I seriously don't know where to start in catching you all up on our week in Paris (so far). I have to be careful when I talk about our adventures that others don't think we've been totally miserable and hating our time here. That hasn't been the case; it has been a fabulous nine days here, and as of Saturday at 11pm, it has been WONDERFUL. I am not real sure how to articulate how surreal a lot of this trip has been for me since I have always romanticed the city and the people and the food and the sites. It's all worked out just as I imagined, only in my mind I was wearing super cute outfits and blending in with the French people. Well, with one pair of clothes (for several days), that part of my dream hasn't really happened, but C'est la vie! (That's life!)
So, the Cliff's Notes version of our trip starts with the rain in Houston. Now, keep in mind, our hindsight has been REALLY great this week, so if some of you start thinking, "Ah, they shoulda . . . ", Yeah, we've thought that too, AFTER we found ourselves in the mess we were in. APPARANTLY, when rain in a mjor connector city, like Houston, fouls up all the air space, they try really hard to keep their international flights on time, so we missed our Houston connection on Continental. Once in Houston, Continental set us up on Air France (WHICH, pretty much is the only airline that runs at Charles de Gaulle airport; what I mean is, even though Continental planes fly into Paris, it's Air France's employees that move your luggage, deplane and fuel the plane, and turn the Contential plane back around to go back to the US.) So, technically we were on the Motherland's Airline, and the flight wasn't too bad. I kept track of the time, though, and a couple times was SHOCKED that we still had so much time left. AND, I did sit my seatback up too fast at "dinner" time and the kid behind me ended up with gravy all over him and his seat. Oops. BUT, there were the movies and games handy for the middle of the night playing and they gave us eye covers to sleep . . . anyway, the flight was very sheeshy fru fru compared to Continental's, BUT IN HINDSIGHT I should not have been too impressed, as it is about the only thing good in Air France's book-by-me.
So, we knew we were going to be waiting for our bags for a day. The guy in Houston told us that they'd be sent on the Saturday flight (since we all missed Friday's) and we'd get them Sunday morning. So, like dutiful passengers without luggage, we filed a claim with Air France, again, the company who serves the other airlines in baggage and customer service claims at the Paris Airport. They assured us on Saturday morning, when we arrived, that once the bags arrived it was usually within 24 hours that they were delivered. We gave them our American cell phone (the only contact number we had, which they assured us would be fine even though I worried aloud that no delivery service would want to make an international call) and address of the apartment building. And we came to the apartment . . . all that I posted in the journal reports I wrote before my computer died. So . . . I'm gonna skip to Monday afternoon.
By the time we'd gotten home on Monday afternoon, my feet were trashed from my flip flops and the weather. It was chilly (highs of 57-60 with rain) and my freshly pedicured feet were cracking (see, Mom, there is a good time to have thick callouses on the backs of your heels, for when you have flip flops to wear for days on end!) and I had bruises on the tops of my feet from trying to walk quickly (Tyler seriously sprint walks) and keep my shoes on. Our clothes, which we'd already washed once [WHICH takes about five hours for one load since it's a washer/dryer combo unit that fits about two pairs of jeans in at a time and takes forever to dry] were ready to be washed again. We'd spent our 100 Euro on the toileteries and a long sleeve shirt for Tyler, but were maxed on that limit and in serious need of some new clothes, IF we weren't going to get our bags. To make matters way worse, our charges and adaptors were in our luggage, so our one contact numbered cell phone was about to die. We, also, called Air France three times that day to wait on hold for at least 20 minutes each time, never talk to anyone, and be cut off. We were sure our number was black balled. So, here's a run down of the week's progress on the whole situation:
Monday afternoon: Finally ended up calling Contentinal. The lady confirmed, even called Houston to double check and personally spoke to the shift manager, that our bags had been sent to Charles De Gaulle (CDG) and gave me an alternative customer service number for Air France. She also said their computers were reporting a "baggage strike" at CDG. Since THAT explained a lot, we called Air France and talked to a lady who told us that there was always an overload of baggage not checked in at Air France, that her computer was telling her, too, about the strike, and, in her opinion, we should go to Air France at the airport, and have them find our bags since they were probably sitting there waiting to be checked in. So we did. Upon the arrival at CDG at 9pm we had 1 hour and 45 minutes to catch our metro back to our apartment before they shut down. The chic that helped us, didn't help us at all, except to give us a claim pass to take to the original claim office the next morning. This happened at 11pm. We missed any chance to make it home, and ended up sleeping in the freezing cold, no carpeted CDG, on the airport deli's benches. To say it sucked and was one of the worst nights ever is an understatement. It would have cost us about 150 dollars to taxi home, and we weren't sure Air France would reimburse that. Plus we wanted to be there bright and early to take on the claim's office.
Tuesday: When we got to the claims office, the lady who helped us was fairly proficient. But, bottom line, after three hours of her calling "storage places" and people "looking" for our bags, they were unable to locate them. She did admit to us, though, that they still had bags from July 1st to deliver (that was nine days previous); there was no strike, however, Air France was re-doing their storage organization; there was a lack of man power; AND we should be approved to spend 100 Euros a day per person (pending approval from customer service WHICH we could not call right then and there since the airport phones are only internal, but our cell phone was dead, so . . . good luck to ya); and don't let the door hit cha on the rear-end. We had offered to look for our bags ourself, which I guess is a security issue. We DID double check our delivery information and they assured us the American cell phone would work fine. We left totally dejected. I was trying so hard not to cry the whole way back to the apartment. Did I mention it cost twenty bucks every time you go or leave the airport? So, 40 dollars later, a sleepless night at the airport, and no bags. We were definitely worse off than before, which was interesting cuz I didn't think it could be much worse. We came home and slept. Hard. And when we awoke, we changed our mindset that we weren't getting our stuff for a while. We called Air France (and they answered, miracle) and the customer service rep confirmed, even praised, our lack of spending to this point. So, Tuesday night (total waste of our Museum passes and site-seeing day) we went shopping and I bought another pair of jeans, some tennis shoes and socks, underwear, and a shirt. Tyler bought two pair of shorts, underwear, and two shirts. We also bought better shampoo and conditioner and an umbrella (it was still raining).
Wednesday: We didn't even bother calling. Nobody called us.
Thursday: We're still doing laundry and rotating between the 2 outfits I have and the 3 of Tyler's. That means lots of laundry every night, getting up throughout the night to restart the 30 minute dryer cycles, etc. Thursday afternoon about 4 pm Tyler decides he's gonna call (we'd also bought an adaptor to use with his cell phone charger that he LUCKILY had put in his carry-on backpack) Air France. When he did, the man told him our bags had been picked up by the delivery service and would be delivered between 8 and 11pm that night. Tyler told him how there was no access to us in our apartment, so the rep suggested we wait outside or leave a note for them on our door, but not to worry because they'd call our cell phone. We were excited, cautiously by this point, but went home to wait instead of going on the Seine cruise we had planned. At 8:30pm I called to double check we weren't waiting in vain, and the man told me "Yup, tonight within the next couple hours." We waited outside for 4 hours. Nothing. No van. No bags. No medication for Tyler (who SERIOUSLY was feeling the effects). No personal hygeine effects for me (Yeah, Air France can't find us, but mother nature knew where to find ME, thank you very much!). No laptop charger. No cute clothes. No razor for Tyler who was sporting a full beard by tonight. IT SUCKED! Shame on us for having one teency ounce of hope.
Friday: Oh we were fired up and mad when we called customer service at 8:30am. They said delivery would be that day for sure; the bags hadn't even been picked up until 9pm last night (WHAT? I know?!); and we could expect delivery that morning or early afternoon. I told them there was no way I was sitting around waiting for them because we'd already missed enough stuff dealing with this crap. The guy suggested we find a hotel and see if we could have our bags delivered there. So, we went to this nice hotel accross the street and they agreed to let us have our bags left there. So, at 10am we call back to Air France and RE-EXPLAIN the whole situation (because we NEVER talk to the same person) and give them the new information with hotel address and phone number. We specifically ask how he will contact the delivery company to update their info, and this guy assures us he'd tel-ex them. We leave for Versailles. About 4pm Tyler calls the hotel to see if they've been delivered. Nope. He calls Air France and this lady tells us our American cell phone and lack of apartment number is probably why we don't have our bags. WHAT!? The hotel information (with French number) hadn't been entered and it was the first time in 6 days we'd been told our cell phone was an issue. In fact, to the contrary, we'd been assured it would be fine. At this point we are shaking our heads and p.o.'d beyond measure. No bags that night either.
Saturday: Oh, the joys of no bags for 1 week. We called again, and got the run-around again, but this time Air France is like, "Oh, I am not sure why the delivery company hasn't delivered it," we'll call them and have them call you. Do you not hear me explaining the issue of nobody EVER calling us? Do you not understand that this is day 7 of being in Paris with no personal effects? Do you not believe me when I say I am angry? Do you really want me to accept your apologies on behalf of Air France. Give me a FREAKING break! Tyler stayed home for most of the day and I went to some museums by myself; when I was headed back I am thinking, "SURELY, we've got our stuff." Nope. Call Air France again . . . THIS time the delivery company miraculously called us back. Apparantly the cell phone number hasn't worked the other times they've tried to call; this time, though, it worked just fine. Delivery is promised before 11pm at our apartment. NOOOO, Tyler explained, take it to the hotel as we're un-reachable at the apartment and were going to be at the Bastille day celebration. Walking home that night, we were both hesitant to hope or expect that they'd be there, but when we walked around the desk of the hotel and there they both were . . . I nearly cried. It was better than Christmas.
SOOO, that's the Long, short version of our baggage drama. On a good note, we've seen lots of cool things that I can't possibly write about. I'll post some pictures here in a bit. Tyler's up and going, so I think we'll get out for our last day in Paris. Tomorrow we're headed to Normandy for a couple days, then Mont St. Michel, and back up thru the Loire (castle) valley. And Mom, I haven't run into any Rambins or Prudhommes. The French people aren't real chatty and personable (they're nice, just private and French-speaking), and my French is embarrassingly slow and English sounding. Oh, yesterday we did go to church, where Elder Anderson of the presidency of the 70 presided, though. It was cool. Love to all you Americans!
PS. I am missing my kids . . . would you all make sure they and Liz, our FANTABULOUS babysitter, are doing well? Give them lots of hugs and kisses from their mom and dad. Thanks.