Sunday, December 08, 2019

So Far, So Good

Earl and I arrived safely in Paris at the airport Friday night after an 8 hour drive from our home in the South of France.
I taught until 2 p.m., so we couldn't get an early start, but our friends were waiting when I finished teaching and we scurried out the door. They drove us to Carcassonne airport, an hour away, where we rented a car to drive one way to Paris.
After a few snafus, like not being able to find the keys after the inspector gave them to us, we were finally on the road.
The weather was gorgeous that day, in the mid 60s and sunny as we pulled away, heading toward Toulouse.

Villages we passed in the distance. 
The traffic slowed down a few times, but we had none of the rolling roadblocks that we had been warned about, where trucks, driven by striking drivers, pull up next to each other and drive very, very slowly.
On some local roads, strikers had started bonfires to block the pavement. In other parts of France, no gas was available to fill up the car.
When we picked up the rental, we paid for a fill-up, so that we didn't need to worry about finding gas once we got to Paris.
North of Toulouse, we suddenly found ourselves in fog.
Brouillard is French for fog. 
It was quite the contrast to the brilliant blue sky we had left behind. That morning, as I ran in Quillan, it had been foggy.
The back of the train station enshrouded in fog. 
I hoped we wouldn't be driving through the fog all the way to Paris.
I don't see well to drive at night, so Earl was responsible for all of the driving. I felt bad, but knew we could stop to rest as often as we wanted.
We didn't want to though. We wanted to get there.
I hadn't checked on parking so wasn't sure if there was a place to park the rental car, or how much it might cost. I did know that there was a Europcar counter open at the airport until midnight, so if we reached there by midnight, we could return the car and not worry about paying or parking.
Somewhere in the Lot area, the fog cleared and we saw the toenail moon rising as the sun started to send pink and yellow streaks across the hills.
Car photos!
We stopped twice at toll road plazas for a bathroom break, adding $15 worth of gas to get us all the way to Paris.
I used the bathroom and remembered the thing I don't like about toll plaza rest areas, no toilet seat on the toilets.
When we got close to Paris, the traffic definitely slowed, even though it was 10:30 at night. We crawled around to the northwest side of Paris for about an hour, following our GPS to the hotel. I went in and checked in while Earl unloaded our baggage.
We left our car parked illegally, lights flashing, while we carried the bags in, took the elevator to the fourth floor, used the facilities, and sauntered back to the car. We're becoming so French! Not even worrying about blocking traffic.
We drove toward the rental car return in Terminal 2. Yes, the Europcar lot was there and three young men sat inside the parking garage to accept returned cars.
We handed over the keys, reminded him of the damage on the car before we took it, all marked on the contract, and we went in search of a way to return to the hotel.
We waited for a bus, only to be told we needed to take the airport tram to our hotel, so back into the airport, down to the shuttle and the doors slid silently closed until we reached the stop.
The night was fair and we had made it to within spitting distance of the airport.
We were determined not to miss our Monday flight, even if that meant spending three nights captive in a hotel at the airport.
Some friends who had flown to Scotland for a few days were unable to fly back to France. They were diverted to London, then Madrid before arriving in Toulouse very early. As they drove toward Quillan, they saw the highway being blocked by truckers.
We were wise to travel Friday night to avoid more strikes. Our friends made it ahead of the highway blockers, so they also got home.
Saturday, I teach most of the day, so we didn't mind being held captive in a hotel room, but Saturday evening, we found a local bus that took us to Roissy-en-France, a nearby village with lots of hotels and restaurants. It's impossible to walk anywhere from here because we are surrounded by freeways and obviously don't want to walk on them.
The village was lit up with Christmas lights.
Roissy-en France

A 13th century church
We sat at an Italian restaurant with heaters on the terrace. 
We split a salad, it was choose your own ingredients -- artichokes, black olives, ham...
We soon found ourselves surrounded by four tables of Americans, which is weird because in Quillan there are so few Americans.
Today, we may try to venture into Paris by train, if the RER is running, but we're nervous about getting back. Some French friends invited us to dinner at their place, but we declined because we wouldn't be getting a train back until 10 p.m. or so.
I am not going to risk missing our flight on Monday just because I couldn't get back to the airport hotel. So, I will ask before buying train tickets and will make sure we come back early while there is light out, in case we have to take a taxi, if they're running.
Strikes make things complicated, and a bit more expensive. So far, our flight is not cancelled on Monday, but the airline has warned us to get there early and they are opening their check in earlier.

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