Travel day. What could be easier — exit the apartment, get the rental car at Orly airport, and drive to Amboise. As Nate would say “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.” Right? Right?
As we packed over the course of the last few nights, it became obvious that we had done too much shopping in Paris. So the first thing we did was to go shopping for another suitcase. We then realized that with suitcases, backpacks, and camera bags, we had nine pieces of luggage between the 2½ of us. We briefly, very briefly, contemplated carrying this stuff through the Métro or via a bus. That wasn’t going to happen.
Not a problem. We carried our bags down to the ground floor and Nate and I waited in the foyer. Dorinna would walk the seven minutes to the Métro, and get a taxi at the stand. She would bring it to the apartment, we’d load up, take the cab to Orly airport and get our rental car. Voilà!
We started texting back and forth. She had found the taxi stand, but the taxis were empty. She tried in the nearby convenience store and at the Métro, but for the first time ever, didn’t find anyone who spoke English. “Manifestation” was the word that kept getting repeated over and over. Dorinna gave me the phone numbers of the taxi companies, but they all just went to answering machines in French. She started to walk to the much larger train station two steps away and I looked up the word Manifestation with my translation app.
Uh oh. Are they on strike? Dorinna typed in “Are the taxis on strike?” into her transation app, and got an emphatic “Oui!” when she showed the French to the Métro woman.
Messages conversation between Dorinna (gray) and Rich (blue)
Our first idea was to walk two blocks to the local Hertz office, which we did, and although they tried to be helpful, there were no cars. We had to get to Orly airport for our car. What’s the best way to Orly? Why the Orly bus of course. So the three of us got on the Métro for the four-stop ride to the Orly bus station. Thankfully we had left our luggage in the apartment. We decided we would get the car, drive it to the apartment, load up, and then drive out. Other than the whole “drive a car in Paris” thing, it as a perfect plan.
Well… the Orly bus wasn’t running. Why? The taxi cabs had blocked off the roads leading to the bus stop. Seriously. This was getting troublesome — would other roads be blocked off too?
Back onto two more trains, including the most crowded, packed-like-sardines train I’ve ever been on. But… we made it to Orly! And they had our car! Um… could we get out of the airport? The car guy gave his best French shrug of indifference and said “maybe.”
We decided to try. More delays to get the kid seat for Nate and we were finally off. I’m the map guy, so I navigated. The problem was Dorinna had never really totally completely mastered driving a standard transmission, which is what we had to drive. And her last attempt was six years ago. Parisian drivers are very nearly insane, and it was rush hour…
It was a jerky, long, stressful drive. We were passed several times on the left, and several times on the right- on a single-lane road. We drove the wrong way on a one-way street under construction. But we eventually made it, and we parked across the street from our apartment in what might have been a free parking spot. Or maybe it was a No Parking spot. I don’t know. I tried my best to shrug with indifference like the rental car guy. We took turns loading the car, and we were soon on our way again.
The drive continued to be stressful, and our two GPS units gave different sets of directions. We went in a large circle at least twice. But eventually, eventually we broke free of the city and hit the open road…
The town of Amboise was a little oasis of calm. Our hotel looked out directly at a castle and the late afternoon light was wonderful. The main street was mostly pedestrian and lined with restaurants. We chose an Italian one, and I dug into pasta carbonara. It was a relaxing end to a stressful day.
View from our hotel room
: We found out later that the taxi companies were protesting Uber. They had blocked off all the roads into the airport terminals. There was even some violence, including an attack on Courtney Love’s Uber
. The only ways into or out of the airport were via the train and the rental car garage, so we were pretty lucky.