So this will be a short little series about my experience getting to Paris, enjoying Paris, and saying good-bye to Paris.
I was so excited to get there. I had been anticipating this trip for a year. I was a little nervous, but like I said, mostly ecstatic! I had a long layover at SFO, so I hid out at one of the airline clubs and just chilled out with my music and my Paris tour books. Finally, it was time to board to Paris.
It wasn’t too long before I was settled in and watching a movie. We got our meal fairly quickly and I tried to sleep after my first movie. I tried to read my Nook (The Late Show by Michael Connelly) and assorted magazines. I was too excited to really focus on anything for more than 30 minutes. So, while we were headed toward the East coast, I went up toward the galley and saw a woman with an oxygen mask on. Someone was on the phone. I didn’t think much about it for whatever reason. I went back to my seat and started a movie. Within an hour, we were headed over Eastern Canada when they made the announcement. We are making an emergency medical landing. HELL NO! This isn’t happening….I felt my heart sink. LIke really sink.. I felt nauseated. I prepared myself for all things Paris, but not emergency landings and re-positioning my trip plans. This can’t be happening. But yet, it is. They announce we are landing in Newark, New Jersey. The perfect place to start my Paris vacation. NOT. No offense for those in New Jersey, but I was planning on Paris, people! They told us they would be making plans for us for the night, but we were NOT going anywhere till 7PM the next night. Which means I have one less day in Paris.
It was a chaotic hot mess in New Jersey. We (about 150-200 of us) stood in several lines to try to figure out what was going on. Until I stood in that line with everyone, I felt alone and stranded. I know that’s selfish. And when I started talking to these people. People just like me, totally inconvenienced and panicked and in a generally pissed mood. Then something happened. To me, anyway. We were all in the same boat. We all needed to be in Paris Saturday morning. I learned some people needed to be there by a certain time Saturday even more than I did; they had tours and cruises and their vacation was on a very exacting schedule. As selfish as it was, it made me feel better that I was not alone. We all started talking with each other. Trying to figure out what was happening at the front of the lines. We were promised a new flight, hotel passes, and food vouchers. We started talking about life and what got us headed to Paris in the first place. It was amazing. Everyone was getting along together, instead of being divisive and rushing for the customer service desk. Granted, we are all adults, but funny things can happen in crisis. I finally got to the customer service agent. He apparently was only giving out the hotel vouchers (score for Crowne Plaza) and food vouchers ($30….what???). The lady at the front wrote down our flight number, but couldn’t confirm our seat assignments. Damn…this can’t be good. But I took the flight number and thankfully I had my baggage (there was a reason I paid for the priority boarding), heading for the shuttle with a few other people I had gotten to know during the course of the crazy chaos. During the stay on the line, I realized I should start contacting my Paris connections, my landlady and a family friend. By the time I got to the hotel, it was about 3AM. I called my landlady (poor woman, who just was recovering from her birthday celebration the previous night) at 9AM Paris time.
So I finally went to sleep for about 4-5 hours at the very most. I wanted to get to the airport and take care of business. Then I talked to a friend who urged me to call the airline directly from my hotel room. YES!!! I got my flight confirmed with a seat assignment and my boarding pass was ready to go before I even left my hotel that morning. I went down to breakfast at the hotel and saw a fellow traveler, originally from Haiti, who was returning to his Paris, his home of several years. I shared my good fortune with the seat assignments and he called himself. I went upstairs and got ready, then headed down to the lobby to catch the shuttle. Even though I got my seat assignment, I thought it would just be wise to be at the airport. My fellow travelers were on the same page. A group of us were in the lobby by 10AM; I saw a woman I had spoken with the night before and shared the phone number and advice with her. She called as well and got her boarding pass online. It felt so good to be positive about this whole crappy experience. I was so happy I could share the phone number and more people could feel secure with confirmed seat assignments. I ended up spending a bit of time with one of the women in that group.
Once I boarded, I took my seat and recognized the young French woman next to me from the night before. We chatted a bit before she went to sleep for the majority of the flight (lucky her!) …. I felt calm and knew the next 7 hours would pass quickly compared to the last 16 hours or so. They did, indeed, pass and I was soon in Paris. Once I landed, I was in the customs line with one couple I remembered, but otherwise never saw anyone else again. I never saw the nice Haitian man or the woman I spent four hours with in the airport or the couple I talked to in line for three hours in Newark. While it was a chaotic time and we weren’t sure exactly how to navigate the system, we all did just fine and landed in Paris safely.
I arrived in Paris!! I got through customs. I found the taxi stands, had my taxi driver talk to my landlady, and made my way to Rue de Grenelle in the 7th district in Paris, my home for seven, I mean six days.