The transatlantic flight arrives at Charles de Gaulle airport at 8:30 a.m. Groggy and jet-lagged, I wait interminably for my suitcase at one of the most inefficient luggage carousels known to Man, vision obscured by the many other passengers crowding and craning in their attempt to see past each other and glimpse their valued belongings. Finally, my bag comes, blissfully intact.
Next, there is the shuttle to the train which will take me into Paris, but the shuttle is a mistake, wandering for half an hour into and through distant corners of the airport property, until I arrive at the station and realize that an easy five minute walk would have brought me to the same place.
The attempt to buy train tickets at the automatic kiosk which will not accept my credit card fails and is followed by a long wait in line to purchase the necessary billet from an attendant who gives directions to the proper train in rapid, incomprehensible French, so I end up on the local, rather than the express, and bump from one filthy station to the next through the post-apocalyptic neighborhoods which rim the northern approach to central Paris, among rag-tag local passengers whose hands, touching the same bars, poles and handles which I must grasp, have been God-knows-where…
Need anything be said about the search for the taxi queue at the Gare du Nord, and the long, anxiety-filled wait? When my taxi comes, will it be the sleek new Mercedes, or the dirty and disreputable aged Peugot?
But ultimately there is arrival at the hotel, check-in, deposit of luggage, escape into the freedom of the streets and… Voila! It is, after all, Paris! Ca va bien — all goes well. How can it be any better than this?