This week it is my turn to torment fellow LBC Members: Ashok, Conrad, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria, & Ramana with a topic of my choice Marianna will rejoin us in a few weeks time. So this week my choice is:
A Journey or Journeys
The week passed as in the blinking of an eye.
Over dinner the previous evening changes were made to the travelling arrangements.
I was no longer leaving from the local train station alone, but we were going to drive to Paris, sight-see for an hour or two, meet a friend for lunch and then head to the James Joyce pub at Porte Maillot, where the coach to the Ryanair flights from Beauvais Tillé Airport leaves from and arrives to.
I was returning home to Ireland having spent my days with Elly in Troyes, France around 150 km south-east of Paris She was studying there for a year, the third of a four year University degree course. I was house guest of Martine, her adopted French Mother.
So four of us set out early for Paris with Martine’s daughter at the wheel. The journey was uneventful and we parked the car near Chatelet metro station. Time passed quickly as we wandered and shopped until it was time to meet our friend for lunch
In true French style the service was slow and relaxed, wine loosened our tongues and we chatted and lingered over lunch forgetting the time. Suddenly it was all a rush to return to the car park and collect my luggage, we jumped on the metro at Chatelet destined for Porte Maillot, which is near the James Joyce pub.
The metro station at Porte Maillot is under a massive roundabout (Rotary for my American friends) with multiple exits. It is difficult to find the correct exit at any time, so I was happy to play follow the leader that day. In our haste we actually chose the incorrect exit! Since we had walked great distances underground and climbed several flights of stairs with my luggage in tow, we decided to stay above ground and make our way to the meeting point for the coach.
I had in fact travelled to France with a friend. My airline ticket was one of those special offers… two for the price of one. I had offered the other half to my friend who had a daughter also studying in France for the year, but in a different direction to Elly. We had parted on our outward journey at the James Joyce pub, and arranged to meet at the coach stop for the homeward journey. Neither of us had mobile phones back then. I scanned the coach, but did not see my friend. If we didn’t arrive for the flight, then it was a full price ticket for each of us…
“Taxi. What about a taxi!” I said. There was a rank around the corner, so we went to check the price. £70 was the best offer with no promise of us making it to the airport on time. At this point Martine took over. She suggested that we forget the taxi and she drive us to Beauvais. Her daughter left us at this point to go meet friends, and we three musketeers headed underground once more.
We hopped back on the metro to Chatelet, to retrieve the car. All through the metro journey my two companions spoke in a rather animated way with hands waving all over the place to great dramatic effect. My French is not good, so I was unsure what exactly was going on. It might have been a discussion on the best route to take, or it might have been an argument about me for all I knew, so I decided silence was the best option. My tummy was churning. I hate being a nuisance to anybody. Here I was spoiling a lovely day and wondering when I would ever get home if the one flight had gone without me.
That took over 30 minutes but it felt like 30 hours, and we only had just over an hour left to get to Beauvais, so no time was wasted as we headed off at speed.
Did I say speed? Five minutes later and we came to an abrupt stop. There were cars everywhere and none of them moving. It was like motorway traffic in the UK on a bank holiday weekend! We were approaching the Peripherique, the M50 (Dublin) or M25 (London) of Paris!
If my tummy was churning on the metro, it was rumbling like a volcano now. I sat like a mouse in the back of the car, not wanting to look out the window, but unable to take my eyes off the frozen traffic.
“Petrol”! I croaked. It was all I could manage.
Immediately Elly shouted “Essence”! Pointing to the needle slipping to the empty mark on the petrol gauge. Suddenly she pointed out a petrol station about six lanes of blocked traffic to our right. Somehow, I have no idea how, but we were on the forecourt filling the car with petrol. I handed a bundle of notes to Elly and she paid for the petrol. We went on our way and soon we were burning rubber once more on the toll road. The tornado in my tummy was beginning to wind down….
The Gendarmes stopped us just as we left the toll road heading for the airport, we were about fourth in the queue. It was enough time for Martine to realise she had no documents, as they were in her daughter’s purse. Elly asked me for my ticket and passport. With much waving of documents and pointing at me in the back seat, Martine & Elly managed to talk the gendarme out of keeping them there, and so we reached the airport building. There was only one plane and it was on the tarmac with engines running. Martine screeched to a stop at the front door. Thank the Lord that Beauvais is a one room airport, Elly shouted to me: “Run for it mum, I will get your case!” I ran in and all the gates were closed, there were very few passengers about, none of them in a hurry. Elly ran in shouting at anyone in a blazer and persuaded them to re-open check-in for me. All the other passengers were already boarded.
A check-in desk was opened for me, I was rushed out onto the tarmac and the steps were pushed back into position and I was allowed on board. I had no breath left, scanning for an empty seat; I saw one about ten rows back. Flopping down into it, I heard a familiar voice… The passenger beside me was my friend!
It took me ten minutes to catch my breath and explain to my friend what happened. So, as we were winging our way back to Dublin, Elly and Martine took a different road into Beauvais for a reviving beer before returning to Troyes by another route.
We managed to reach Dublin Airport on time, and retrieve my car from the long stay car park. We then headed up the road on our three hour drive to Co Antrim and home.
It was a long day, an even longer journey and one I will never forget.