France – the first 48 hours

Well, here we are. We had our first full day in Nantes yesterday, wandering the city to orientate ourselves and confirming CA’s enrollment for school. All in all it was a good day and, powered by coffee I managed to fight through to around 7 PM. I know, what stamina. But let’s not jump the gun, what of the previous 48 hours???

Well, we left Darwin without incident flying SilkAir bound for Singapore where we had a four hour layover. If you’re going to be stuck in an airport, Changi is up there with the best to be stuck in. So then on to Paris flying Singapore Airlines. As always, no complaints there. They really look after you and I can’t fault them at all.

On arrival at Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport it was a relief to stretch our legs, however my initial joy at finally landing in Europe was short lived. CDG is full of bottle necks, and considering the recent security issues experienced by France, you’d think they would address this, but no. 800 people all crammed into a space between shops leading to passport control. I stood in the crowd with my old soldiers instincts going into overdrive – where would I go if something happened, what’s the safest escape route for my family? (NOTE: soldiers instincts are a bit like Spidermans Spider senses, only way more useful. They can be used to find free food, coffee, beer, a place to sleep, and negotiate the public transport system of any city on the planet except Glasgow). Eventually we got through with TW and CA not even getting stamps as the girl in the booth was busy with her phone.

I’ll skip the potentially long tirade about Europeans and their baggage, you just need to be like them and fend for yourself. On to the train station where, upon arrival it was clear that it wasn’t going to be clear where we needed to go. So, keen to try out my language skills in a practical setting, I approached the information desk where a young lady whose name tag read “Information” was sitting uncomfortably on a stool with a bored look on her face. I asked where the line for my train was and she promptly directed me to the large screens we had been trying unsuccessfully to decipher moments before. Thank you, Miss Information. Anyway, eventually our train appeared on the screen, minus the platform number which it turns out, only comes up 20 minutes prior to departure. At that point, everyone makes their way to the platform attempting to use one of only two ticket validating machines and one escalator along the way making for another excellent choke point. There’s a pattern forming here.

I’m sure that the only people in the world who know how to queue are the British, and silly buggers from my generation. Despite this fact, the scrum at the door seemed to at least be allowing people through the door in a reasonably civilised and orderly fashion – until the arrival of the Italian family. A porter lead this family through the crowd where the father promptly parked his luggage trolley in front of the door and began unloading their baggage into the train and preventing anyone else getting on. I looked around the platform and all the other cars and their passengers were all inside, ours was the only one still with people waiting. To top it off, even with the conductor  madly blowing his whistle and a large crowd looking on, the Italian bloke seemed to be totally unaware of anything else. When we finally got on board, they had taken up all the space on one of only two luggage racks in the car which meant the aisles were strewn with luggage and anyone getting on after us was forced to stand in the doorway blocking access to the toilet. It was worse on our connecting train where the only space was a luggage rack above the seats and it was too close to the roof for most bags to fit.

By the time we had reached Nantes, it had been more than 30 hours since leaving home. Thanks to Google street view, the route from the train station to our apartment was already familiar and we made it in less than ten minutes. When I say apartment, it’s really a 20 square metre box containing a collection of Ikea furniture. Having said that, it suits our needs and is two streets away from a castle! How many people can say that? Well, apart from all of the people in our street.

So, here I am at 04:00 in the morning and still feeling the effects of jet lag. I’ll write about our first day in Nantes in another post as clearly, I’ve ranted for long enough here.

5 Replies to “France – the first 48 hours”

  1. Hi Derek, I sent you an email to TW email address but it’s her work one – will she get it?
    Loving your posts, very amusing! Miss you guys already. Hope its all going well.
    Love Jo

    1. Hi Jo, glad you like. Yes, TW is still using her work email. Hopefully you’ve heard back from her by now. Ciao

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