18 April 2010

Best laid plans of Mice and Men

So, it's Sunday, 18 April.
Instead of being in Barcelona, I am in my bed in Les Sables d'Olonne. I'm annoyed,but trying to not be.
If I've learned anything from The Roots and Chinue Achebe it's that things fall apart. A force of nature/act of God as you wish although I would hope that God didn't have it in for me for wanting to go to Barcelona. I was going to be good)
This damn volcano.
Let me start with the altruistic, good Kayle part:
I'm thankful the volcanic activity didn't have any fatalities, it could have been Pompeii and that's all bad.
I'm thankful that I was able to stay with a true friend, Celine, in Paris instead of in limbo.
I'm thankful I got to see my friend Nathan from like 5 years ago.
I'm thankful for how efficient and helpful Air France was. It was really impressive. I told the lady how surprised and thankful I was because I really was.
I'm thankful that I made it back to Les Sables and that the weather is beautiful and hot so I can at least have some beach time.

The fail saga began Thursday. I woke up at 5am to catch a 5h45 train. I was ready. I bought a Swedish travel phrase book to impress Tobbe's friends and parents. I bought a backpack. You know the ones, the "I'm hiking across Europe" ones, except I was taking trains and planes.
I was stoked.
I get to Paris at 10h33 plenty of time to grab a fast fallafel at my favourite falafel place in France and head to Charles deGaulle.
Then at around 11h I received a text informing me flight was cancelled, thanks for understanding. I didn't understand. Went out to CDG to assess the situation and was reminded of the volcano that I had dismissed. I read about them evacuating parts of Iceland because of a fear of flooding,but that was the last I paid attention.
The lovely AirFrance rep booked me on a new flight which I thought was for Friday,but wasn't and I went to explore the Marais. The Marais (4 and 5th arrondisements or districts) are heavily Jewish and I love it. Each time I come to Paris, without fail, except Fridays and Saturdays for Sabbath, I go to L'as du Fallafel. It's reportedly the best falafel in Europe. A friend suggested that I try another fallafel place perhaps I should, but why?
Why try something that could be less than the best when I'm pretty sure outside of Israel this is as real as it gets? Replete with yelling, attractive, only feigning annoyance Israelis. Bon, get my falafel eat it, decide to go to the Musee de la Shoah. The Shoah museum. Not exactly uplifting,but important.
I'm glad I went. And I'm glad that France is,at least in that moment, dealing with the complicity of its leaders during that time. A post for another time.
Wandered around the Marais and eventually Celine got off from her internship. I was blessed to run into a really nice Parisienne, Jennifer, who helped me find a convenient meeting place because Chatelet, the stop, was too big. We talked about my life in France and she shared her desire to leave Paris for a variety of reasons. I empathised with her more than she knew.
The next day I tried again the whole leaving thing, but to no avail. Flight after flight was cancelled and I decided to try to find an Air France store. I walked along the Champs Elysees with a fury. I searched and searched only to walk into IranAir hoping they could help point me to an AirFrance location. I pulled a number looked around, felt uncomfortable and left.
Finally, I remembered there was a street of embassies near by. My brain remembered a Canadian flag waving from my last trip to Paris amidst the Gucci store, 5 star restaurants and beautifully expensive flats.
Never have I ever been so excited to see a Canadian. I asked the young security guard and he directed me to Les Invalides. I thanked him with probably more than a hint of desperation in my voice.
I reach Les Invalides only to find the longest line of my life. If you know me, you know I hate lines. HATE THEM.
Yet, I had no choice. I said a prayer for my sanity an waited. 20 minutes later I was talking to an Air France representative who I felt compelled to compliment. Usually I make fun of the French for being feckless, but this time I was so impressed by their work ethic I almost felt bad for years of bashing them.
I was helped by a young man who informed me that my original ticket had been rebooked for Saturday(!) and not Friday as I had thought. So I hadn't missed a new flight, I was still booked for one. However as life turns out Charles de Gaulle was closed until...now I believe so Stockholm became a no go.
Discouraged and disheartened I went back to Celine's.
The next day I went to SNCF to see if there were any trains to Barcelona.
Nada. Not a blessed one.
I tarried with the gentleman for a good 20 minutes hoping he could finagle away,but to no avail. The next trains available would arrive Wednesday when I had to be back in Paris to greet my friend Nick and his father for their trip which...
Has been postponed.
So faced with this disappointment and annoyance I am back in Les Sables d'Olonne.
I know it could be worse and it doesn't make me any happier to know that so many people are affected and some trying to get home. I'm grateful I had a friend to stay with. Grateful that I got home. Grateful that my home happens to be near the beach.
But God, how I wanted to go to Stockholm and Barcelona. Oh well, the best laid plans of Mice and Men...

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