I parked under a sign at PIA - a white F on blue background attached to a tall pole in a sea of cars. Then I decided that the first day of the trip was brought to you by the letter F, a la Sesame Street, as a memory tool.
I sighed as I rode the shuttle I'd jogged to catch, remembering the carpet in my grandparents' house as I watched puppets and people, learning to share and listen and count to 6 in Spanish! How far we come, I decided, still a bit in awe that Smallest One had worked with Little One to learn all the presidents in order. I don't know all the presidents in order, but my 4 year old niece can rattle them off by way of a song. They're getting so big - changing so much - and I barely got to cuddle them before I was off to the airport, leaving Chienne in their father's hands.
Fiddle: To Mess With
I'm staying in Europe for nearly 2 weeks. I brought an overnight bag and a backpack full of electronics. That's it. Which meant I was organized to the nth degree - every single item strategically placed.
"We're going to rerun this," the agent noted of my pretty bag and I nodded, stepping off to the side to wait. And then he unpacked it. And ran it again.
"We thought we saw a pocket knife," he indicated and I graciously offered that I don't own one while I frowned over his repacking of my things, now shuffled all to hell.
He was perfectly polite and just doing his job, so I thanked him and went on my way, finding a quiet spot in the remodeled airport to repack my items as per the clearly-defined plan.
And off I went, enjoying a lovely Delta flight that was nearly empty to a connecting airport. I changed money, had dinner and bought both batteries and a pen. (I'd forgotten both and noticed as I repacked.) And as the moments counted down to my flight to CDG, I prepared myself for the lengthy - though certainly not overly onerous - journey.
Fail: What Air France Did
The captain was careful to point out - first in French, then English - that the ground crew damaged the plane upon pushing us back from the gate. So our early arrival time ticked away until we were nearly 2 hours late departing.
The plane broke.
We needed a part.
Someone went to get the part.
Someone installed the part.
Someone tested the plane.
A passenger got very ill so the paramedics came and removed her. (Poor thing - she had a migraine that she mentioned as I boarded behind her. Must have been miserable.)
Then we refueled for safety reasons.
Then we drove all the hell over DTW's runways.
Upon arriving (late) in Paris, we drove all over their runways because nobody had a spot for us.
Then we took a bus ride - bonus points for knocking people over! - to the terminal.
Then we cleared immigration (delightfully easy - well done, France).
Then I found a cab, deliciously relieved that I'd soon be able to drop bags at my hotel and use my pre-purchased ticket to the Palace of Versailles!
Find?: What the taxi could not do...
In all fairness, I'm staying outside Paris. I've been told taxis are expensive to hoof it all the way out here and gave the nice driver the instructions colleagues had recommended.
"Colleague?" I said when I called about 90 minutes later, knowing we should have been there 40 minutes ago. "When you took the tunnel, do you remember turning left or right at the end of the first one?"
"There is no tunnel," he replied.
"There's nothing but tunnels!" I cried in despair. "We've been going in circles - mostly underground - for nearly an hour!"
It took another hour and three phone calls to reach my destination. And when I offered my tale of woe, the nice receptionist gave me a balcony of my very own as part of a junior suite upgrade.
Deciding I was likely cursed despite my prayers through turbulence over the Atlantic, I came to my room, washed my face, put my hair in a twist and determinedly set off to use my pre-purchased ticket to see some fanciness at the Palace/Chateau.
And it is impressive. Massive in scale. Overwhelming in the ornate detail. And even with the statues covered in creepy/protective tarps, the gardens hinted at glory.
And because I offered a shorter version of my troubled travel, the guides let me linger as the time shifted closer to closing time. So I have photos of a nearly deserted Hall of Mirrors and got to gawk at the cathedral without being jostled.
Day 1 tends to be rough on me. So I finished my tour and briefly wandered the city before finding a taxi - a local one this time - to deposit me back at the hotel. I've showered, put on the single pair of pajamas I brought and finished looking at my pictures. And now I sleep. For tomorrow is another day and - if we're lucky - another letter!