For this Project Friday’s post we will have Eva from Storytotellya.com as our guest blogger. Make sure to check her inspiring and wonderfully written blog. I have to thank the internet for letting me make such nice friends. She is witty, smart and also happens to be an incredible writer. In this post she shares the story of her Paris trip.
Here is Eva’s post:
I should have known that when the flight attendant spilled Coke on me on the London-Paris flight, it was an omen that set the tone for the rest of the trip. But who could be angry? I was on my way to Paris for a 5 day trip with my fiancé.
Even though I learned French in High School and college, I was apprehensive about using it after such a long time. My fears were pushed to the back of my mind when a more pressing matter arose. My luggage didn’t come out on the airport conveyor belt.
I grabbed the first airport employee I saw and spilled my problem in French to him. Judging by his reaction, he understood what I needed and wasn’t appalled by my accent. He pointed me to the Air France office where I repeated my story once again to a very pleasant lady. She started answering to me in English. I kept speaking in French. She answered in English. I stubbornly stuck with French. I got my paperwork and we were on our way to the hotel.
We spent the evening strolling around Paris even though we were exhausted from the redeye flight from the US. After circling Notre Dame, we decided to get something to eat. A close by restaurant called St. Andre appeared half empty and welcoming. Alas, this restaurant was the devil’s den. The shady waiter was in cahoots with the local pick pockets (as we later discovered) and as we enjoyed real French onion soup, someone reached in my fiance’s bag and stole my wallet with all my money, credit cards, driver’s license and most importantly – my green card.
Later that night, after the discovery of the missing wallet, I spent hours on the computer in the reception of the hotel trying to cancel my credit cards because the thieves already racked up a $1,600 tab from shops around Champs-Elysees. By now, my French language shyness was fully gone and I quizzed the hotel clerk on how I could get a police report.
Close to midnight, we set off in search of the 13th arrondissement police station based on the map the hotel clerk provided. The map took us to a train station and we wondered around looking for the police office. After a while, we noticed one lit window with bars over it and a policeman standing outside, smoking. I was about to knock on the door when I heard a buzzer. I pushed the door open and almost fell as I stumbled off the step into the brightly lit room. There were three policemen – one about 50 years old, dressed in a sweater and jeans, one around 35 dressed in a workout outfit and a young guy in his 20’s dressed in a full blown police getup.
“Bonjour…” I started my spiel and frantically set on explaining my ordeal. To my chagrin, I didn’t realize that the whole time I was trying to refer to my portefeuille (wallet) I kept saying portemanteau (coat hanger). The policemen figured it out, were very nice and we spent about an hour typing up the report, with them firing questions at me in French and me, surprisingly, able to answer every time.
Around 2 AM, we arrived back at the hotel and I sent several pleading emails to the US embassy because according to their site, there were no appointments available until two weeks from that day.
The next day, we spent the whole morning trying to contact the US embassy and finally, after leaving numerous messages in both languages and sending more emails, I got an appointment for the next day. We were exhausted but still managed to enjoy some of Paris like Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees.
The next day I was fortunate to get my paperwork started at the embassy despite the online list of various documents I needed to bring and didn’t have. I even contacted my green card attorney in the US and she emailed me some documentation to help me. After an interview with the consul, who turned out to be a girl in her late 20s, I walked out of the embassy with the instructions to come back two days later for my travel document.
Now we could finally breathe a sigh of at least a partial relief. We went around Paris and enjoyed the typical French breakfast and lunch. Upon the arrival to the hotel later that afternoon, I was greeted by my dusty and battered suitcase. Hooray! I couldn’t wait to change clothes and finally look chic. But, in line with the omen of the spilled Coke, things got more complicated yet.
During dinner, as we sat drinking our second bottle of wine, I received a phone call from my eye surgeon from NY telling me that my pathology report said that my eye cancer was back. He refused to discuss the treatment on the phone and just hinted at two more surgeries. I was glad I was fairly drunk at that point as this news found me numb with disbelief.
Despite the lost luggage, stolen wallet, stolen green card, uncertainty of getting back to the US, and the cancer re-occurrence, we still relished sitting in the cafes, eating boeuf bourguignon, and drinking in the atmosphere that only Paris has.
We made it back to JFK and after an interrogation worthy Guantanamo Bay, I was allowed back into the US. Then I waited for eight months to get my green card replaced. But despite all that, I still love Paris. I visited there when I was 5 years old, then when I was 16, and last when I was 35. Hopefully I will return again soon (with a money belt).
Thank you Eva! 🙂