Dec 092010

December 8 (Day 7)

Today is our final day in Paris.  We fly to Marseille tonight, spend the night and then fly to our respective countries on the 9th.  That's the plan anyway.

Well, plans change.  Tonight I'm in the Paris airport and Mark just barely made it to Marseille.  We both had crazy adventures.  Let me go back to the beginning, though.

Yesterday I confirmed with our apartment owner that we could stay until noon.  So we took it easy this morning, packed, and waked down to the bakery to get breakfast. 

Around noon we said goodbye to the apt and headed into the rainy streets to take the metro to the airport.  We would get there early, but that was fine.  Snow was expected for the day and there might be a few delays.

We were greeted by armed guards at the airport keeping everyone out.  It was snowing hard outside and the train station was cold, but we were kept at bay.  No information was given in English of course, so we just had to wait it out. 

It turns out that it was every airports nightmare…..a piece of unattended luggage locked down the airport for about 30 or so minutes.  Thankfully it was just a scare and we were allowed to enter.

We picked up the luggage we stored in the airport (food and other things for Mark to take to Algeria) and checked in with Air France.  So far everything was going smoothly.

The snow outside was piling up and after a bite to eat, we noticed our flight had been cancelled.  Actually, no planes were leaving in the snow storm.  Air France quickly booked us both on a 9p flight to Marseille and handed us 2 meal vouchers for our trouble.  Wow, really?  International airlines are much nicer than their american counter parts.

We settled down again to wait and then Mark got a call from his coworkers in Algeria.  He was to take the train to Marseille instead. 

So now the adventures begin.  =)  Its not quite "choose your own adventure," but its close.

We went to baggage claim and waited 20 minutes to tell air france we need our luggage back and get a permission slip to the baggage claim.  Hordes of people were getting luggage as well, but we were lucky to spot 2 of our 3 bags.  The 3rd was the action packer full of food and items for Mark in Algeria.

New adventure.  After waiting over 30 minutes to no avail, I squeezed into the baggage services office to see what could be done.  It was pure mayhem in here.  There were 6 desks of personel to help and more than 50 passengers speaking.  Some people were getting forms, others looked to be in a line, and more were clumped in a corner.

I waited in what I believed to be the line, but once I was at the front I had no idea what to do or where to go.  I found a crazed Air France attendant and asked him where the line was.  He looked at me and said, "normally only 12 people are allowed in at once and the line is outside.  Why don't I just help you.  Sit here."

Awesome.  He told me no more luggage is being returned and they were going to send it on to my final destination.  I was a bit dubious that they could send it to Marks camp in skikda, but he seemed positive.  He asked me for all kinds of information I didn't have and we kinda got his form filled out. 

We'll see what happens now.  Hopefully they can get the luggage to Mark, but there is nothing else I can do.  Of course I couldn't leave to get Mark or call him since I had no phone.  We live in the communication age, but while abroad I'm so disconnected.  So many times I needed a phone or internet. 

Mark now missed the train his work had booked for him, so we went to the TGV office to buy a new ticket.  The lines here were of course long and eventually Mark was able to get a ticket.  The trains to Marseille from the airport were booked, so he had to get a transfer to Paris and then to a train from there.

Now we had to say a quick goodbye so he could dash off.   =(  I had such a good time while we were together both in Texas and in France.  It was wonderful to have him back and I'm sad to see him go.

Mark took off to start his own adventure, and I started mine.

I spent some time walking around the airport through a few lines before finding out I could not check in for my Houston flight tomorrow and enter the terminal.  I got some airport food and finally after some indecision decided to store my suitcase and head back to the city.

My city adventure was wonderful.  Paris got probabably at least 3 inches of snow…more in some places and the snow was still sticking to the ground.  I went straight for the Eiffel Tower with my camera and tripod and took the night photos I'd been too cold to get before.  The snow turned everything magical and I took many photos.

I also must have looked like a local because many people came to me for directions to the metro.  I was asked in spanish, english, and french.  Also, with my tripod the annoying vendors walking around selling mini towers didn't bother me at all.

My adventure back to the airport was more interesting.  First one of the metro connections I was going to take wasn't running, then when I got to the station to take the train to the airport, I found out there were no trains to the airport.  I went to several stations along the line to confirm.  I saw many others trying to get to the airport too.

Eventually I figured out how to get to a station that also had a bus to the airport.  Now it was late at night and I waited in the cold with several other people to get on the bus to the airport.  I made friends with a couple other English speakers and we commiserated over the airport delays, the lack of trains to the airport, and now the lack of bus.  The bus lines had stopped too!  Several security guards came out and started shutting down the train station.  This did not bode well.  But I was with other people going my way.

Eventually, through one security guy that spoke english and an employee of the train station, we found out that they were going to call taxis for us.  There were at least 15 of us and only one taxi that was going to go back and forth.  We stood and slowly froze while waiting for the taxi and getting frustrated with our lack of understanding French.  Security did stay with us thankfully, but all 5 of them hopped in a van and waited in the heat.  =P

The view was pretty.  The sky became clear enough to see stars for the first time since we arrived and we were surrouned by snow covered trees decorated with lights, ornaments, and ice. 

At 2am the train station employee went inside to get everyone coffee.  This was probably the first time in my life I might have taken the coffee.  But soon after the taxi came back and we squeezed in.  I was with my new English speaking friend; both of us going to the airport, and the other people in the cab were French speaking and going to a hotel near the airport.

Finally I made it to the airport, again.  The place is dead with nothing open.  I feel like a refugee as the staff hands me water and a blanket and I pass people sleeping in all corners on cardboard and in plastic bags to keep warm.  Its not warm in the airport.

The ticket counters are all closed, but the staff is still there sleeping in their chairs.  Only Air France has a working line, but I can't pick up my stored bag until 6am.

I found and internet terminal to see Marks email that he made it to Marseille and now I'm in my own corner typing away on my phone's little keyboard.  I will go ahead and buy some wifi so I can send this off.

Mark's adventure will have to be another post since I can't figure out how to copy the text in.

It has been adventurous, but that's what makes life so interesting.  I'm happy to share my stories with you.


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