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