France

Jet-lag and a French welcome. 

The trip to Paris from my home in New Zealand involved a total of four flights, the last two (from Sydney) taking over twenty-four hours. At passport control in Paris I was tired, so tired if you’d asked slowly, in English, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you my name.

It’s one of the unpleasant sides of travel. And entering borders can be fraut. I’ve often said you can tell a lot about a country from the way it treats new arrivals. Over the years we’ve encountered the welcoming, the officious, and occasionally the downright abusive. Yesterday, the airport official demanded something in French. I smiled politely, asked in my very best English if he spoke English. He replied. Before I’d worked out exactly which language he was speaking, (accent on his part, fatigue on mine) he rolled his eyes and said very slowly,  I. Said. Which. Passport. You. Have.

His disdain, his irritation and his deliberate intimidation shocked me. An accent I’ve always considered charming lost its appeal. But it was only a momentary encounter, and luckily for us this staff member wasn’t the one stamping our passports.

Later, in the airport bathroom when the self-flushing toilet decided to hurry me along before I’d quite finished my business, and the wireless tap turned itself off while my hands were still covered in soap, I looked my jaded, jet-lagged self in the mirror, my heart somewhere below the soles of my shoes, and I said to myself: Jill, face it, coming here might have been a big mistake.

Outside I told John that we’d landed in a country where even the toilet bowl and the taps are fascist.

But then Paris redeemed herself, as she has done for generations. How?

With Food:

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Our plat du jour

And the weather: we’ve arrived at the tail end of a hot summer, and Paris is basking in it.

Square D’Anvers

With the views.

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The view from the dome of Sacre Couer

And the people. He’s difficult to see, but the train driver was waving cheerfully at me as I caught this snap on my phone.

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In fact, with the exception of that very first encounter, everyone we have dealt with on our first day has responded cheerfully, kindly, and patiently.

The moral of the story? First impressions aren’t always right. And when you’re tired, a good sleep always helps. I got more than fifteen hours last night. So there jet-lag!

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24 replies »

  1. Hi Jill! I’m always a little hurt when someone is rude or impatient with me, but then I wonder if it’s only because they are tired and having a miserable day. In my daily (domestic) travels, I often meet up with the same person on a different day and get a lift when they are in a better mood. I think above all, a good night’s sleep (and a yummy meal) can do wonders! Maybe the airport guy was better after a tasty dinner and a nice sleep! Happy travels to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, as you and your countrymen know well, one of the prices to pay for living in the paradise of New Zealand is jet-lag. Over the years I’ve come up with a strategy that lessens the debilitating effects, but there’s no cheating that body-clock. But a long walk in the sun, a couple of drinks, a good meal, and early-to-bed does the trick. Now if I can come up with a solution for annoying immigration officers. ~James

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, my favorite place in the world. (But I haven’t been to New Zealand, which was my father’s favorite.) If I lived in Paris and had to drive behind exhaust spewing buses and stand in long lines because of all the tourists, or serve people wonderful food that they just gulped down, I’d probably be very grumpy toward foreigners. Away from the tourist crowds the French were mostly friendly. Though my French speaking son warned me not to try to use my college French for fear we would be deported. I have no ear for languages and the French are quite proud of theirs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve tried out my school girl French whenever I can,Eileen, and each time, apart from the one time, they’ve smiled kindly at me and replied in English. It’s thirteen years since I was last here and other more recent loves had claimed the top spot but that’s all changing again now. Paris really is a beautiful, and friendly, city.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I carried a small notebook and wrote what I needed in very simple French and my thanks. That worked fairly well in shops and restaurants. My first trip there, I was by myself in a Bistro and two young Japanese women sitting at the next table were being ignored by the waiters. They asked me in English how I had gotten served. So, I wrote a note for them asking the waiters to please bring them what they had told me they wanted, and when the waiter came back to refill my coffee, I gave him the notes and he did help them. I have some funny stories regarding using my limited French. Maybe I’ll do a post.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, and my son looks French and speaks French with the correct accent,(though he can’t always understand rapid fire French replies. 🙂 ) When we arrive at the airport, French citizens from outside Paris ask him for help. Parisians aren’t necessarily thrilled to have their fellow countrymen tourists clogging their shops and restaurants either.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad things got better. The only really rude people I’ve ever encountered in Paris were in the Metro and at the airport. I wonder if it’s an occupational hazard working with so many people speaking so many different languages. Doesn’t explain the loo and taps though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jill, your first encounter was with a fossil. In the olden days (1960s) Parisians were famous for this. O puhlease, don’t expect me to waste one second of my time addressing a worm who can’t speak Parisian French at 90 miles per hour! The EU changed all that, and now we can expect grace and courtesy. Nice.

    Liked by 1 person

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