I got home from Washington DC late Friday afternoon and had two days to prep for a class I’ve never taught (to senior leaders none the less!) and pack for Paris. Oh yeah, there were also two birthday parties that weekend, so I really had one day. Holy stress Batman! I somehow managed to pull it all off, however, and arrived in Paris as scheduled. The flight there was direct, which is saweeet. Flying direct is soooo much better than switching planes and dealing with all that passport check bullshit. I hoped to sleep, but flying for 10 hours in coach is not very conducive to sleeping. God damn American Express for spoiling me with business class international flights all the time. How am I supposed to go back to peasant seating?!
I grabbed a taxi at the airport (a Mercedes taxi!) and headed for the hotel. My hotel was right across from the Arc de Triomphe, which is such an incredible sight and definitely put me in a Paris sightseeing mood. After checking into the hotel, they handed me my room key which, I swear to God, weighed 10 pounds. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating. The key was attached to this massive gold statue-thingy that looked fancy but was absolutely ridiculous. Hello, haven’t y’all heard of magnetic card keys? I was like I can barely hold my own head up after no sleep and a massive time difference and now you want me to carry this key?
After letting myself into my room with my ENORMOUS key and unpacking a bit, I decided I should take advantage of the one day I had to see some of Paris. Plus, I needed something to keep me awake. So, I did the most touristy thing you can do… The double decker bus tour! Don’t knock it until you try it though. It is a GREAT way to see a city. Plus, you don’t have to move a muscle unless you want to. You plug in your headphones and the lady tells you everything you’re seeing. Plus, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays (yes, I’ve been to Paris twice and the Louvre has been closed both times), so that wasn’t an option.
Here’s a view of the Arc de Triomphe from the top of the bus:
After the bus tour, I went back to my room to do more prepping for my class. At 6:00pm I was hungry so I went downstairs to ask the concierge if there was any place nearby to grab a quick bite. I have no idea what I was thinking. This is not how they do things in Europe! For one, no one eats dinner at 6:00pm in Paris. 8:30pm is the norm. Two, they don’t have a lot of grab n’ go eating establishments. The guy told me they could fix me something simple from room service, so I had some bland soup, salad and bread.
I usually adjust well to the time when traveling internationally, but I think the stress I was feeling didn’t allow this to happen, so I logged just a few hours of sleep that night. It’s a miracle that I was able to form a sentence let alone train a 5 hour course to a bunch of big wigs. I am the girl who gets 8 hours of sleep every night. I need it! The class went really well though, and I was ready to treat myself to a fancy dinner out. Once again though, I was on an American eating schedule so I arrived at 7:15pm to a restaurant with not one person in it! The guy working was so friendly though and I enjoyed a delicious glass of red wine, yummy bread, soup and a steak.
I had a couple of hours in the morning to roam around before heading for the airport, so I walked down the Champs Elysees, a very famous street in Paris. Of course none of the shops were open, but I still felt cool. Then it was off to the airport where I learned that the French don’t understand the concept of boarding a plane in zones. Instead they line everyone up like cattle. Once I got on the plane, there were several assholes in front of me who decided it was alright to take as much time as they needed settling in. No, no it’s fine. I mean it’s not like there are TONS OF PEOPLE WAITING TO GET ON BEHIND YOU!
Other than the tweaker behind me, the flight was fine. Yes, I’m pretty sure he was a tweaker. I’ve become an expert thanks to my neighbors. Plus, he was listening to a Disc man! Remember those? I seriously didn’t think I’d see one again. So cool! Not cool was the fact that he couldn’t control his tweaker twitches and kicked my seat repeatedly until I turned around very obviously to give him a death stare.
I had a connecting flight in Detroit and only had an hour and a half to catch my plane. Not long enough! After standing in a horrendous passport check line, you’re then directed to stand in another line after picking up your luggage (I didn’t even have luggage to pick up since I carried everything on!) to be checked yet again. For some reason the dude thought it would be beneficial to send me to a third check with a bunch of foreigners who didn’t speak a lick of English. Seriously, I tried to ask the guy in front of me if I could go ahead of him and he just kept saying, “No English.” Then, the guy who was up with the security guys was answering a slew of questions about his time in Lebanon before being hauled off to some private room! I was in a full-on panic because my plane was leaving in 30 minutes and I still had to go through security. I felt like screaming, “I’m an American for hell sakes! Why am I in this line?” The guy took pity on me when I got up there and said, “Just go, I don’t want you to miss your flight.” So, after waiting in the security line and running for the tram, I got to the gate 10 minutes before the plane was scheduled to leave. Only, it wasn’t leaving. Because… there was a lightning storm!
I really didn’t think my life could get any worse at this point. Three hours later, I was in the air. That is after multiple times of taxing and then the pilot coming on the speaker and saying, “Sorry, it looks like another storm needs to pass before it’s safe for us to take off.” This, of course, marked my 24 hour point for waking hours.
Lucky for me I have a wonderful stepdaughter who didn’t care how late it was and was fine picking me up at the airport. Let’s just say I was happy to be home.