It started with a dream 7 years ago. A dream to go to Italy which was crushed when I found out I was going to be a mother. A dream I dared not think about but somehow materialised thanks to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Singapore Airlines, among others, was having a promotion for their airfares to Europe and we jumped on the opportunity to visit France and Italy.
This was a direct flight from Singapore Changi Airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). We would touchdown Paris at 9pm local time, 3am Singapore time. But before I could breathe the Parisian air, I had one major hurdle to cross. Surviving 13 hours onboard the confines of the airplane with a hyperactive pre-schooler who is my son.
It was as if Murphy was deciding to test his law on me. Within the first two hours of flight, Joel had to move his bowels so I got him on a diaper. I guess it must have been the air pressure coupled with a bad tummy, the contents of the diaper started to seep out onto his pants and I had to rush him to the toilet to wash him and then hull his naked butt back to our seats.
The rest of the journey was less eventful but not much less stressful as I had to juggle between pins and needles as he nestled on my thighs for his naps, and mounting frustration and embarrassement with his non-stop fidgetting and loud curiosity.
Despite this, I managed to maintain my sanity. When we finally touched down in Paris, Murphy didn’t fail. Due to some logistical issues, there was a prolonged delay in releasing our luggage so we had to wait in the arrival hall for an hour. It was 10 pm (4am Singapore time) and we were getting visibly tired. We ended up being the last to leave the area because Theo couldn’t located our luggage. Turned out he couldn’t recognise his own bag until I pointed it out to him. I can only surmount that he was as excited as I was. So with our bags and stroller finally back in our hands, we headed out into the unknown.
Our first agenda was to collect our train tickets, which I had booked online, from the SNCF office. We didn’t want to risk collecting them the next day as our train departed at 8.21am and chances are we wouldn’t make it in time. It took awhile to navigate between Terminal 1, 2 and 3. There is a shuttle train CDGVAL that took us to each terminal. We located the SNCF office and collected our tickets without a hitch and then Joel started to whine that he needed to go to the toilet.
In broken French, I approached a cleaner for directions to the nearest la toilette. He gave me some convoluted directions which I followed dutifully and when I finally located the restroom after a brisk 10 minutes walk, I found out to my horror that that it was closed for the day! Apparently the airport doesn’t operate 24 hours, not even the toilets. I started to panic so I exited the airport into the deserted cold streets and tried to find a bush or even drain where Joel could piss into but there were NONE! We ended up wasting a diaper.
By the time we got to the waiting area for the shuttle bus to Hotel Campanile Roissy, it was already close to 11pm. There was a long queue and we could not board the mini bus with a dismal capacity of 10 passengers. I noted that the bus interval was about 20 minutes and given the maths, we would probably need to continue freezing our asses for another hour. Theo was already feeling quite frustrated at this point so we decided to take a cab instead.
We approached a group of cabbies lounging around and told them our destination which was supposed to be about 10 minutes ride away from the airport. I was visibly surprised when they refused to serve us and suggested that we take the shuttle bus instead! What kind of economy is this that even cab drivers choose their customers? So once again with our entire luggage behind us, we trudged back to the shuttle bus waiting area.
By this time, even I was getting edgy. My initial impressions of European grandeur was quickly fading. Thank God the next bus was of proper size and it managed to pick up the pathetic remnants of the waiting line. We reached the hotel in about 20 minutes. The hotel check in was pretty fast and soon we encountered our first French accommodation. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed at the room size.
For 60.20 euros, I had expected something more roomy. There was barely enough space left to walk around with our luggage occupying the balance of the floor area shared with a queen-sized bed, an attached single bed and a table against the wall. The only other amnenity was a faulty electric kettle and a tiny 20 inch TV. But we were too exhausted to complain, just happy to grab as much sleep as we could before dawn came.