It was bound to happen. You can’t go this many days without it. A mini-meltdown. No, not the kids. Me. I had a mini-meltdown in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. I have my reasons, but as I recount them they don’t seem to fully justify my behavior. First of all….it’s hot in Paris. I mean really hot. This is the hottest, driest spring they’ve had since 1901, or so I’m told. Paris is crammed to the brim with people. I know it’s the front end of the high season, and it’s the finals of the French Open. To the French, that’s more important than our Super Bowl and World Series in one. And they’ve come from all over just to be close to it. Throw in thousands of Germans, Italians, Brits, Brazilians, Aussies, Chinese, etc, etc etc. you get the idea.
Our Chunnel trip from London went off without a hitch. In fact, it was too short. Very comfortable, good seats and good service on and off the train. We arrived at Gare du Nord, changed Pounds Sterling into Euros and found a taxi line of six hundred people with four taxis standing by. I looked across the street and saw a row of mini vans (Mercedes, of course) with signs saying Libre. Let me assure you, they may have been free, but they weren’t cheap. Ninety five Euros for a ten minute ride to the Westin Hotel. A small rip off, but it portended things to come. We settled in and planned our itinerary for the next day.
The plan was to get up early and be at the door when the Musee d”Orsay opened. Well, S. didn’t get Georgia out of bed at the appointed time, a long shower, and the hotel buffet for petit dejeuner got us to the door of the d’Orsay at 10:00…..well, not actually at the door, it was about two thousand people from the door. We waited in line fifteen minutes and moved twelve feet. I called it quits and moved on to the next item on our agenda…..the Bataux Mouche. Another line, not long, but as you are aware the French do not understand queuing. In less than five minutes, I was in a barely contained argument with a nasty French lady for jumping the queue. All around me people were cheering me on to no avail. I got my tickets finally and headed for the boarding area. No line here, just a mass of people milling around. I cased the situation and picked where I thought boarding would occur. It did not. I used my sharp elbows though and got us to some decent seats. The boat’s maximum is nine hundred. There were at least twelve hundred on board, none of whom had seen the inside of a shower stall for some time. I had picked choice aisle seats on the top level so we would have the best views. Immediately upon casting off, a hoard of Chinese lined up on the rail to take photos and completely blocked our view. You can imagine how I reacted. Needless to say, the rail space next to our seats was the only clear rail space on the boat. We got great views of Notre Dame and a swarm of plastic bottles in the Seine.
Our next stop was the Ile de Cite starting at Place St. Michelle and ending after lunch and a short stroll to Notre Dame. We found a cafe with great al fresco seats across from the Ministry of Justice on Rue St. Michelle. A very nice young waiter brought me a large beer that I didn’t order, but drank greedily in spite of knowing it would accelerate my never ending hunt for les toilettes. I had a wonderful platter of cheese, sauccisons, dried ham, and a green salad. S., Georgia and Hud all ordered Croque Monsieur. Hud turned his sandwich inside out and ate it all as well as the large order of chips (fries). S. dove right in and finished it off without hesitation. Georgia took one look, took the ham out and admitted that she hated ham. She took a bite of the remaining melted cheese and put it aside as well, but she did eat all the chips and drank the coke. As we strolled towards Notre Dame, I tried to give a short description of the church, it’s architecture, and it’s history, which no one cared about or listened to. Georgia and Hudson were discussing the finer points of some digital game, and S. was calling for me to slow down. We arrived at the plaza in front of the cathedral and were greeted by roughly a million people in a serpentine line several miles long. That’s when it happened. The mini-meltdown that is. I broke out in a cold sweat. My eyes narrowed into slits. I snarled at a young couple with a stroller blocking my way. I couldn’t stand it. I had to get out of there. I headed for the taxi queue nearby, only to see the last taxi drive away while I was urging S. and Hudson to cross the street. She was delayed while explaining flying buttresses to Hudson. I sprinted thirty yards to grab another taxi and demanded that S., Hudson and Georgia get in immediately or I was out of there…. alone. We drove silently back to the Westin where I learned that there is a surcharge for the 4th passenger in a small taxi, but not in a large taxi. Let’s see…pay another 2.95 Euros to be have my knees jammed into my chin in a front seat coated with bits and pieces of the drivers last lunch.
We made it to our rooms without further incident, and I announced that I was taking a nap and expected no interruptions. To add emphasis, I threw a map and Paris guide book on the bed and told Hud and G. to figure out what they wanted to do next. I was done with taking them to places that had huge lines and that they had no interest in. There. I showed them. You can’t take Pops for granted. I watched a show on French Canal 5 about a group if guys building a tree house in Costa Rica. It was translated from Spanish, to English to French. I enjoyed it immensely until I fell asleep (after about ninety seconds). I woke refreshed with the mini-meltdown well behind me. S., Hud, and Georgia were congregated in the other room. I approached them sheepishly. They handed me a list (in priority order) of what they wanted to see. We gathered our stuff and set out to see the Arc de Triomphe. Another great day traveling with grandkids in Europe.