packing for Paris

Inbound from Charles de Gaulle-Roissy airport, all had gone smoothly until we were in a taxi headed into Paris—at a crawl. The traffic was simply horrific, as bad as anything I have experienced from route 128 outside Boston to any freeway from San Diego to Los Angeles. Our plane arrived at 8:00 am and around 10:30, Alan, the apartment manager, called to see if we were okay. Fine, I said, but only inching along. By that point, we had exited the périphérique and were blockaded somewhere in the vicinity of the Porte de Clichy by delivery vans, buses, street repair crews and sundry vehicles.

We crossed an intersection and one of the streets was rue Lemercier. Wait, I though! Yay! That’s the cross street nearest our apartment! We’re there!

Not quite. Our driver sat for a couple of minutes at another barricade—and I began to think we were in revolution-fraught Paris of 1830 or 1848 or 1969. Clearly pissed off—but maintaining a gentlemanly demeanor, our driver yanked at the wheel and engaged in a series of dizzying turns that ultimately brought us back to Lemercier and—the gods be praised—rue Legendre, our street.

Was that Alan standing on the corner looking stressed? Why yes. Yes it was.

It occurred to us a few days into our sojourn that things might be almost as bad outbound as they had been inbound. My Dear One suggested we figure out what it would take to get back to the airport, on time for security checks, on time for the flight.

ends of the baguettes that became bread pudding

We turned on the computer, googled “taxi paris” and looked for opinions on Fodor’s and Tripadvisor. Various names floated up: “G7,” “Inter Shuttle,” “Blue.” Inter Shuttle provided the most intelligible website, the most specificity about responsibilities and said “no payment until passenger is safely at destination.”  Got a response within a couple of hours, provided more information and confirmed. One less thing to worry about.

The day before departure we packed as much as possible and tossed what could be tossed. In the morning there would be only ablutions, final tidying and our last breakfast.

Last breakfast required farewell to Madame at the “very good pastry shop,” Patisserie Boulangerie Thierry Gouin on the corner of rue des Moines and rue Nollet. By my second visit she was greeting me with a smile and a cheery “traditionelle?” as my normal order was a baguette traditionelle and a pain aux raisins. That morning, quel dommage, there would be no traditionelle as there would be no day during which we would nibble on the remains of the loaf. Instead there were two pains aux raisins and a pastry with apples. I forget the name but I will never forget such buttery-crisp flakiness and fragrance of pommes.

We agreed, Madame and I, Batignolles is a quartier assez agréable. Leaving left me désolée but there would, we hoped, be a next time. A bientôt, Madame smiled. Au revoir, I said, “et bonne journeée.

We had scheduled the taxi for 9:15 given our departure time of 13:20 (1:20 pm). Two hours to get to the airport and two hours to get ourselves to the gate. Then the awful news of a terrorist attack that had killed twenty-two at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, cycled endlessly across all the news channels. Mostly I thought about those victims. How many of them were children? Grande’s fan base is full of girls in their tweens and early teens. We also thought about the implications at CDG.

locally sourced, home-made

Our driver Shan pulled up at 9:17 and levitated our luggage into the car as I ran back inside and dropped the housekeys on the dining room table. He suggested the drive might take an hour and a half. He arrived at our terminal in less than an hour.

The security at Charles de Gaulle was endless. Once our bags were checked–after much ado and many problems–we waited in line for the pop quiz that would assess the likelihood that our travels expressed malign intent. “Was our visit for business? Oh, pleasure? Where had we stayed, where had we gone? Had we enjoyed any particularly fine meals? Yes? Where was that? Madame wears a hat. Does she like hats? How many hats does she own? That many?” We finally escaped our interrogation, emptied our carry-ons into trays, repacked it all on the other side of the screening machines, and headed to the gate.

I learned there that even though the vending machine is cheaper, the cashier at the news stand doesn’t replace your bottle of water with a bag of candy.

The boarding announcement echoed through the space and we lined up.

Adieu, Paris.