I put my basic French to good use today when the the grouchy and old fashioned innkeeper initially overcharged us for our stay at Hotel de la Loire. The hotel itself is a pretty and cozy place located quite conveniently within 5 minutes walk from a metro station in a relatively quiet district near Montparnasse. Perhaps it was the power of my broken French, making the effort to use trois nuits instead of three nights, that made her reluctantly reduce my bill from 320 Euros to 195 Euros.
Among all my planning, managing our finances turned out to be the only area that went right during our whole trip. But then what more can you expect of an accountant?
While waiting for our shuttle bus to bring us to the airport, Theo was approached by a lady probably of Eastern European descent. She handed him a note in French which was supposed to be an ‘official’ permit to collect donations for a charity organisation dedicated to the protection of children. In his compassion, Theo gave the lady 10 Euros. After she left, a French businessman who witnessed the incident commented condescendingly that what she did was wrong and we should not have given her the money as it only perpetuates this kind of behavior.
Throughout my time in Paris, we encountered many of these people, men and youths who put up short performances on the metros and then coming around to ask for donations from the commuters. I witnessed a young girl barely 13 years old being coerced by her father, I assume, to hop onto our metro and perform a rap. I admire her guts even though I didn’t give her anything.
When we arrived at the airport we were the last passengers (what’s new) to get our boarding passes although we had already done an online check in. One of the counter staff was a really nice gentleman who escorted us all the way to the boarding gate to ensure that we didn’t miss our flight.
On this flight Joel was more manageable and I was able to actually catch three movies. A meal was served when we took off at 12 noon which I had presumed was lunch but turned out to be dinner. I had waited impatiently for my evening meal, my stomach grumbling loudly only to receive a breakfast set 8 hours later at approximately 5am SIN. This was a lesson learnt that meal times on airplanes follow the country of origin of the airline.
And so this sums up my 16 days in Europe – lots of hopes, many disappointments but even more lessons learnt. One very important lesson is to never bring expectations with me when I travel. Nothing is ever the same as back home and when I harbour a certain set of presumptions, it makes me become inflexible and highly irritable when things do not happen the way I expected. Travelling independently trains you to be adaptable and open-minded and that is precisely how we can appreciate another culture.
The journey had its challenges and its few magical moments and I was glad to have shared it with my husband who is a wonderful partner and my son, who opened doors for us with his innocent charm. I wonder if he even remembers he has seen the Colosseum.