La Parisienne, No. 1: Travel Troubles

I did it. I made it to Paris.

Which, given the last 24 hours of my life, is quite a feat.

Here’s the rundown:

After a LOT of waiting in the San Francisco airport, I finally got on my flight. Frazzled and overwhelmed by the fact that in an American airport all the announcements are still  in French, I forgot that there are three rows of seats on such big international planes, and I began walking down the wrong side of the plane with no way to cross over to the other side where I was sitting. So I had to inchworm my way through an empty middle row and ask nicely to cut in front of somebody in the other line.

Wow. I literally could not even get myself on the correct side of the plane. Can you say “tourist?” I could practically feel the other passengers’ eyes rolling at me.

On the Plane

I finally got to my row, wrestled my heavy duffel bag into the overhead compartment, and plopped down into my window seat. Shortly after, a woman and her teenage son filled the two remaining seats in my row. They smiled at me politely, and after a few minutes, I put together that they seemed to be Spanish. They didn’t really speak English, and they didn’t really speak French. Oh boy.

Not only was there now a language barrier between myself and my fellow passengers, I realized that the row was unbelievably narrow and that there was no way I would be able to get out to use the restroom without having to ask both of them to get out of their seats for me. *Cue the social anxiety.*

So basically, here’s how that went: I tried really hard to not have to pee for the entire flight (which was about 10 hours). I was successful for most of the journey, until the last few hours, when I finally decided to just suck it up and ask them to let me out of the row. But only as the kid next to me fell fast asleep. Obviously, I was not going to wake him up and be the jerk who keeps him from getting any sleep. If it was me, I’d definitely want to be left alone. Not that I had such an opportunity. I didn’t sleep.

Why, you ask? Because the obnoxious American teenage boy behind me apparently has never been off the ground before and therefore has no airplane etiquette, as he was kicking and shaking my seat practically the entire time. I literally would turn around and look at him to try and give him a hint that he was being rude, but to no avail. Kid was in his own world.

So not only was I exhausted from being on the go since 8am (by this time it’s about 1am California time), my clothes were dirty because I just couldn’t manage to keep my dinner from landing on my shirt, I had a nasty headache from being dehydrated (because I’d basically been trying to halt all bladder function), and a quick glance at myself in my phone camera revealed that I had developed three new zits (umm, gross) in the time since I boarded the plane.

Classy.

But, I was arriving in Paris so I wasn’t going to be a grouch. After what felt like another ten years, we finally got off the plane, and I began following the crowd through the Charles de Gaulle airport (which, by the way, is a very nice airport).

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In the Airport

After a thousand twists and turns down endless hallways, I arrived at customs, where, in more confusion and hustle-and-bustle, I entered the wrong line to get my passport stamped. Thankfully, the female customs official was nice about it and sent me on my way quickly, but I still felt very, very stupid.

For, like, the thousandth time in 24 hours.

I was not nearly as good an international traveler as I had expected to be.

After more hallways, I got to baggage claim. When my (enormous) bag finally showed up, I went to retrieve it off the carousel, only to find out that I literally could not lift it. It was still moving along the conveyor belt, slowly slipping away from my reach, and I had not yet managed to grapple with it enough to get it off. Finally, after several attempts of trying to use the handles of the suitcase like a sophisticated adult, I wrapped my arms around the thing, threw my back into it, and dragged it off and onto the floor flat on its side with a loud thump.

I’m laughing even writing this. Yikes, Brooke.

Finally, after an hour since I got off the plane, I headed toward the exit. When I exited the terminal, I was immediately hit with the shouts of a crowd of 50 drivers with names on signs. I couldn’t just stop in the middle of the exit, so I just kept walking and hoped that none of those drivers was mine.

I made it to a wall where I could stop for a moment to check to my Super Shuttle app, which had sent me several text messages about how and where to meet my ride. It told me to make my way to exit door #16, where my driver would meet me and escort me to the car. I followed a large sign that read “Aleés 5-18,” assuming down that hallway I would find door #16. Well, I did not, in fact find door #16. I was only seeing numbers 8, 7, 6, and 5.

Well crap. Now I’m lost.

I made an about-face and found a big shopping-mall-style map in the middle of the corridor. Apparently door #16 was in the exact opposite direction. Great.

So, like a fish swimming upstream, I fought the current of exiting travelers back up the corridor and across the terminal’s exit to an adjacent corridor which, hopefully, contained door #16.

I made it to the very end of the corridor and to door #16. I hit “confirm pickup location” as the Super Shuttle App had instructed me to, so that my driver would know I was ready to be picked up. Then, the app showed me the name of my driver — Marioara — and the location of her vehicle. She was parked right outside. Great! She’d come get me in just a minute.

Or two.

Or five.

Or ten? The app showed that she was still parked right outside, but where was she? I texted her through the app, saying that I was right inside the door ready to go as I’d been instructed to be.

No response.

Ummm…

The next time I checked the app, her vehicle was no longer on my screen.

Oh no.

It was 20 minutes past my pickup time now, and I could not find my driver.

I refreshed the app, just for it to show me that now my driver was several miles away. Without me.

Oh crap.

Trying to stay calm and think rationally, I called the Super Shuttle phone number included in the texts they sent me. An automated voice on the other line announced that the Super Shuttle customer service offices were closed today.

And I was still stuck in the airport by myself.

I panicked. I was on the verge of tears.

At this point, I was running though every other option in my head. I had no idea how to get to my hotel with the Métro. An Uber to the complete other side of the city would be outrageously expensive, and what if my Uber driver couldn’t find me either? This airport was enormous, and I had no idea how to communicate where I was because I didn’t know where I was. The only thing in the whole place I knew was door #16. I was completely by myself with far fewer French language skills than I’d thought I had. Who knew how long I’d be stuck at the airport?

Just then, the app sent me another text saying my driver’s (second) ETA was 12:15. So was she coming back for me?

Then my phone rang. It was a French number. I picked up, and on the other end a man with a thick French accent said in English, “Miss Pland?” Thank the Lord. Finally someone who can help me. He informed me that my driver was looking for me and asked me where I was. I told him about the whole frickin’ door #16 thing, and he said he’d inform my driver. A few minuted later, a woman in all black with dirty blond hair walked through the door with my name typed in big font on a tablet. I flagged her over, and she took my bags and showed me to her car. Not without confusion, though, because she did not speak any English. She kept telling or asking me things and I literally had no idea how to respond. I think I just nodded or smiled or something. Finally, I squished into the front with two of my bags, and we started driving.

In the Car

Marioara had two other passengers in the back who also spoke French, and the three were conversing pleasantly. When I did not engage in the conversation but instead sat quietly in the passenger seat, she turned to me and asked, “Tu parle Français?”

“Un peut,” I responded, meaning “a little.” “Je suis American.”

Oh no. I had just made myself look so prissy and ignorant, like I had deliberately chosen not to learn the language because I was American and Americans don’t have to obey cultural rules. I was already wearing a big floppy hat. They probably thought I was so annoying.

After 30 more minutes of driving, we arrived at my hotel. Now more direction from Marioara, none of which I understood except one word, “voiture,” which meant “car.”

I climbed out, tipped her with 5 Euro,* said “merci beaucoup” and “au revoir,” and walked through the doors of my hotel.

Well, it was more like I dragged my enormous suitcase over a lip in the sidewalk and puffed into the small entry of the hotel.

*NOTE: I now know that you don’t need to tip people in France because the price you are charged already has the tip included. So I’m out 5 Euro and she willingly took it from me. Cool.

In the Hotel 

The man behind the desk greeted me with “Bonjour,” and I waited while he helped a woman in front of me.

When it was my turn, I said that I was checking in for Brooke Pland. There was a bit of confusion over my last name because, even by American standards, it’s weird. I paid for the room and he gave me my key, all the while I feeling embarrassed about how gross I looked. I was desperately in need of a shower. Thankfully, though, the man, Adrien, spoke great English and was very friendly.

I FINALLY made it to my hotel room, after 20 hours of travel, and sighed out of exhaustion. I tossed my hat onto the bed and dropped my bags. I walked to the window and looked out, and this is what I saw:

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“I’m in Paris. I freaking did it.”

…..     …..     …..

Well, that’s the story! Talk to you soon.

Sincerely,

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