The “Joys” of Modern Travel

I'm in Paris today but getting here was no treat. First, in Venice, while taking the AliLaguna boat to the airport, someone's full-sized piece of luggage toppled off the stack in the cockpit, down the steps, and onto my extended leg, waking me from a nice doze. Had circumstances been slightly different, I might have had a broken leg. As it was, I only received a nasty and painful bit of road rash, and some swelling and bruising later. No blood running into my shoe, so I deferred treatment until Paris.

The scrum at Marco Polo airport was worse than usual due to yesterday's air traffic controller strike, which forced many cancellations, resulting in extra heavy crowds today. When I was directed to the “Bag Drop – Internet Checked-in” desk, which miraculously had no line, I found a quartet of older Americans ahead of me who thought the agent was their personal travel agent, and proceeded to take 25 minutes to “drop” their bags – had I gone through the regular, snaking line instead I would have gotten through more quickly. This same group of four were on my flight, and one of them used an airport wheelchair so all of them could board early, then he leapt up unassisted once we landed and hustled out of the plane on foot. Grrrr.

Our plane was packed and though I managed to get into an exit row, it was in the middle seat, so I spent the hour and a half flight with my arms tucked into my sides, feeling like I was wearing a straight jacket. Also, the plane arrived late into Venice, and left late, so I got into Charles de Gaulle airport about an hour late.

After landing, I made my way to the RER “B” train for the ride into Paris, which usually delivers me almost right to the door of my hotel. However, well before that, at Gare du Nord, they announced it was the end of the line and kicked us all off! Here's the last place you want to find yourself: Gare du Nord, at rush hour, with luggage. What I found was: huge crowds, 5pm, packed and infrequent trains, and utter chaos over the RER B line and other issues, and many PA announcements in French only. Oh yes, this is a multi-level train station with very few escalators, so I found myself carrying my luggage up and down multiple crowded stairways. Helpful information to be found anywhere? Nope. I was told different things by different “Station Information” staff, often just 10 feet apart, almost accidentally got back on a train to the airport, saw signs that seemed to indicate track work in progress on RER “B”, and when I did get to my hotel was told by the desk clerk there had been a rail worker strike/slow down. Go figure. I finally gave up on the train and went upstairs to get a taxi, where I waited in the taxi queue for an hour before being put in one. Luckily, the huge traffic jam around the station dissipated quickly and I arrived at my hotel across town in about 20 minutes. Sheesh.

Well, it's always nice to be back in Paris, regardless of how you get here. At my hotel, I was assigned a really nice room I'd not stayed in before, so I'm bouncing back fast. Got some first aid supplies to tend to my leg wound from the pharmacy across the street, so that's in hand. Today, weather looks good so it's off to the Fete des Vendanges, the wine harvest festival in the Montmartre neighborhood.


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