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Flashback to France

 The voyage to Paris was approximately 9 1/2 hours long.
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Somewhere in the sky the middle of the day turned into the middle of the night and my watch automatically switched over to French (it’s an English/French combo). Everyone on board was French (I think, except for me). An elderly couple sat in front of me and appeared to be quite nice. They spoke to me in French and I smiled that stupid, brand-me American smile. I spent a great deal of time staring at the back of that little man’s head. He looked just like one of those little Frenchmen that you see in books. He was gray, bald in the middle with little, tiny tufts of hair growing over the longer part at the sides. I stifled the urge to pat his head.

I landed at Orly airport and thought there had been a mistake…maybe, but this couldn’t be Paris…it looked like west Texas! After landing, I discovered why, “I’m looking for my baggage” is on the conversational French tapes approximately 999 times. Why? Because baggage is quite simply impossible to find. Passport check…don’t see sign (okay, saw sign, couldn’t care less about sign because don’t understand sign). Immediately identified as a stupid American, thrown out of passport line for French citizens and into the one for FOREIGNERS. Got the okay to proceed. After a long, tedious walk following little signs that make you believe that your baggage is just around the next corner and one is cursing oneself for carrying way too much in one’s carry on bag, one tries to identify people on the same flight because one cannot understand enough French to read the signs….then Voila!….mes baggages.

Now take a large suitcase added to the too heavy carry-on and straw bag and go to find a taxi. Don’t worry that you are in a fenced area with all the Mercedes taxis. Look like you belong there. Don’t look at the French taxi driver who is coyly asking you if you would like a ride in the big, expensive taxi, instead crawl through the fence while balancing the carry-on, straw bag and the monster suitcase from hell. Get in taxi, look like you always do it that way. Ask how much (that’s in the book), smile graciously even though the reply is unintelligible, take it anyway, hope it doesn’t cost a thousand dollars. Arrive at hotel. Look at strange French money with the naked lady on it. Be happy that you have no idea what the taxi fare cost. Taxi driver looks happy, even takes your bags inside the door. Major jet lag. Take bath, then nap. Previous day/night sleep interrupted by two Frenchman on the plane snapping pictures through one of the portholes. I wanted to ask what they were so lovingly clicking away at…..England?

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