Monday finally arrived, and it was time to start home. And what a day it was.
Part 9A, Apartment no more
Everyone had to get up at 5 a.m. to get dressed and get out the door. The guy showed up at 5:30 and we returned our keys and (::whew::) got our security deposit back.
Side note, when we got home and I checked my emails, I saw that they had sent a few emails during the week saying that we owed them 50€ (about $65) for “early checkout”. Now, this fee was never mentioned at any time, including when we told them what time we would have to leave and arranged for them to get the keys. So 5 days into the trip you’re going to drop a $65 fee on us? I don’t think so. It’s not like we’re talking $10 here. Of course I didn’t have email access so I didn’t see those emails, and he didn’t mention it at all when he picked up the keys. For his sake, I think he made a wise choice there.
Overall, renting the apartment was a good move. It ended up being about the same as what we would have spent on a hotel room, but it was bigger, was in a better, more livable neighborhood, allowed us to do laundry (and thus take less luggage), allowed us to cook supper, was close to 4 (4!) metro lines, let us put the kids to bed in a separate room, and, to tell the truth, felt kind of cool, like I was really living in Paris. So there were many, many advantages. However, buyer beware! There was clearly a lot of shady stuff going on, and could easily have been way, way worse. It worked out well for us, but it just as easily could have gone sour. And nothing that happened in the trip made me feel better to where I wouldn’t worry about it just as much next time.
Part 9B, The race for the flight
After turning in the keys, we had to walk quite a ways to get to the train station. When we finally got there, we walked all over looking for the bus stop that would take us to the airport. We were a little late for the first bus, but we caught the second one. Once we finally got on the bus, but the bus driver told us we should get off at terminal F, which contradicted what we had been told previously, that we should go to terminal 1. We were a bit suspicious about this (how does the same airport have a terminal 1 and a terminal F? That’s not even the same numbering system!) but he seemed confident, so we took his advice. After wandering around terminal F for some time, we finally found a person to ask. She was like, “Why did you get off at terminal F? You should be at terminal 1.”
No problem, just hop on the airport monorail and take it to the opposite end of the line to terminal 1. We were a little nervous, but we just kept telling ourselves, “There is plenty of time, we built time into the schedule for things like this.”
However, when the man with the giant assault rifle told us we had to wait in the hallway until the bomb scare was over, we really started to worry. We would have worried even more if we would have known there was a serious national security threat to Paris that day, but as it was, we were totally disconnected from the news, and didn’t really have any idea until later that day. At the time, we were more worried about the nuisance and making our flight on time.
We debated leaving the terminal and getting a cab to the other side of the airport (that can’t cost that much, right?), but they finally let us through. We had to check in, check our bags, go through security (although, admittedly, French security is a little more lax than in the U.S.), and walk through what felt like half of the airport (the moving walkway was broken of course). Finally, however, we made it to the gate. We had given ourselves 5 hours lead time, and we didn’t even have time to buy coffee, because they had already boarded half the plane!
This time we had a seat behind the bulkhead and a “real” airplane bassinet that bolted to the wall. However, Oliver wanted nothing to do with it. The stewardess asked if we liked it and we were like, “Yeah, he didn’t like it” and she said, “I know, I heard from the back of the plane when you tried to put him in it.” It did provide a nice shelf to set things on, and the extra leg room was *very* nice.
Evie was pretty set for this flight, she watched Toy Story 3 3 times in a row, back to back to back. She kept saying she wasn’t going to watch it again, but then a few minutes later, she’d be hooked. I think she might have slept through the end the first time. Oliver was pretty fussy and we were constantly doing whatever we could to keep him happy (with mixed results). So it was good that Evie didn’t take much effort. Hey, at least they had changing tables in the bathrooms on the airplane.
Finally, after a long exhausting flight we made it. To Newark. Paris travel tip #8: for international flights, DO NOT choose a connecting flight. Fly direct, it’s worth it, even if it costs a little more. We had to get off the plane, claim our baggage, and go through customs before re-checking our bags and re-going through security. So it was like all the bad parts of going to the airport, twice. Not to mention the fact that we had gotten up very early and traveled on an exhausting flight already.
Evie did a good job of holding it together all day, except for one little exception. When we were going through customs, she had an absolute meltdown. This was, of course, the worst possible moment. We’re trying to be all calm and serious and making sure we do the right thing, and she is just screaming like a demon is trying to crawl out of her nose. We strapped her into the stroller and pushed her through the airport, kicking and screaming.
When we got to customs and the guy was looking through the passports, he said, “Is there another little girl down there I can’t see?” Evie immediately answered with something like “RAAAARGH!” It was sort of like transporting a Tasmanian Devil through the airport. Luckily, the guy was very nice and understanding, and he let us through.
I think, at this point, Sara and I were delirious. We were standing in line to go through security, and we realized that we had filled our water bottles before getting on the last plane, but we were going through security again, so we would have to empty them (for the 20 seconds that we went through the metal detector, after which, of course, we could fill them up again). I just remember at one point we were chugging these water bottles and then I dropped all of the passports all over everywhere and Sara and I were laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes. I was probably literally insane at that point (as if taking 2 small kids on a 12 hour airplane odyssey wasn’t proof enough already).
We had 2 hours to make our connecting flight, and it couldn’t have been 1 second shorter or we wouldn’t have made it. Finally we touched down in beautiful, blessed Chicago. The second I stepped off the plane, I was crushed in the face with a big allergy fist. It was weird, how immediate it was.
So now we’re back in Chicago, our long road is ended, right? Wrong. After we got our bags, we had to take a shuttle to the parking lot and then drive all the way home in rush hour traffic. Evie crashed hard in the car and couldn’t be roused for anything. It was a long, long, rough day on all of us, and I couldn’t blame her. Of course we were all up by4 a.m. the next day, but what are you going to do?
Part 9C, The End
So that’s it! 9 posts and over 14,000 words later, our trip is complete. I don’t know which was more exhausting, coming home from Paris, or writing these posts. But it was a good trip, and very complete, much like the aforementioned posts.
So, let’s review, shall we?
My tips for Paris travel:
- Watch what wines the French people buy, and buy those.
- Buy a timed ticket for the Eiffel Tower.
- Walk to Trocodero for good pictures of the Eiffel Tower.
- Dress up a little bit, or you’ll stand out like a sore thumb.
- Take advantage of the fresh food options.
- Buy a museum pass.
- Notre Dame Paris is not equal to Notre Dame South Bend.
- Fly direct.
And if any of you are still reading at this point, thanks! We’ll soon be back to our regular schedule of bacon and zombie links.