28 August 2007

A collection of amusing moments and horrible moments

Well, everything went fine for both of the flights. My ears pop a lot on airplanes (they pop on escalators, so airplanes are horrible) so I went through a lot of gum. I read 3/4 of the seventh Harry Potter book, and noticed a lot that I had missed the first time. The first flight was a short one to Montreal, and they didn't give us any food. So when I arrived in Canada, after turning my ridiculous customs form (How long will you be in Canada? 0 days. Are you bringing personal effects to Canada? No, not really.) to the officer, who spoke a weird variety of English that involved ending lots of sentences with "eh," and after being told by the boarding-pass-inspector-dude that I would enjoy Paris, I searched for lunch.

The great thing about the Montreal airport is that it has a lot of restaurants. The horrible thing? They're ALL on the arrivals side. Which I couldn't get to. Which meant that my consumable items options were snack foods at the newstands, liquor at the duty-free stores, or the café. The one café. I spent slightly more than 10 Canadian dollars, which turns out to be almost the same as 10 American dollars, for a green salad ("Are you sure you want the Caesar salad? It costs twice as much, and the only difference is you get dry chicken on it," said the salad-making guy) and a can of soda. The cool part about all of this is, unless you ask to speak English, everybody assumes you'd like to speak French. It is so much fun to be in a place where so many people speak French.

So I had 6 hours in the Montreal airport, which I occupied by using the ridiculously expensive wireless internet (9 dollars for a day) as much as possible to feel more justified about paying for it. I walked around a bit whenever I started getting sleepy, and for the most part it was an enjoyable enough layover.

Then the adventures started! The flight to Paris is about six hours long. I was sitting next to a Parisian guy my age named Xavier, who was going home after spending a month in western Canada with very distant cousins-- relatives of his grandfather, who was the one to emigrate. I obviously still have an accent when I speak French (more intonation than pronunciation) and he assumed I was Canadian until I said otherwise. He seemed very surprised that someone could speak French as well as I do just having studied it at schools in countries where French isn't an official language. After eating a very mediocre dinner, I tried to sleep. See, I was smart and I decided that, in order to ensure I sleep on the flight, I shouldn't sleep much at home the night before. I was running on about four hours of sleep, and after a full day of travel, I should be able to sleep. Wrong. I slept an hour at most, which I can calculate because after ten minutes of attempting to be comfortable enough to sleep, I would look at my watch. There's one hour-long gap where I didn't know what time it was.

After an hour of ears popping for the descent, we arrived in Paris!! Passport control was very fast, no questions asked, all they did was stamp my visa. The crowds around the baggage claim area were enormous, because our flight got out there right when another's baggage was coming out, so there were twice as many people as there should have been in that space. Finally the Air Canada bags came out. My backpack was there, my rolling suitcase was not. I managed to stay amazingly calm, but finally had to admit that it wasn't going to come around. So I had to have a conversation in French that I had never anticipated having: the "You've lost one of my bags" conversation. I'm proud that I did so well in French, but I was (and am) very worried about the bag. See, I had one large rolling suitcase and one medium-sized backpack to do all my packing in. Because of weight restrictions, I packed all the heavy stuff and about 2 days worth of clothes in the backpack, and the light things (clothes, shoes, an alarm clock, my traveling purse, and another paperback) in the rolling suitcase. This means that, in the event I don't get my big suitcase back, I have almost no clothing, and no socks. Today will be my third day in a row wearing the same pair of socks, unless I can find someplace to buy sandals. Mine are in the other bag. Yesterday I wore a sleeveless shirt, and I saved the one with sleeves for today. Hopefully I'll have the bag back today, since my razor's in the other bag and sleeveless isn't going to be a good option anymore!

I had to walk across the entire airport to get to the trains, carrying my nice backpack and my evil, distributes-weight-badly carryon messenger bag. The plan had been to put my carry-on in the rolling suitcase and then be perfectly comfortable no matter how far I had to walk. Now, thanks to all the walking with my bags yesterday, I actually have a bruise on one shoulder, and I still have that feeling of a phantom shoulder bag. So here's the sequence of events that prompted walking twice as much as I wanted to.
- I navigated the metro just fine, and arrived at the apartment (I've rented a vacation apartment for the week) on time. I was supposed to be met with the keys by the landlord's friend, since she's in Rome at the moment. No one was there. After walking up and down the street a couple of times, I knocked on the door of the restaurant next door, explained my problem, and got the guy to let me in. The mailbox said that I needed the first floor (which in American language is the second) on the left. Number 9. Except that none of the doors had numbers. I knocked on one of the doors, and there was no answer. There are five doors on the floor. Two had no answer. One was an ancient Chinese lady who spoke no French. One was an ancient French lady who didn't know anyone else on the floor. One was a very very short young Asian lady who said that she didn't know, but she suggested I knock on the other doors. I sat on the stairs and read Harry Potter for a while, then gave up and decided to go to the apartment rental agency to have them call the landlord.
- So I had to walk back to the metro, walk up and down more stairs (plus the machine wouldn't read my card, so I had to use my meagre change to buy a single ticket, as I couldn't yet buy a weekly) and find the agency. Good thing I packed the directions in my carry-on!
- Finally I found the agency. My agent called the landlord and left a message, and then she went on her overdue lunch break and I left my bags there (my shoulders felt wonderful for a moment) and went to an internet café I'd passed so that I could let my parents know I was alive. I had half an hour, it was about 2pm, so I walked around looking for a crêpe place that had a savory crêpe without eggs. I ended up wandering for the whole half hour.
- When I got back to the agency, the agent said that the guy supposed to meet me would be there in half an hour, he had been mistaken and thought he was supposed to come today instead of yesterday. So I put my bags back on and walked back to the metro, took the metro back, and walked to the apartment. He was there and gave me the key and all was well. [Note: he was also surprised when I said that I was not Canadian, which made me feel good. It seems I can pass for someone who speaks French natively, even if it is "inferior" French.]
That's where the walking ends. I relaxed in the apartment for a while, took a shower, e-mailed home, checked the status of my bag (still searching) online, and then set off. I took the metro to near Notre Dame to buy a Pariscope (a little magazine that lists all the concerts, plays, movies, art exhibitions, and everything else in the city happening that week, which costs about 50 cents) and look for dinner. The weird thing was, I was incredibly hungry, but had no desire to eat. I was thirsty, but not in the mood to drink anything I saw. I was very tired, but too awake to go back and sleep yet. I walked for more than an hour before I finally just went into a little shop and bought a bottle of juice. I went back to the apartment, drank half the bottle of juice, checked my e-mail, picked out a sheet and blanket, and went to sleep at 8pm.

So now we come to today, and things start looking up. I woke up a few times during the night, and got up for good at 8am. The status of my bag is now "Item found, awaiting confirmation" which makes me feel very relieved. I only have one blister. The weather's beautiful. After I take a shower, I'll go to the grocery store and hopefully I'll be able to buy a pay phone card there, so I can call the airport when the bag is here and tell them what time to bring it.

Sorry that was so detailed! If all goes well, I'll have a good chunk of time to explore today, and then I'll take pictures.

No comments: