It feels like 24 hours since I was sitting in JFK working on my laptop before my flight. The clock confirmed it was 4:30 pm on Saturday, and now it’s 4:30 pm on Sunday, but a couple of big factors had changed.
I thought that traveling 6 time zones, forgoing a night of sleep upright in coach, and having to wander the streets for 8 hours alone before I could access my AirBNB, would be my first stumbling block. In reality, the flight landed an hour early (so I actually had a full 9 hours to wander) and I truly didn’t sleep a wink in my airplane seat. Slight panic started rising at the baggage carousel at 6:30 am. I asked a few people for suggestions, including a mid-30’s group of travelers for Fashion Week, but they’d never faced this particular challenge. I didn’t have the guts to approach Kurt Russell and ask his advice. (He looked pretty incognito wearing jeans and a scruffy backpack, but it was definitely him.)
It’s not fraud!
To add to the dismay and frustration, after notifying both credit card companies that I was departing for France, only to be assured there would be no problem with my cards, BOTH my Visa and Platinum Am Ex cards were denied for my Uber ride. I’ve never in my life been grateful for PayPal, but at least they processed the charge. Hailing a taxi was the back up plan, but typing the destination and knowing the cost are much easier than relying on unpracticed French and unfamiliar bills and coins.
Once my 2 suitcases were stashed at a City Locker location near my AirBNB, the first views of Paris at this hour where calming. The roads and sidewalks were almost empty, with only the movement and drum beat of the crew teams practicing on the Seine. Choosing the cutest awning and chairs, as well as the desired street-side view, I enjoyed my first cafe and croissant, and plotted out the next 7.5 hours. Choosing between group Qigong instruction in the park, or a walking tour of literary and artistic history in Paris, I went for the option requiring less balance. The 20’s and 30’s came alive as our 2-person tour led by MIT-educated, Olga, guided us along the same steps as Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Matisse, and others from this creative era. 2.5 hours flew by enjoyably with only minor mists of rain and I found myself ready to download The Movable Feast on my Kindle and re-watch Midnight in Paris with Owen Wilson.
When It Rains, It Pours:
By the time the rain really started to pour, my feet were objecting as loudly as my stomach. Getting settled into my room was getting critical or the rain drops might have turned into tears. The 2-stop Uber request was trickier but when the driver saw the size of the larger suitcase in comparison to my height, he understood why I couldn’t walk the remaining 7 blocks. When he let me off at the wrong end of the one way street, I tried to act confident that I could maneuver the 2 bags along the cobblestones to the front door. The entry code worked on the first try (which was NOT the experience at City Locker), but this only served to quickly reveal the tiny and steep steps that lay ahead. I could barely get in the front door with my big bag so I had no choice but to block the entire hallway while I attempted to carry my wheeled carry-on and shoulder bag to the second floor. Did you know that the French don’t give the ground floor a number? 3 flights up really narrow, steep and winding stairs; I’m sure the sound of baggage wheels smacking against the risers, and a few multilingual curses, was no surprise to the other residents.
A Glass of Rose to End the Day:
The apartment is so awesome my misgivings slowly dissipated and I’m soon ready to head back out for groceries, as soon as I’ve got enough phone charge to keep me from getting lost. After a few attempts to find a gourmet market with fresh cheese and bread, I decided that a served meal and glass of wine was a fitting reward for this extra long day. And here I sit—aaahhh! “Le dejeuner special du jour”: salad, salmon and potatoes and a glass of rose. Deliciously doused in butter, as only the French can do, I felt the need to check the number of steps I walked today, before deciding on dessert. Almost 21,000 steps… that works.
Now if I can just stay awake until 8 pm tonite to get on a normal time zone for painting tomorrow at 10 am.