Europe 2010: The Long and Winding Road to Paris

My time in Schiphol airport–all clean and bright and shining–came to an abrupt end when I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. I collected my bag and began the long, long trek to the train station where, allegedly, I could hop on a train that would whisk me to within two metro stops of our apartment down in Montparnasse.

But, alas, there was “travaux dans la ligne.” In other words, the tracks of the RER train that went to the airport were being worked on. Several smartly uniformed young man were stationed in front of the entrance to the train area. I approached them cautiously–“Ou est le RER pour Paris?” to which the reply was a cheery “You speak English?” and the proferring of a printed set of directions (English on one side; French on the other). I had to go up two flights, catch the airport shuttle train to another terminal, catch a bus to an unknown RER station and from there catch the RER into Paris.

Piece of gateaux.

For a few crazy moments I contemplated walking back the three miles I’d come to see where the taxis were but then sanity and my budget prevailed. I bought my 8.50 euro train ticket and bravely began my journey into the nation’s capital. It took close to two hours!

The shuttle to the other terminal was easy to catch and then there was chaos as hundreds of stranded people milled about with their luggage and no idea which of a dozen busses to take. I was directed (again in cheery English) to the location for the correct bus, which arrived about ten minutes later. So far so good. I hopped on and stood wedged between a group of middle aged French travelers who discussed the situation in great detail for most of the trip. I was pleased that I understood about 30% of what they were saying–enough to get more of less the gist most of the time. The long journey to an RER station out in the middle of nowhere took about 30 minutes of winding around countless roundabouts past fields stretching to Normady and endless hectares of the same light industrial ugliness found in the suburbs of any big city.

Upon arrival (finally) at the petit train station from which I would allegedly get the train to Paris, myself and my 100 odd companions from the bus were stopped dead by ticket stiles that wouldn’t take our tickets. I got rather a kick out of the fact that the one person on duty at the station sat and watched the hordes of obviously Paris-bound people from the airport bus crowd into the station and all butt up against the unyielding ticket stiles for quite awhile before finally opening the handicapped entrance so that people could pour through onto the platform. I mean what was she waiting for?

Anyway, I stood upon the windy platform in the rays of the setting sun and just hoped that whatever train arrived was the right train. No one else seemed terribly concerned and there was no map to indicate where we were. I called Gregg to tell him I was somewhere in France and would arrive God knows when. At least we were in communication! I was relieved that he’d arrived at the apartment and was all ready to come and get me at the Metro stop if and when I arrived.

A long, long train ride later, a bicep breaking trundle of my heavy suitcase up and down at least six flights of stairs at the Metro finally disorged me at the church outside the Alesia Metro stop. I called Gregg and five minutes later there he arrived and our adventure begins!