Monday, March 19, 2012

The trials and tribulations of travel.

Right before I travel, I'm sure as most of you do, I only hope for the best. No long lines at security, no delays, no turbulence, great weather, someone good sitting next to me that knows plane etiquette, that my belongings make it safely to the destination, that I make it safely to the destination with my sanity and wallet still full, these are the things I wish and hope and pray for when I travel but sometimes all the wishing, hoping and praying doesn't prepare you for the worst travel day in your life.

It has happened to all of us, you come prepared but one thing after another goes array and the next thing you know, your standing in a train station in Paris, with one piece of luggage when you left with two, 85 euros poorer after a cab ride from hell and another 84 euros poorer for the last ticket on the only train you can take to your destination.

I am writing to you from the Austerlitz train station in Paris , that's Austerlitz, A-U-S-T-E-R-L-I-T-Z, I had to scream that to my cab driver a good ten times, I even did it with my well studied French pronunciation , and he still looked at me like I was crazy.

Where do I begin? Well, I knew it must of been to good to be true when my travels started. I had prepared myself for the 18 hours of travel that was ahead of me, even laughing at my sister-in-law when she said," Even I'm antsy for you.", I acted like it was no big deal, I'm a seasoned traveler my friends, no little hiccup along my journey could get in my way. Boy was I wrong. So back to, I should of known what was coming, when my dad hit no traffic on our way to JFK International Airport, when I then breezed through check-in in five minutes tops, I figured that was a record for international security.

Wow, I was on a roll, now all I had to do was get on plane number one to London then a quick hop, skip and a jump over the English Channel to Paris on plane number two, then a cab ride which usually runs me 50euros to the Austerlitz train station, where I would catch the train to Limoges, where I would be reunited with my boyfriend and dog.

Well, I was still on a roll with flight number one actually, it was the red eye to London so I slept most of the time, and scored a minor victory when drink service came around and I actually didn't get id'ed for a glass of wine. I'm also kind of in love with Heathrow Airport, for the mere fact that I can enjoy one last Starbucks before I'm back in Limoges where there is no Bucks in sight, and I have to say the caramel macchiato I ordered was top notch.

My second flight, a quick 45 minute flight even went great, the flight attendant actually turned my request for a simple glass of tomato juice into a pretty delicious Bloody Mary. This right here was the beginning of the end for my smooth day of travel.

I quickly got off plane number two in Paris, ready to go through customs and be on my way. That was until I heard what sounded like my last name in French on a loud speaker while I was waiting for my luggage. I though I was hearing things until they said it again in French and then once in English. Holy crap, it was my name! What the heck did I do? I knew I shouldn't of packed three pounds of Starbucks coffee in my checked bag, security probably thought I was trying to smuggle drugs and I'm going to be interrogated, see where my mind goes!

I quickly, yet nevously went up to the costumer service desk, where a very kind French man delivered the first blow of the day, "Your bag never made it out of New York. It's on the next plane to London and then straight to Paris." I surprisingly acted like it was no big deal, no big deal that my life is inside that bag, from my clothes, makeup, my additional camera lenses, two pairs of my favorite Raybans and three pounds of Starbucks coffee. He informed me that the airline will mail me my bag, to the destination of my choice and it's on them, I would receive the bag Tuesday in Limoges. Ok, not so bad, at least now I don't have to lug a heavy bag around with me the rest of the trip, here's me trying to look at the bright side.

My main focus now was just to get to Austerlitz and get on the earliest train to Limoges, at this point it was 2:00pm. I got in a cab, shouted, "Austerlitz ... ..." in my best fake French Accent and we were off , I then began to notice that the driver wasn't going to the usual way to the train station, and the next thing I know we are somewhere in Paris unknown to me, stuck in parking lot style traffic. I cringed as I saw the meter rise, especially when I know what it equals in US dollars, let just say it's "beacoup bucks".

Once traffic broke up a little I saw a sign for Austerlitz and it was pointing in the opposite direction from where we were going, this cabby wasn't going to play me for a fool. I quickly pointed and said, "pardon, Austerlitz is that way". He said in perfect English, "Detour, big march." Which I assumed was a parade or something. My what would be half hour cab ride took an hour and forty five minutes and 85 euros, "beacoup, beacoup BUCKS". I felt my self deteriorating, I could feel tears welling but I was finally at the train station, I was on the homestretch.

I went to one of the kiosks in the station, when the kiosk kindly told me that is was impossible for me to book the ticket I was after. Now, I had to go to customer service, which hurts my pride a little, I don't want to look like a silly American that can't figure out a ticket machine. The teller was actually really friendly, I think he could tell that I was frazzled and broke it to me gently when he said there was only one ticket left, I thought, "Oh thank God! Maybe today isn't so bad". Then came another little blow when he said, and it's in First Class, so the price is a tad bit higher. At that point I just surrendered my credit card, "I SURRENDER", I was screaming in my head. All I wanted was my ticket and a coffee which would be the only thing to get me out of my misery.

Well it just gets better, I go up to the cafè and order "une cappuccino" only the hear, "NO CAFÈ!" At this very moment I thought, "Am I being punk'd?" Then I remembered I 'm not famous and no this is real life.

I was spent a when they finally called that it was time to board my train, I quickly found my seat and collapsed. I just had to make it three more hours and I'd be home. I finally felt like I could breathe easy, so I put on some episodes of Modern Family and relaxed.

When we pulled up to the Limoges train station, I was the first person off and out of the station only to see the best sight all day, Kyle and Wooden standing in the distance waiting to greet me, which made all of the days obstacles disappear.

I guess what I learned today is that traveling may not always go as planned but if you remain calm you can get through anything and in the end it makes for an interesting story.

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