By the time we reached the correct ticket counter in Gare du Montparnasse we had been in full panic mode for hours. At that point, despite our best efforts to make our train to Tours, we had resigned ourselves that we would be taking the next train, which was an hour later.
It was 19:16 and our train had supposedly left two minutes before.
See, right before we went bed in our last night in Iceland, I checked into our flight. And in red text I see that we have a three hour delay. No problem, our connecting flight to Paris must have been delayed wherever it was coming from. I went cancel our train ticket and rebook for three hours later. We had specifically paid full price to get a refundable ticket that could be changed even two hours after the departure.
However, since I booked the ticket on my debit card, and I had used that debit card at Target between December 1 and December 15 of last year, my bank had then issued me a new debit card and canceled my card, therefore preventing any refund to be applied to that card.
In the morning to catch our flight to Paris, as we were heading down the elevator, we read a sign taped to the mirrored wall. The three hour delay was due to an airport strike. The workers demanded more money.
We foolishly thought that with this three hour work stoppage, everything would simply be pushed back three hours. That our 7:40 flight to Paris would simply leave at 10:40.
In hindsight, completely foolish.
At the terminal, delay on top of delay. And adding to my anger level, calling out of Iceland proved to be an impossible task (for reasons still unknown, we couldn’t call SNCF no matter how we dialed) and the pay phone I found was disconnected (we were still seeing if there was someway to get our 50€ refunded or applied to another train ticket).
As the lines grew, print and TV media interviewed unhappy travelers. And at precisely at 9:00 a.m., the conveyor belt to load our luggage started to move. When we finally made it through security it was 10:00. The board listed our flight still leaving at 10:30.
We make it to our gate. The woman at the counter tells the man in front of us that it should be 10 or 15 minutes more. Then an hour. Then she tells us not to even wait at the gate.
Our plane leaves finally leaves Iceland at noon (delayed 5.5 hours). Our flight leaves 2.5 hours later that we planned even after the delay. That long buffer that we had built in to get from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Gare du Montparnasse was erased completely.
We land in Paris and it is 16:40. Our luggage is supposed to be delivered at 17:03. At 17:15 my bag finally comes (it was one of the last bags delivered).
We run to the shuttle. Alex asks me if we should grab cash at the ATM in the International terminal. I tell her that the fees will be higher and that we should wait until we get to the train station (a mistake in hindsight).
We get to the train station in CDG and of course, there is no ATM. Alex asks a man where the closest one is and he says Terminal Three, five minute walk away.
We run into a hotel. No ATM. I tell Alex to wait with the bags and I will run to Terminal Three.
Terminal Three is a 5 minute run away. Not a 5 minute minute walk. I get cash. I run by police with automatic machine guns. I run by police searching an abandoned bag. I keep on running.
The ticket machines to Paris only take coins. So we now need change. Alex takes a 20€ and begs for change at the counter. I ask a man where the change machine is located. He turns to the counter where Alex got change and tells me that you can simply buy a ticket. With cash. And probably with an American credit card. Frantic mode is in full effect.
We get the ticket and run downstairs. After debating if the train in front of us was indeed the right train to Paris, we decide to hop on as the doors are closing. I keep the doors open and Alex runs on. I barely make it with my arm still attached.
It is now 18:00. Our train to Tours leaves at 19:16.
We start running through Les Halles.
We run to catch the 4. I run over a woman’s foot, she scolds me in French. Her words fade the farther I run from here. We cut in front of people. We run in circles. We run up escalators. We run up stairs. We run down stairs. We run from Information Booth to police officer. We run past creepy people. We run past tourists. We run past workers. We run during rush hour, in the busiest station in Paris. We run to the stop. And the stop is not there. We run to a ticket booth and the woman tells us where to go. She gives us a subway map. It turns out the subway map from my last trip is out of date. They added another stop in the last two years. The machine doesn’t take our ticket. We run around some more.
If you could track our running in Les Halles, it would look like a psychotic Family Circle cartoon.
We get off the 4 with 30 minutes left.
The subway station is far, far from the train station. We run up more stairs. And we run through tunnels. We cut left. We cut right. Cutting off more people. More scoldings. We singlehandedly cause four international incidents.
Gare du Montparnasse is huge. And when we get there, we have no idea where to go. We don’t even have our tickets. We run to a ticket booth. I ask the woman if she speaks English. She nods yes. We tell her we are going to Tours and I show her our confirmation number. She points upstairs. We run up more stairs.
We run to the upper level of the train station and Alex has found a woman in a random booth that says she can print our tickets. I give her our confirmation number and she asks me if my ‘j’ is a ‘g’ and I say no. She shakes her head and points across the hall. We run across the hall.
We finally get into the right line. The line for immediate departures. There are four people in front of us. And they all seemingly have complex problems. It is two minutes past our train’s departure when get to the counter. I ask him if he speaks English and he shakes his head no (he seemed to take glee in indicating that). Alex and I figured that we would be working with him to rebook our train. Instead he takes our confirmation number, prints our tickets, and puts up 6 fingers and says, “Six, now.” And we are confused. He again holds up his fingers and says, “Six. Now.”
We run across the hall again. We hear the train powering up. We run into the first open door. Two women run on behind us. Then three more men. And seconds later the train doors close. And we finally stop running.
We would later find out (after we walked/pushed through 15 train cars to our seats) that our hotel in Tours almost gave away our room (they tried Alex’s credit card and it was declined because she booked the hotel with the same card she used at Target). But we called from the train. And they told us that they would wait for us.
The man at our hotel suggests a great place for dinner. And we stroll hand and hand to dinner.
We eat. We drink.
We stroll back our hotel.
There is an energy on the street. It is vibrant. It is alive.
Welcome to France.