Paris might give you lemons, but they’ll be in your macaron citron…
There was good news and bad news. It was just a bit hard to figure out which was which.
- When I wrote here about how the Hub’s beloved car, The Classic, fatally exploded across the Paris freeway (bad), it meant that we would be stuck in Paris (good) for a week (very good).
- We would have to get rid of some of our baggage like the food (meh), my little picnic hamper fitted out with plates and utensils (sad), the wine I’d gotten in Spain (very, very sad), and the dog’s bed, blanket, toys, food, medicine, and spare ball-flingers (Not. Okay, maybe we could replace the bed—it was her third-favorite one—and one of the ball-flingers…).
- Our wonderful friends had just moved to a lovely new (which means hundreds of years old) Left Bank flat a block from the Seine (good), and they offered us their spare room because their sons were visiting grandparents (so, so good!)
- Paris was scorching hot (bad-ish), closed for August (not too bad except that Berthillon—makers of the greatest ice cream in the world—was closed too) and full of Americans (um…)
- We would have to ship the remaining baggage back to Scotland at astronomic cost (bad) and find a way to cross the Channel with the dog. (How bad could that be? Turns out—really bad).
For a country where every single person adores dogs, the UK makes it almost impossible to bring them in. I tried airlines first. Apparently, they are almost all delighted to fly your dog out of England. But when I tried to explain that the dog wanted to fly back into the UK, they declined. The only airline which would (supposedly) fly her back into the country was British Airlines. But the nice lady at BA said the dog would need to fly as cargo, and told me to call their air cargo desk. The not-quite-as-nice man there said that pets need an agent (who presumably would charge 15% and also book them into speaking engagements, guest appearances, and perhaps weddings), and told me to call their pet agents. The really-not-nice man there said I would have to fill out their form first, and that he would send me the form. He continued to tell me this for the next several days, growing progressively less nice each of the (many) times I called. (I still haven’t gotten it two weeks later, in fact.)
We soothed ourselves with an evening picnic and walk.
Okay, flying wasn’t going to be the answer. It looked like we would be in Paris for several more days. I consoled myself with trips to several museums and two gallery shows.
Next I tried the ferries. After all, the dog had taken a ferry with us to Spain. And we were booked on a ferry from Dunkirk. Or not. Apparently, dogs can only take ferries if they drive onto the boat in someone’s car. Since The Classic’s engine was in pieces across the Boulevard Périphérique, this wasn’t going to work.
The dog and I consoled ourselves with an early morning walk along the river. Maybe we could just rent a flat nearby and stay there?
Maybe the train? I discovered that dogs are allowed on French trains, although they require a ticket (second class, which apparently means you have to lie on the floor under a seat. It was pretty cheap, so I considered booking us all that way, but my French wasn’t good enough.) Dogs are not only allowed on English trains, but they travel for free. (Although, the friendly ticketing agent told me, they do try to limit dogs to two per passenger. If you bring more, they might need to charge you.) But apparently dogs aren’t allowed on trains that go from France to England unless they are on the car-ferry Tunnel train. Inside a car. Preferably one that wasn’t spread across the Boulevard Périphérique.
In despair, I called the nice lady at British Airways again. She lowered her voice, and imparted The Secret. “I never fly my dogs. We take a taxi across.” Her voice went even lower, and I wondered if the Dark Lord’s forces were listening. “Folkestone Taxi,” she whispered. “Here’s their number. You’ll love them.”
With that sorted, all that remained was to update the dog’s passport (I’m so not kidding). Of course, it was August so all regular Parisian veterinarians were closed. But luckily, just around the corner from the Best Friends’ Flat Ever, we saw a small notice on a vet’s office that said a substitute would be there for a few evening hours. When I came back that night, the place was packed with Americans holding dogs, cats, ferrets, and one demonically-possessed chihuahua who was muzzled by the vet as soon as it came through the door. Apparently, they’d met before.
Since I didn’t have an appointment, I waited at the end of the queue, chatting with two teenage girls, American twins who said they had been living in Paris with their mother, a visiting professor at the Sorbonne, for the past two years but were heading back to the States to finish high school. They liked Paris in August, they said. They told me where I could still get Berthillon ice cream even though the factory was closed, an excellent place to get Mexican food and a killer margarita (I raised an eyebrow and they proved they hadn’t been wasting their time in Paris by giving me identical Mona Lisa smiles), and that there was going to be a not-to-be-missed fire juggling and skateboard demonstration in front of Notre Dame that night.
With the dog’s passport stamped (and vet accepting roughly ten times the number of euros the process cost in Spain), the only remaining task was to ship our luggage. After forking over a truly astronomically huge number of euros, we were assured that the SendMyBag people would show up the next day between 9:00AM and 6:00PM. Sometime. Probably. We made signs for the lobby, and the Hub hunkered down in the blazing heat to wait for SendMyBag‘s driver.
You have one job, we told SendMyBag. You failed.
The dog and I went off to have a fabulous Paris day. We walked along the Left Bank, looking at Babar The Elephant prints and “rare” books, and stopped off at Shakespeare and Company to refill water bottles. We checked in with the Hub, but the bags hadn’t been picked up yet.
We headed over to l’ile to get Berthillon ice cream from the alternate supplier. (Still no bag pickup)
We poked around the little streets and shops of the Latin Quarter, hit the oldest outdoor market in Paris for cheese and bread, and finished up at a fabulous sidewalk patisserie for macarons and coffee. SendMyBag was still a no-show.
By 5:30, we were getting nervous. We called (several times) and were reassured that the driver had our stop booked and was just running late.
The Hub had now been waiting for over ten hours. At 7:15PM, we called again. The driver, they said, had turned off his phone and gone home at 7:00PM. This was France, they reminded us. They had no suggestions for what we could do about the train/taxi/train/train tickets (nonrefundable) we’d booked for the next day, not to mention the clock ticking on the dog’s passport clearance (only good for three days). “You have one job,” we told SendMyBag. “You failed.” With no other options, we left everything in our friends’ flat the next morning and headed over to our train at Gare du Nord.
The dog loved the train. She had a terrific time refusing to “go here” at every stop from Paris to Calais. She thought the taxi was great, enjoyed the tunnel train, and gave a thumbs up to the baguette and fabulous tomme cheese we shared with her. She was very excited about refusing to “go here” in Folkestone, London, and every stop up to and including Glasgow.
Across the street from the gorgeous Glasgow Central Train Station, a line of taxis waited—the last step between us and her back garden. Except… one driver after another refused to take the dog, despite our assurances that she was very well-behaved (and my secret misgivings that she was, in fact, about ready to explode). Finally, one driver took pity on us and we spread out a towel for her to lie on.
Finally, after five trains and two taxis covering 1135 kilometers, we were at the Hobbit House. No car, no luggage, but one supremely relieved little dog raced into the back garden. So the final good news/bad news report?
So how about you? When a trip goes wrong, what do you do?