Something Always Goes Wrong

I relearned a lesson during my travels from Canada to France.

No matter how prepared you think you are, something will go wrong and a quick adaptation is the only option.

Leaving Toronto I act all smug. I’m Mr. Organizer. Plane and train tickets purchased through an agent to ensure accuracy and avoid headaches in France; no liquids or gels in my carry on (new airline restrictions), no sharp objects, a connection in France to family (picking me up), Euros in cash and traveler’s cheques, debit card and credit card at hand in case of emergency.

The flight’s on time and uneventful, including my usual curse of not a single cute male flight attendant or nearby passenger for eye candy. The plane arrives in Paris at Charles de Galle exactly when the ticket said we would. Luggage arrives as well – in tact even! Only a single glance at my British passport and I am through customs.

Everything is going as smooth as silk… until I get to the train station.

Oh, let me sidetrack for a moment about my luggage. I am over weight on my luggage, by 8 kilograms, meaning that with my checked baggage and my carry ons, I’m pulling around about 100lbs of luggage, about 60lbs of which are in a LARGE wheeled suitcase.

(Remember this, it comes up later.)

Where was I? Oh right, the airport’s train station.

Being an independent person, I pull out my ticket and start to look for my departure details on the station’s info board. Nothing. Paris to Dax 14h40. Nope, nada. Okay, off to information.

<<Oui, bonjour>>

<<Je ne peux pas trouver mon train.>> I hand over my ticket.

<<Insert a long string of incomprehensible French.>>

<<Um, mon francais n’est pas bon.>>

"This ticket is not for here. It is for Montparnasse."

Uh-huh. Okay. Montparnasse it seems is at least one hour away by Metro. It’s now 1:30pm, train is at 2:40. Not going to happen.

Then my big organizing slip hits me. I don’t have my cousins’ phone numbers – I have no way to reach them. The earliest I can get to Dax now is 8pm and Orthez at 10:30pm – two and a half hours AFTER my cousins are picking me up. Great. Let’s hope they either stick around or leave me a message at the Train station.

So, I carry my 100lbs of luggage down to the Metro (no elevators) then I change trains in the city and go upstairs, downstairs, up down and up again to the new line for two more stops then more stairs, up down and up twice.

It’s 3:20pm by this point. My forearms are beginning to ache and I’m beginning to smell a little ripe having been in my clothes for about 18 hours straight.

I go to the ticket counter. <<Je voudrais aller a Dax, mais je suis en retard.>> I show the nice ticket agent my carefully travel-agent purchased ticket.

<<more incomprehensibly fast French>> then <<Un moment monsieur.>>

He goes away and comes back quickly.

<<again with the too-fast French.>>

It turns out my ticket is non-refundable and non-exchangeable.

I’m holding a useless first class ticket to the south of France.


(to be continued tomorrow)

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