Last time I wrote of the air traffic control strike which interfered with my Air France regional flight connecting from Paris to Vigo, Spain…
Twenty minutes later I arrived at the next Première Classe location. This time the front desk was polite, but once again it was not my hotel. Teetering on the edge of tears, I asked how many more were in the vicinity. Only one, I was assured. To reach it I needed to hop on the vertiginous vehicle that passed for public transportation, return to the terminal, buy an RER train ticket, and take it two stops to Parc des Expositions.
The Parc is a convention center. Have you ever been to one when there is no event? There’s more activity in a black hole. I was totally alone: no other travelers, no ticket sellers, and no signs to indicate which staircase to use to locate my elusive lodgings. I took a guess. I trudged up a set of stone steps to street level and was rewarded by a sign for Hotel Ibis. Where one hotel exists, can others be far away?
Yes. After walking 2.3 kilometers in the wrong direction, I retraced my steps to the station. Now there were several characters hanging around who looked like they might be selling those flapping toy birds by the Eiffel Tower later that night, or handbags by the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
But there was also a young woman playing her own game of Let’s Make a Deal with the exits. Together we discovered a subterranean passageway enabling us to cross under the railroad tracks. Our adjoining hotels were a mere three minute walk away.
By now it was past noon. There was no one at reception in the place, just a sign to check in at the sister hotel next door. My room was not available until two p.m. so I went into the restaurant for lunch. I craved comfort food. A creamy, melted, ham-and-cheesy croque monsieur fit the bill. They were out. A French restaurant out of croque monsieurs? That’s like Yankee Stadium being out of Nathan’s hot dogs. I settled for a glass of white wine and a pricey asparagus appetizer (three whole stalks!), showed my I.D. at reception, went next door. and fell into a deep, jet-lagged sleep in my cubicle.
Later I walked around the industrial streets searching for a less expensive place to eat, but the neighborhood looked eerily like the back lot of Universal Studios. (I had photos to show the deserted area but they were on my cell phone, which has since been stolen by gypsies. Seriously. To be fair, this occurred in Portugal, not France.) I returned to the hotel and ate a simple meal of hamburger with fries and salad. As I write this, dinner’s dizzying price of €22 (not including beverage) equals $28.64.
In the morning I slipped my room card into the slot of the impersonal box on the wall by the elevator, waved goodbye to the imaginary front desk folks, and forced my luggage out the door. I stopped. While I’d checked online that my flight was departing on time, the terminal had not been listed. I headed to the other hotel to inquire. After using three computers for as many minutes, the attendant expressed regret that he couldn’t locate the information either. I said thanks anyway, and announced I was on my way to the train station.
“Ah, non, madame, I advise you to take a taxi. The rail strike has begun.”
You have to love France.