Tuesday, February 03, 2009

When you have three days to play and free flights...

Well then, naturally you go somewhere far. Like Moscow, only we couldn't wrangle our visas (not the same as passports, not all countries require them) in time to go there, or for our next two picks: Rio or Dubai. We basically packed, flew to Atlanta and decided at the airport where we would go. We had two major requirements. First: It has to be in first class. (Because we can, and because at seven-plus months along, I need the space on a longer flight.) Second: We have to be able to get home by Tuesday night. That narrowed down our choices considerably. Paris was wide open, but we've been there twice already. Clayton suggested we fly there and take the train somewhere else in France. Like Rouen, where Monet painted his Cathedral series. Ok. A quick google search about what else there is to see there, and a stop at
to get a cheap hotel and we were off.

Rouen France!!!

We had an uneventful flight and even got our train tickets and what-not all sorted with ease. We arrived in Rouen and walked from the train to the Hotel Cardinal
which ended up being about thirty feet from the Cathedral. Amazing! The proprietor was so kind and helpful and the rooms were clean. A big deal for a two star hotel in Europe. Stars do NOT mean what they mean here in the states. We've stayed in three and four stars that were seriously not up to par, so we were pleasantly surprised. We got settled in our room and headed out to explore the town.

The view from our hotel window.

The cathedral was amazing.

We arrived there around one in the afternoon and throughout the day we got to see the cathedral in different lights. It really does glow pink in the setting sun, however I don't think I captured it with my little camera. Luckily Monet did an ok job of it.

The house where he lived and painted from is directly across from the cathedral. It is now a tourist information stop. He lived in apt.#35. Great views of the face of the church. This is the square with the cathedral on the left, his apartment on the right (where the white banner is) and our hotel is the red awning on the building in between.

The other claim to fame this city has is it's history with Joan of Arc. It is where she was burned at the stake for heresy. Poor thing. They have an interesting church there now with a brass tiled roof that is supposed to invoke the ocean. It had a bit of a hobbit feel to it.
The sign marks the very spot where she died.

The Seine runs through town as well, but the part near the cathedral is very industrial looking. Nothing like Paris and it's old stone bridges and walkways.
The city is riddled with old cathedrals. So many that about every other one was boarded up in disrepair. Not enough money to keep them all up. Like this one.
We enjoyed our evening crepes and a late-night dinner. Sadly we only had the one day there, but I highly recommend it as a day trip if you are ever in Paris. You can see a lot of the town in very little time.

The next morning we awoke early to make our way back to Paris and to the airport. We got to Paris fine, but accidentally got on the wrong train to head back to the airport. No problem. We'll just hop off and turn around, we had plenty of time so we weren't worried. Until...

The following is a bit long. If you don't feel like it- you can skip it all.

Clayton hops off and I am right behind him. Only the doors close right in front of me and I can't get off the train. It was just like in the movies. Separated. I look up in horror as Clayton mimes that he will stay right there. I will just go to the next stop, turn around and meet him back there. Ok. Still no worries. Of course, the next stop is ten minutes down the track. I know he wont know that and will be expecting me back much sooner. I eventually get back to that station, only I am let off on an entirely different track. It is a three floor station with four to eight tracks on each level. Yikes, remember, no cell service here, so no way to contact each other. I start looking for Clayton, up and down, back and forth, calling out his name like a moron. No Clayton. Twenty minutes pass, thirty... did I mention I am seven plus months pregnant? Walking is a lot slower than normal, I am dragging a suitcase, and my hormones aren't helping anything. I start crying. And my prayers to find him turn to prayers to just keep it freaking together. I couldn't stop crying. So I look like a true idiot. Giant, swollen, sobbing, lugging a bag in my long Mary Poppins coat that doesn't even button in front. I also had on a lime-green sweater, in case anyone didn't notice me. I quickly learned how to say "Are you ok?" in French as I heard it a few times. Each time I had to smile and pat the hand of the inquirer to ensure them that I was indeed ok, and not in labor. And I was ok really. We both had our wallets, train tickets, credit cards and free flights home whenever we needed. It wasn't so much a life or death situation, but it was enough in my hormonal state to make me feel like the heroine of a tragic novel.

Did I mention that this giant station did not have a bathroom? It's common in several areas of Europe. They figure that the next one has one, so no need to put one here. It does keep down on crime and stuff, but have you ever been seven months pregnant? I was also hungry (boohoo) but didn't want to stop and eat until I found my husband. There is also no paging system, information desk, help desk, nothing. A store that sells crystal baubles sure, but no- no bathroom.

Does anyone remember Elder Uchtdorf's talk from the Nov 2008 Conference? About his mother getting off the train to get food for her four kids, only to have the train gone when she gets back? During WW2, with her husband serving in the war. There is a real emergency. The talk is called The Infinite Power of Hope. I will email a copy to you if you want. Only it steals the thunder from my story. I didn't remember it at the time, I wish I had, I might have felt less pathetic.

Back to our saga.

I knew Clayton would be looking for me too, and realized that in a train-station this big, we could circle each other all day and never see one another. I had to debate the impossible notions of what he would normally do, and what he thinks I would do, and how that would change what he would do. Would he stay and look all day? Would he go on to the airport? Does he know that we even got a clear message to each other through the closed doors? It's like that scene in The Princess Bride where Vizzini and Westley have a battle of the wits. There is no right answer. One hour, two hours. I have been walking around forever, we have missed our chance to make our first flight and still no Clayton. From all of the flying and walking the days before, my feet are twice their normal size and my back is killing me. After nearly three hours and constant praying and searching, I finally decide to just head on to the airport without him. The second I make that decision I feel fine. Not relieved or happy, just a calm. Does anyone really doubt the power of prayer? You really shouldn't. So I get on the train, go back to the main hub where I can gladly pay to use the bathroom (yes they make you pay- could you imagine in the States? People would never put up with it.) get a chocolate croissant and a water at Paul's and get on the next train to the airport.

Once there, after checking at the desk to see if he has been there, I decide to plant myself down and wait in the one spot where he should go to check in for a flight. And I start crying all over again. Five minutes later he appears. I can't even explain how I felt to see him again. Great, I'm crying again. Sorry to be so dorky, but it has to be a glimpse of what seeing your loved ones again after you die feels like. He had gone to the airport an hour earlier and had been looking for me there ever since. We checked in for a later flight and made our way home. About six hours later than we planned, but together and happy.

And we went home in first class, in case anyone was feeling sorry for us, let me just pull that rug out from under you.


Azúcar said...

When I was a kid and we would travel by train in Europe, my dad would hop off to grab food, or whatever at random train stations. I would be SO NERVOUS that he'd miss the train I was always a wreck.

And have I ever been 7 months pregnant, traveling, and sobbing. Remind me to tell you about the time when I couldn't run fast enough down the longest terminal on earth to the last gate to try to catch a Southwest plane from SLC to SEA-TAC. I cried when they wouldn't let me on the plane that was still at the gate. No empathy for the crying preggo.

Lisa and company said...

Funny I instantly thought of Elder Uchtdorf's talk when I started reading your story.
France looked fantastic! What a great trip.
Sorry for the mini tragedy on the way home. I have to admit that I did laugh a bit when I read it but I know I would have been beyond freaked out. Good thing you had some experience traveling in Europe.
Glad you guys made it back safe and sound.

Tiff said...

What a post! I'm so glad I read the whole thing! What an experience! I so envy your travels! I'm glad you post them so I can imagine traveling to those places. So sorry about getting "disconnected" & I'm very glad you were reconnected! I would have been a basket case without the pregnant hormones! :)

Marcie said...

Hey Marianne, while you're off being sick this weekend I thought you might enjoy this link:

leigh said...

oh man! I can't even imagine being stuck in france without my husband and no cell coverage! I'm sure you handled it better than me. I don't know if Dan and I ever would have found each other! And I would be a wreck, pregnant or not. You guys are good. I keep thinking of cute girly things I want to make you (no promises, but a girl can dream.)

monica said...

You have some out-of-this-world adventures. What a terrific time you must have had in France (except for the fast moving train). I hope you print this story off and save it for your little girls' baby book. She will appreciate the love you have for each other. And then you can tell her she's been to France. And the pictures - WoW! - FANTASTIC!!

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