At last, Paris, for last

Due to Internet limitations, the Senior Year Abroad blog has suffered. Some of that was also due to the author’s procrastination and lassitude. We will catch up on the crossing and London shortly. And add photos when I figure out how to get them back off the phone and into the computer.

But now we are on the the last leg of this trip and our entire Senior Year Abroad. Back to Paris, where it all started just 13 months ago.

After a lovely day and a half in London packed with sight seeing and friends meeting, we Ubered over to St. Pancras Station and the Chunnel train first thing on a gray morning. St. Pancras is an international station, so entry to the train platforms is restricted by train time. Fortunately, we had to wait only a couple of minutes to be let through into passport control and security. The process is pretty much the same as in airports–coats off, luggage loaded on the rollers to be scanned, phones and keys out of your pockets. (I actually forgot to take my British change out, but passed through the scanner without incident.)

Passport control is fairly serious, much more so than in the European countries. The passport officer gazed intently at me while holding my passport in his hands to make sure I was the same person in my photo. That never seems to happen in the Schengen Zone.

Sufficiently screened, we grabbed a cup of coffee and a croissant to wait for our train, and boarded without major incident or drama, except for my momentary move to the wrong car and Lynn missing our seats in the correct car, forcing us to swim upstream against the tide of passengers moving forward.

The Chunnel ride, like most European trains, is great. We tooled through the English countryside at some 280 kph and crossed under the Channel so fast, I didn’t realize we had done so, until Lynn pointed out that the signs were now in French.

Two hours later, we emerged into Gare du Nord in Paris to a confusing swirl of taxi hustlers trying to take us on an 85 euro ride to the Left Bank. Lynn sensed something was very wrong, as the cab “representatives” all claimed a strike of taxis against Uber was disrupting their regular departures.

First we walked downstairs under the station to an area where the reserved cabs are stationed, but felt extremely uncomfortable about getting into a black car with no cab sign on top. Then we went back upstairs to the main taxi line to be told the cab would be a flat 85 euro charge to go to the Left Bank. We declined that as well.

Neither the train information booth nor the police seemed to know anything about a taxi strike, so I hailed Uber. As we walked out of the station to hail an Uber driver, I saw a line of cabs right across the street. We took the first one, operated for the first time ever in my experience in France by a English-speaking driver. He knew exactly where we were going. The fare was 13 euros.

And he knew nothing of an anti-Uber strike. He explained that Gare du Nord has turned into a cesspool of taxi scams, as most of the arrivals are from England and don’t know any better. (Understandably–a cab to Heathrow from downtown London can easily hit 100 pounds on a bad day.)

At 36 rue Broca, Marie Forget, our landlord’s wife, greeted us at the door, grabbed Lynn’s suitcase and led us up the stairs to the apartment. All 61 of them.

Once she showed us around and left instructions on how to use the key, Marie departed, and we were home in Paris once again.

Lynn instantly detested the apartment.

After all the great luck we have had with apartments in Paris, Nice, Venice, Florence, Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona, our good fortune ran out on rue Broca.

First, the VRBO web site spotted the apartment far from its actual address, which you don’t know until you have paid. According to VRBO, the apartment should have been but two blocks from our place last year on rue Laplace. Instead, rue Broca is many blocks away, though still in the Fifth, and not close to the river or Blvd. St. Germain at all.

But worse, in Lynn’s eyes, the apartment was unclean and unkempt. That’s a mortal sin. And it’s raining and cold.

Luckily, it’s only a week, and we will find good wine and good food and good times, regardless of the weather and the relative condition of our apartment.

After a quick, damp walk to a nearby alimentation for essentials (coffee, milk and wine), we trudged up the 61 stairs to unpack, charge up and settle in. Within minutes, Lynn had already found two promising restaurants steps from 36 rue Broca.

Maybe our luck has not run out after all.


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