mercredi, novembre 22, 2006

CarlaVisit Day 1: The Arrivëdness

At approximately 6am (which is 7pm Hawaii time), I get my ass out of bed and start my trek towards the airport by public transit. I stopped at my boulangerie to buy some coffee, a pain au chocolat, and another to bring to Carla at the airport. Having just landed there the day before, I felt like I was a trauma victim returning to the scene of violence or something: "No!! No more recycled air and duty-free shopping!!!" Anyway, I was surprised with how well I timed my trip. I got there just as Carla's plane was landing, so I just stood around, checked out the cute guy next to me, and waited for her to pass customs and claim her luggage. About a half-hour later, she came out and we started making our way over to the RER station.

When we got there, I noticed that all the electronic ticket machines were off. Hmmm. After checking a few, I noticed that there were a bunch of SNCF (the national rail company) workers in blue suits talking to a crowd of people. I approached one woman and asked her where I could find a "billeterie" that worked. She said nothing was running. I asked her where the human-powered ticket booth might be. She said nothing was running. After a moment of silent confusion, she finally offered the necessary details: there had been a power surge and the entire RER B line had been cut off. All trains are out of service indefinitely. It may be up in an hour, it may be up in a day. Ah, Paris, how you welcome your guests.

At that moment, my sister and I had a flash of insight about the difference between customer service in North America and in France (or Europe in general). In Canada or the States, a situation like this would be narrated by the following formula: "Here's what's wrong. We're sorry for the inconvenience. Here's what we're doing to fix it. Here's a reasonable prediction of when we'll fix it. Here's what we can do for you in the meantime, and/or here's what you can do to circumvent this problem. Again, our apologies." The French narrative, however, goes something like this: "It's broken." If you're lucky and get a polite person, you might also get a shrug a perhaps a "desolé(e)", which is the least intense (and therefore least sincere) form of apology in the French language.

Anyway, despite my misgivings about taxis in this town, we headed up to the surface and caught the first taxi we saw. The cabbie was unsurprisingly unfriendly; he refused to let my sister keep her sidebag on her lap, even though she had her laptop in there, he didn't take credit cards (even though airport taxis are supposed to), he stopped for a few minutes to mess with his equipment while the meter ran, he kept the radio blaring and only reduced it a little bit when I finally asked him to turn it down, and he conducted loud cellphone calls through his car stereo, so we could all enjoy his aimless and curse-filled chatter with his buddies. On the upside, he got us there in reasonable time and he didn't try taking us on a "tour" (i.e. taking the long route for better fare).

We rolled into the Residence Lila and got my sister into one of their rooms. After getting her settled in, I left her to take a nap and then I headed off to work for a few hours. When I got back from work, we did a bit of grocery shopping, a bit of email-checking, a quick visit to my boulangerie to get some bread and introduce my sister, and then we headed out for dinner. I had heard of this great cassoulet place near the Eiffel Tower, called La Fontaine du Mars, so we headed out there. We were a bit too early for the restaurant (we arrived around 19h00 and most restaurants in Paris don't open until 19h30), so we took a little walk along rue St. Dominique. We actually came across Patisserie Millet, which is the "best croissant in Paris" place that I had visited with Val nearly 3 months ago. We stopped for a croissant (almost spoiling our appetites), did a bit more walking, and then finally made it back to the restaurant.

All in all, the food was great. For appetizers, my sister had a velouté of cêpe mushrooms and I had gnocchi made with morel mushrooms. For the main dish, I tried the cassoulet, while my sister had something involving stuffed cannelloni and foie gras. We had a bit of beaujolais nouveau ('tis the season!) and left feeling a bit tipsy and very tired. I was still settling in from my 11-hour jetlag, and Carla had just flown in that morning. We staggered straight home and fell asleep.

Aucun commentaire: