Crazy parking


The first time we were in France, sitting outside a bar in a little town across the river from Avignon in Provence, we watched in amazement as a chap in a delivery van pulled up outside the building next door, put his flashers on, and strode inside.

Not so different than here, you think. But this was on a one way street and there was absolutely no room to pass.

A minute later a car pulled up behind him, cut his engine and sat patiently waiting. We couldn’t believe it – no honking of horns, no waving of arms, no swearing in a loud voice. We waited to see what would happen. Surely there would be a confrontation?

Twenty minutes passed, and finally the first chap reappeared, jauntily circled round to the driver’s door, waved at the chap behind, hopped in, and drove away. The second chap started his car and drove off.

Honestly, the French confound me. In some respects, they take their social rules very seriously – remember the Mon Dieu incident. But parking on street corners and blocking traffic – these rules, not so rigid.

Yes – all those cars in the photo above are parked!

See more parking photos on Flickr.


Baggage blues

Delayed bag

P’s bag is “delayed”.

We’ve always been lucky with baggage. Apart from ripped handlebar tape and a twisted brake lever on my bike, courtesy of the conveyor belts at Charles de Gaulle several years ago, we’ve not had any trouble with our baggage.

This time, as we expected, the Delta representative in Paris tells us the bags are checked right through, Paris to Salt Lake City to Vancouver. But on the flight we hear a different story – the information video says we need to collect all our bags and take them through customs in Salt Lake. I guess In Transit doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Just to be sure, we check with the flight attendant – Do we really have to collect our bags? “Well,” he says. “It depends. Sometimes they put all the bags in a cart and take them directly to your next flight, but sometimes you have to collect them because they need to go through customs. Best idea is to check with the Delta representative at the gate.”

This sounds a bit dodgy, we think.

In Salt Lake, there is no Delta rep. The queues for immigration are so long that someone walks the line calling out flight destinations to fast-track people. I watch the minutes tick by until finally he calls out Vancouver, and we’re ushered to the front of the line. We find my bag circuiting the belt. But not P’s. We talk to the customs guy. He tells us we’ll have to make a claim at the destination airport, so we go upstairs to security for our next flight. At security, the woman pulls out my keys, small pocket knife attached. “You can’t take a knife,” she says. But this is my checked bag? “Well you should have checked it!”

By now I’m ready to have a meltdown. P’s bag is missing, and we’re going to miss our flight. P remembers we walked past a ticketing desk, so he runs back downstairs in his socks with my bag to re-check it. We get to the gate as they are paging us. And then the flight is delayed two hours while we wait for the flight crew to arrive from Dallas, Texas, which is in the midst of a blizzard.

In Vancouver we scour the belt for P’s bag, but it hasn’t arrived, so we make a claim at the desk. “We’ll deliver it to you tomorrow,” she tells us with confidence. Riiiight! By now we’ve missed the last ferry back to the island. Sigh.

Today, two days later, the online status of the “delayed” bag reads:

We have located this bag at Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) airport and are scheduling it to be on a flight to your final destination. Please check back again for the delivery date and time of your bag.

Sue – you were right. Next time we take only carry-on bags!


Update – 9:15pm – Bag arrived! Wahoo!

Mon dieu!

Mon dieu! Today I made a terrible faux pas.

We were in a boulangerie to buy sandwiches for lunch. Monsieur came in, obviously in a terrible hurry. “Après toi,” I said, even while my brain was screaming at me to use vous, not toi. I know the right word to use, but I was concentrating so hard on avoiding saying toi, it just popped out. He immediately corrected me, to which I said “pardonez-moi” several times. After buying his sandwich he came to explain further, that toi was the wrong word to use, that in the South it is ok to use toi, but in the North we must use vous. And this he explained to me in English, since I’m obviously too dense to understand French. Merdre! Zut alors!

Mobilis no good for the airport

Metro tickets

We needed to get to the airport and back yesterday, plus trip around within Paris. I’d read online that you could get a day pass that did all this, including unlimited trips in town. Feeling brave, I asked for a ticket for one day for Zones 1 to 6, for two people (the airport is in Zone 5). After some issues with the credit card (machines here seem to take about 5 minutes to connect to the network), I got the two tickets. A little bit cheaper than I expected, but that’s a bonus, I thought.

All was well until we got to the airport. The ticket wouldn’t let us through the gate, but since the RER wasn’t running right through to Terminal 2, everyone was being ushered onto a shuttle tram, so we were directed through a gate, and didn’t think any more about it. Until we tried to get on the train to go back to town. The machine refused the ticket. Fortunately there was a controller standing nearby. “No madam. Mobilis is no good for the airport.” But it’s good for Zones 1 to 6! What do you mean, no good for the airport? “You must have a special ticket for the airport. I am sorry for you.”

17€ later, we were back in business.

Tip of the day: If you need to go out and back to Charles de Gaulle airport, you want the Paris Visite 1-6 Zone ticket, not the Mobilis 1-6 Zone ticket.

Le Printemps

Eiffel Tower from Le Printemps

A French friend gave me a list of things to see in Paris – a chocolate factory, perfume museum, and the panorama terrace in Le Printemps, a fancy department store. It took us a while to find the 9th floor, since Le Printemps is three buildings filled with Cartier watches, Gucci hand bags, Tiffany jewelry, and designer clothes. But the viewing platform and restaurant – Deli-cieux – were worth the effort. From the rooftop, you can see the tops of all the famous monuments. It’s the perfect spot for a late afternoon beer or wine. And when it gets dark, once an hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles with flashing lights. We stayed so late, we were offered free bread rolls.

Note: The toilet on the first floor is well worth the 1€ admission!

Thanks to Catherine for the local knowledge.