Monday August 7
In view of the positively apocalyptic warnings about airport waiting times, we followed Aer Lingus’s advice and arrived at the airport two and a half hours early. It was not necessary. In fact, everything was extremely smooth and we could easily have been at the gate within half an hour of our arrival at the airport. When we arrived in France, we took a taxi our destination in the southern suburbs of Paris. Mr. Waffle had been going to make us and our luggage take the RER and then change to the metro but happily this would have cost nearly €50 and the taxi set fare was €55 so he relented.
As we drove at great speed into our suburb I noticed a sign saying it was twinned with Ballymun (one of Dublin’s more exciting suburbs) and my heart sank, however, Mr. Waffle who has better eyesight than me reassured me that it was Ballymoney in Northern Ireland which, I am sure has its own problems, but I did find that reassuring. The house was down an alarming lane. I was a bit alarmed. When we got in it was very bohemian but not bad with a small yard.
Mr. Waffle’s phone pinged as we arrived. They had found my wallet on the airplane (thank you Aer Lingus). On the plus side, it was found before I knew it was lost. On the minus side, it was a €55 one hour taxi ride away. A problem for the following day we decided. The more pressing problem was where everyone would sleep. Michael has the smallest room at home and last summer he was promised that this holiday he would get his choice of bedrooms. Despite the French people saying there were four bedrooms, there appeared to be only three. For quite a while the prospect loomed that Daniel and herself would have to share. It’s hard to say which of them was more horrified. Happily it turned out that the couch in the television room could be turned into a bed and Daniel holed up there.
The house was two small artisan houses knocked together and it had more staircases than would be normal in a small house and the layout was a bit baffling.
The lighting was confusing – we feel they may have done the wiring themselves. Each room boasted a lamp which was turned on in its own unusual and slightly perplexing fashion. In true bohemian fashion most of the rooms did not have doors. Call me bourgeois all you like but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a bathroom with a door. There were three bathrooms. Two did have doors, to be fair but I feel that they could have gone the whole hog and put in a door to the third one and to the bedrooms as well. There, I’ve said it.
They had a jukebox and an anxious note that we were not to use it as to do so would cause the electrical difficulties. We all internalised this message so when we heard noise coming from the jukebox each of us said anxiously to Mr. Waffle, in turn, “You’re not supposed to use the jukebox.” It turns out that the speaker for the stereo was right beside the jukebox. He had read the instructions. Of course he had.
We looked for places to put our clothes but every cupboard was filled to the brim with books and all sorts of things. We eventually found some room but not very much. It was a very full house though, I have to say, rather charming and filled with interesting things. I think they may have found our house in Dublin a bit bland. On the other hand, we have cupboard space.
Tuesday, August 8
When we woke up it was lashing. The glass extension roof in the kitchen leaked in three places.
The window in the roof over the sofa leaked also in particularly wet weather. It was particularly wet weather.
In fairness, I assume the French people were not expecting torrential rain in Paris in August.
Notwithstanding the awful weather, Mr. Waffle went out to inspect Malakoff (name of our suburb, named after something in the Crimean War, I think). It’s most famous sight is Paris’s only remaining gas lamp. The lamp is called Léon and it has its own society (Les Amis de Léon) who drop by to check that all is well every morning. I was inclined to scoff at Léon the lamppost, philistine that I am.
If all France voted like Malakoff, France would be communist. The commune has always been pretty left wing. The French people had a book on the Colonies de Vacances owned by the commune. These are basically houses in the nicer parts of France where the commune would ship poorer children from the commune (I think that was traditionally most of them) to enjoy summer holidays. This is one of the things I really love about France; the acknowledgement of the huge importance of holidays for everyone.
Anyway, my rainy day task was to get myself across Paris to pick up my wallet from the airport. It took forever. I had to change in the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe Metro station and I was charmed by a huge advertisement about couples who had met on Erasmus programmes and married. The poster featured couples who were half French (obviously) and half-something else (including Irish) and their beautiful young children. I thought it was lovely and if only the British had done similar kinds of things maybe more people would have seen the advantages of the EU. However, I did not then know that every day for the next fortnight pretty much I would be changing metros in Montparnasse-Bienvenüe and I have to say the advertisement began to pall over time. Also, I am willing to bet that the Franco-Hiberno couple’s daughter is not actually called Aoiffe.
When I got to CDG, I could have kicked myself. I had left my passport back in Malakoff. I persuaded the official guarding the entrance that all my papers were in my lost wallet. At the desk that had my wallet, I asked them to pull out my photo id from my wallet and confirm it was me. They did, it was. I took my wallet and ran. All the money was gone (maybe €100), sadly but cards in situ (thanks slightly less Aer Lingus).
I went for a wander round the Île Saint Louis on the way back. The rain had stopped and it was pleasantly cool.
I noticed that faithful to the fermeture annuelle programme even Berthillon on the Île Saint Louis, possibly the world’s most touristy ice cream shop, was closed for August.
In fairness, they were in good company. Here’s a little montage I put together. A homage to the French love of holidays.
Mr. Waffle and the children came in to join me and we had dinner in a pizza place on the Île Saint Louis and saw a barge called Titantic [no hubris, thanks, we’re French]
I was keen to do further sightseeing but both herself and Michael were feeling a bit unwell so it seemed a bit inopportune. We cut our losses and headed back to the suburbs.
More to follow. Hold your breath out there.