If it is possible for a blog to get dusty from disuse, this one is covered with it. Oh, well. I suppose I have no real excuse. I do, however, offer the following.
As a teacher who has chosen to sponsor group travel, I have experienced many benefits. I have seen New York, London, and parts of Italy with many wonderful students. I walked around Stonehenge on my 35th birthday, and I spent my 36th in Rome with a group of friends… splitting a bottle of vino and smoking Cuban cigars. Today, I am experiencing another benefit of traveling with students. Today… I experience Paris.
EF is the company that I use for travel, and over the past couple of years, I have built a great relationship with the folks there. Vicki and Christine have been awesome tour consultants, and they have always pointed me in the right direction. When I mentioned to Christine that I would love the opportunity to help out at the regional conferences that EF hosts, she was quick to arrange that. Apparently, that went well because I was soon invited to Paris.
EF has a wonderful program for teachers that are new to international travel with students. Once a teacher has booked a trip and has students enrolled, that teacher qualifies for Paris Orientation, or Paris O for short. The teachers get to come and experience a tour first hand while learning from representatives of EF and experienced group leaders. At the end of the spring, I was invited to be an experienced group leader at Paris O.
This is why I was able to leave school early yesterday. I made a quick stop by Wal-Mart, then went to the Montgomery airport to catch a flight to Atlanta. Unfortunately, my Montgomery flight was delayed by several hours. Rather than taking a chance at missing my flight, I ran back outside, threw my luggage in the back of the car, and started driving up I-65 to I-85 so I could make it to Atlanta.
I made it to Atlanta in plenty of time, and made my way through security. My wait at the gate wasn’t too long, and after I got on the plane, I realized that the flight wouldn’t be full. Apparently, other connecting flights were delayed as well.
Once I was on the plane, I originally sat next to a nice couple who told me in accented voices that they were going home. I took this as the perfect opportunity to practice my high school French. I rattled off a couple of sentences that I knew would make my high school French teacher proud, and they looked at me funny. I tried a couple of more phrases… to no avail.
The husband then looked at me in that special way that we reserve for only the truly special and explained (slowly and a little loudly, I might add) that they were going home to Norway… I told him I didn’t speak Norwegian.
I found a window seat that had an empty seat next to it and spread out for the next several hours. I usually sleep well on planes, but I didn’t last night. I probably got two or three hours sleep before my flight attendant woke up with breakfast. (For the record, she totally destroyed the stereotype of attractive flight attendants. She looked like one of the Oak Ridge Boys.)
After the plane had driven around and around Charles De Gaulle for a what seemed like a couple of hours, we finally were able to disembark. Getting through customs was easy enough, and my new luggage (the bright blue hard case from Heys) was easy to spot on the carousel.
I made my way to where the trains leave the airport and bought my ticket. The metro here in Paris has two parts. The regular metro is called just that… the metro. There is also a faster-super-duper metro called the RER. I had no problems getting the right RER into Paris, and I enjoyed the ride.
Once we were away from the terminal, three guys got up in the middle of the car and began to perform. Apparently, this isn’t allowed because they had disguised their equipment. The singer snuck in a speaker with a microphone on a short stand attached to a rolling luggage carrier, and his backup band consisted of two buddies both playing accordion. Believe it or not, it sounded just like music on a train coming into Paris should sound. Other characters on that train included Balding Guy With a Bad Combover Reading Printed Internet Info About Ballet (in a plastic folder he labeled “Interesting Stuff”), Pakistani Man, and a double for the Haitian Dude From Heroes.
I made the switch fairly easily, and I got on a train headed toward my hotel. The problem is, there are two different trains that head TOWARD my hotel, but only one actually goes to it. Being the smarter than average guy that I am, I figured I should get off at the stop before the trains go off in one direction or another and ask for directions. That Norwegian dude had to be wrong… surely I speak French well enough to ask directions.
Well, Pierre the Cross-Eyed Janitor at the Metro Station didn’t think so. You know how French people have reputations for treating Americans poorly? It is all Pierre the Cross-Eyed Janitor’s fault. He gives all the rest of them a bad name…
More to come later…