loved the windows that looked in on the inner courtyard revealing other apartments with windows open to the air. The apartment was very well equipped for all our needs and we even had a bottle of wine as a welcome along with a big book of tips and advice for the area. Anna and I headed out for our few Sophia specific necessities at the small grocers and then we were all ready to hit the town and find some grub.


Jennifer K said...

Hi Jenny, I'm so glad that your apartment experience went well! It would be fun to stay in Montmartre. Did you take the Air France bus from the airport? I might have to do that on my next trip.

Jenny said...

Hello Jennifer, Thank you for sticking through my post. I find I get carried away and then hesitate to post, and then think, uh, if someone wants to look away they can look away. Then my husband might pause to read my post (he's suspicious of the whole "blog thing")and tells me how there were some things the entry helped him remember or appreciate after the fact. So all that to say thank you!

Jennifer K said...

Hi Jenny, yes, I find that if I reminisce with someone about a trip we took, or if I see their photos, it helps jog my memory and I remember much more. I just read your latest post and the photo that lady took of all of you is so good!


Related Posts with Thumbnails