An email arrived the other day from a tour company I had taken a river cruise with a couple of years ago. That trip started in Paris and followed the Saone and Rhone rivers south to Tarascon, near Nice. A wonderful excursion, but no part of all that scenic beauty and architectural history left an impression as forceful as did Paris.
I and my niece, Zenovia, arrived very early on a drab morning after flying all night, figured out where the luggage retrieval was, and dragged our bags over to the exit to wait for our car — we had come two days early to have more time in “gay Paree” and I’d asked for car service for the transfer to the hotel. We waited and waited, all the drivers that had come had also gone and none had my name on their cards. The obvious next step was to call the cruise director, so we did, and learned that a number of other guests had elected to arrive early so the company had sent a shuttle bus, but neglected to tell us about it. They’d hold the bus for us, only three terminals away.
Off we hustled, in a hurry to catch the bus. This sure didn’t feel like the start of a first class holiday in Paris any more. My fat old legs couldn’t keep up much of a pace, but about two-thirds of the way along I got an unexpected break. At a T-intersection of very wide halls a tall policeman stepped out of the cross hall and authoritatively brought the scurrying crowd to a halt, including us.
After I finally stopped wheezing, I started paying attention and discovered that the scuttlebutt had it that somewhere nearby there was some unattended luggage, and it was being dealt with by the police, no doubt as a potential bomb threat. The people either milled about or sought a place to hunker down and wait, and we waited what seemed like half an hour. The wait was ended by two more policemen coming around the corner at a run, windmilling their arms and yelling at us to move back, way back. Another wait, this one shorter than the first, and this one terminating in an explosion — BOOM! Nobody moved, despite the shock, and after a moment’s thought it seemed apparent that the explosion hadn’t been big enough to be a bomb — although stunningly loud, the building didn’t shake and windows were intact. Our conclusion was that the Paris police bomb squad blew up the offending luggage, just in case. Somebody got a really disappointing welcome to Paris.
Post-apocalyptic aside: we phoned the cruise director because we were taking so long to get there, and he said to just take a cab. So we found a legitimate taxi and headed for the hotel. It was a wee bit embarrassing when the phone rang about halfway to our destination — it was the cruise guy, wondering why we still weren’t at the bus; turns out he’d meant for us to take a cab to the bus, not the hotel! We didn’t care, we were arriving in a car, as per the original plan, and getting reimbursed to boot. Welcome to Paris!