There is nothing more stressful than international travel right now.
Yes, we all want to do it… I do, at least… but until you’re literally sitting in that seat, and that plane is in the air, you’re always second guessing whether or not it’s actually going to happen.
I had read every report, article, advisory, guideline, requirement… everything imaginable. I thought I had all travel and Covid requirements covered. I had followed every link… crossed every ‘t‘ and dotted every ‘I’. Both of us were thrice vaccinated within the government approved vaccination mandate, recent restrictions and regulations had been lifted and antigen tests for the fully vaccinated had been abolished.
We had both filled out the Passenger Locator Forms - online and hard copy. Passports were valid, insurance was bought, tickets were booked…
BUT…i missed one important step. I missed the Federal Covid vaccination clarification QR code.
Apparently, it’s not enough to have provincial proof of vaccination… you need federal. And it’s not only important… it’s a critical requirement of you getting on the plane out of Canada … or not. I love it when stipulation is suddenly added to the pile.
If the stress of trying to download official federal PDFs in an airport boarding lounge wasn’t enough… I had also developed a cold… as well as felt the trickling beginnings of irritable summer allergies. The mask requirement was a good cover up for my red, runny nose and my incessant sneezing.
Exasperation at its height, we managed to slog through. Health Gateway and Federal Mandates, although an annoyance, were no hindrance for us. They were actually… big time. I was definitely teetering on mental breakdown and violent outburst. It was definitely touch and go for a few stressful moments.
Our flights could almost be described as a breeze. As breezy as flights can be.
I slept the bare minimum. Maybe 10 minutes?
Enough to aggravate the kink neck anyway. That horrible moment when you wake up and have to slowly move your sore neck back into position.
I tried to watch movies, played a bit of solitaire… but mostly just watched the little plane inch it’s way across the monitor.
Aunty Lin had written out thank you cards to the airline hosts, and I had packed chocolate bars and water taffy for them. In return, they showered us with champagne, chocolate, restaurant recommendations, lavish attention and much kindness. Aunty Lin was even moved to a window seat to watch the Paris cityscape as we descended.
Upon arrival, we jumped in a taxi to avoid any hassle of transportation, and although I firmly believe the driver ripped us off ever-so-slightly, we made it to the doors of our hotel, hassle free. I was hardly in the mood to manoeuvre the train & subway system of the city, and I knew, without a doubt, my jet lag would be kicking my ass soon enough.
We popped into the hotel to drop off our bags, and with 4 hours remaining until we were permitted to check, we headed out into the streets to explore our local surroundings.
First, we made the 270 step trudge up to Sacré-Coeur, a basilica and the highest point in Paris. From there, we wandered around and delighted in the charm of Montmartre, admiring its cobbled streets, variety of bistros and impressive artistic history. After a few fumbled attempts at finding a place to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, we finally settled on a lovely little cafe right around the corner from our hotel. With so many places to choose from, little irritants like smokers, wobbly tables, rude servers and sitting in shade can work as casual deterrents, moving you along to the next quaint location.
It was here we enjoyed a lovely rosé and a charcuterie board… and it was also here that my jet lag took me by storm.
When jet lag hits, it is very difficult for me to ignore it. It completely consumes me.
I get wobbly and irritable. I can’t see clearly, think clearly and I can’t concentrate on anything but closing my eyes.
I was desperate for bed, but I had to force myself to keep my wits about me. Check in was still more than an hour away…
Finally, with time still to spare, we returned to the hotel and I begged them to let us in. Our original plan was to request a room on the top floor, with a view… but desperate times call for desperate measures, and disregarding original ideas, my only current requirement was that the room have a bed.
And that’s what we got.
A shitty room with two twin beds.
No view of Paris. We do have a lovely view of a residential courtyard though, and we can hear the daily chatter of life, babies crying, construction, phones ringing, loud music, TV’s, sirens… etc.
We did not get the top floor either… but I was slightly thankful for that.
There is an elevator in the hotel, but it is half the size of a regular kitchen table and hardly fitting for two adults. Aunty Lin managed to squeeze in with our things and I climbed the 88 steps winding staircase up to the 4th floor. Jet lag, mental fatigue and physical exhaustion don’t bode well for me.
I wanted my bed.
Our Parisian paradise resort is more like a multi-level motel. I have taken to referring to it as our halfway house, a term I use with a touch of disgust, irony, spite, comic relief, guilt… and admiration… for us, as we endure the disarray.
The Hôtel du Square is not dirty… nor is it particularly clean. When I say clean, I don’t mean that they don’t put the effort into actually cleaning it… but I think it’s so outdated, it’s shabby. Shabby, when all items appear as if they were purchased at a flea market or garage sale, can give off the illusion of being dirty. Everywhere you look, you can see economical neglect and the obvious signs of cutting corners.
The towels are thin and slightly frayed around the edges.
The pillows are extraordinarily lumpy.
The bedspreads are those flat quilted ones, popular from the 1970’s, and very much like what you would expect to find in a budget roadside motel.
There is one electrical outlet, and it is located in the most inconvenient location.
The hallways are uncommonly narrow and would be difficult to manoeuvre with any large amount of luggage. Our room is painted white and one tiny print of a Vietnam sea scape stands alone on the one wall. We have two very tiny twin beds and I believe they were the inspiration for Goldilocks, and I am like Shrek lying in mine. The walls are ridiculously thin, so we can hear neighbouring alarms going off and conversations down the hall.
I told Aunty Lin to pretend she was recovering from a crack addiction and was rooming with me, who had recently fled my abusive husband. Takes the sting away from foregoing luxury and makes us somewhat appreciate our budget dormitory.
It’s fine… does its basic accommodation job … and if you disregard the electricity problems, the poor wifi connection and the incessant slamming of doors… it’s quite charming in a “we’ll never stay here again” way. The location is ideal, so I shouldn’t really complain, but I will anyway.
After a much needed and much appreciated nap, we headed back out into the mystery of the city, set to discover what we could before the sun disappeared for the evening.
Our trek took us down the Rue le Pelletier, towards the Seine. We meandered past the Palais Garnier Opera House, Petite Palais, the statue of Winston Churchill and the memorial to Princess Diana. We strolled through Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, Boulevard Haussmann, across the Pont Alexandre III bridge… and even saw the Eiffel Tower, glimmering in its magnificent beauty.
The sky was clear, the temperature was spring-time perfection and it was a glorious evening for Aunty Lin to see some of the highlights of this romantic city.
Tired, wanting to get back to our halfway house, yet determined to keep it real and under budget, we made a feeble attempt at the Parisian subway system. It was Saturday night, the city was buzzing, the underground was bustling and we had absolutely no idea what we were doing or where we were going. A kind teller had given us instructions for our route, but as soon as we had been left to diligently follow her directions, we failed our mission. It was an experience in up close and personal. Here we were, the two of us crammed onto this rickety tube, cast amongst a smorgasbord of strangers and enduring the overwhelming stench of body odour. So much for social distancing.
We exited where we had been told to exit… and promptly fell apart.
She had mentioned something about walking a short distance from here… but walk where? I had naturally assumed it would be easy to figure out. I was wrong.
There were no signs and the current station teller was of zero assistance. Quite rude actually.
Finally, we gave up.
The confusion wasn’t worth the frustration, nor was it worth the time. Instead, we turned our attention to wine and set out to find a bistro. Home was temporarily forgotten and the comforting thought of Bordeaux took precedence. As soon as our glasses emptied, Uber to the rescue and this lovely gentleman delivered us right to our doorstep.
There is a small Italian bistro just moments from our door and we took refuge there to feast on fried buffalo mozzarella and margarita flatbread. We weren’t sure if it was as delicious as we thought it was, or if we were just so starved for substance… and vino!
It was a very, very long day… but as it had ended in Paris, with wine, and found us stuffing ourselves with pizza and cheese, it was enough to relieve us of any hardships endured. Wine has the wonderful ability to make you able to temporarily ignore the exhaustion…
… and I very much stress 'temporarily'…