Saturday, 13 November 2010

Disappointing and Disastrous weekend




Sit down with a cuppa or a wine for this one...
I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself. I was so looking forward to this long weekend. I even sacrificed a day of annual leave. The plan was to meet a possible new friend who might become more than a friend and thus have some company and maybe tenderness in my life, have my curtains installed at last (I'm desperate) and do my Christmas shopping for NZ as the deadline for postage is looming.

On Thursday I caught the train to Versailles Chantier to meet up with Bent. We had arranged to go to visit the Louvre together. I'd never been there and I felt it was a good place to go to meet someone for the first time. The weather was dreadful. My umbrella was damaged within one minute of stepping outside my door. Being a public holiday the traffic in Paris was atrocious. We drove through the tunnel where Princess Diana died- it still feels dangerous. Battling the elements we finally made it to the doors of the Pyramid not long after lunch.

Queues on queues. The facilites can no longer keep up with the patronage. After the effort of getting to the Louvre we just managed to secure a table in the restaurant and have a quick bite before heading off to the Egyptian exhibit which interests us both.

Bent is 64, mostly retired and spends a lot of time in Morroco. He speaks 8 languages and has an extremely colourful history, not all of it savoury. A reformed playboy, he's good looking, keeps in shape and very interesting to talk to. I was enjoying myself. We talked so much (mostly English with a bit of French thrown in by each of us from time to time) that we frequently had to remind ourselves to look at the exhibits. They are awesome in the full sense of the word.

It's really powerful to look at artifacts 3000-5000years old and know that people made them and touched them and who are now just atoms of the planet. Well, most of them anyway. We did see a mummy. It was rivetting and sad to see someone that old still 'here'. I was totally pissed off at myself for not bringing my camera but the weather wasn't accommodating for that- my camera is not compact.

We spent 5 hours in the Egyptian exhibit and still didn't see everything there. The Louvre itself had an extention added a few years ago and it's beautiful inside. The famous modern pyramid is a triumph of integration between the ancient and modern and to be inside it and looking up at the night sky outside is magical. As we (tried) to navigate the Champs Elysee I saw the 'sparkler' for the first time. I had very briefly seen the Eiffel Tower at night back in June but I had never seen the lightshow that occurs every few minutes. What a shame we couldn't get closer, it was gone almost immediately as we tried to make our way to Versailles for some spaghetti.

Bent generously paid for everything but was a little overly enthusiastic with kissing so this lead to a bit of an uncomfortable debate the next day.

Once again I made my way by train to Versailles expecting to go cycling with Bent in the grounds of the palace. The weather was horrid again but I took my sneakers as requested. Nothing went smoothly. My train was delayed almost an hour by climatic problems on the line. Good grief, problems already and it's still above zero degrees.

Poor Bent had to wait for me. This was not a good day for that to happen. When we met up he told me he was in a very bad mood. And he certainly was. No wonder.

Earlier that morning his sports car had been destroyed by a massive fire in the carparking building where he stored it during the winter months. A nice silver Mercedes sports car it was totally burned along with 300 cars. A major financial and bureaucratic headache, not to mention the disappointment. We saw several cars still barely driveable but black, trying to drive away, and several even more blackened parked in various parts of his town. His car was gone though. Luckily he had another car which he could drive.

We didn't end up cycling, we visited Saint Germain en Laye instead, a pretty and affluent town.  His apartment is very tastefully decorated with Morrocan furniture, lovely pieces and in my favourite colours. He likes to write poetry- it's quite clever but dark. Perhaps we might end up as friends if he decides he wants that. He's certainly wonderfully helpful when it comes to finding me a warm coat in a style that suits me. "No, that's for an old woman, no, what you want isn't on offer this season but take a look at this one... here's one for a good price". So now I have a warm coat for a reasonable price thanks to advice from a man whose taste in women's clothes I can trust. NZ teaches you nothing about warm coats.

All the trials and heartaches I've been through with men have been very heavy going in my life. So far just in France I have been rejected by an acupuncturist who couldn't accept me because I don't eat fish, then there's a lovely guy who seemed to enjoy my company but is too busy to spend any time with me and doesn't want a relationship (you can probably guess who I am referring to from posts way back), another guy who said no because my french isn't perfect and another who blows hot and cold and needs to sort himself out. Not to mention the terrible Jerome period that wasted two years of my life and caused me major emotional hurt. Are there any men out there who actually want ME and to stay with me and appreciate the well-rounded character that I am AND that I would care about too? I'm still looking. So disappointing so far but worse was to come.

With my hopes for some curtains to be installed dashed for the time being I decided that, despite the hassles financially, physically and time-wise, I'd go to Paris to do some Christmas shopping for a couple of special people in Auckland. I had to do it now because posting stuff to NZ takes time. Ghastly weather but took my camera, bag, broken umbrella and a bag to put purchases in. I had no real idea where to go for anything because buying for NZ is very difficult and I don't know Paris for shopping. I decided to head towards Boulevard Haussmann and visit Galeries Lafayette, a very famous and enormous parisian department store. Oh dear- the people. The store had set up their Christmas window displays and anyone with kids (and without) was looking at them, clogging up the pavement. Dancing cancan bears, Mamma Mia Abba bears popping out of cakes to the sound of the musical tracks in french.

The store is great but tiring and I spent 4 hours trying to find anything suitable to post. I ended up having to be rather predictable but at least things are ready to post(when I eventually have access to money-read on). I got lost a bit trying to see past my broken umbrella in the wind and rain and darkening skies but a friendly Metro cashier advised me how to make numerous changes of train until I could get back to Gare Paris Montparnasse. Second to last stop was Porte d'Orleans where I purchased my ticket to Montparnasse where I would purchase another ticket home. I never saw my wallet again.

Somewhere between my crowded experiences on the train and negotiating the enormous complex that is Paris Montparnasse my wallet disappeared. I was horrified when I discovered it missing when trying to purchase my ticket home. All my money, my French and NZ credit cards, my drivers license and sundry other things. I had prudently hung my handbag around my neck but it was still easy for someone to pick. I had my arms full and everything was crowded.

The police in Paris wouldn't help me because I couldn't prove my identity. I was told to visit the police in Cafeolait and lay a complaint. How to do that? I had no money. I was told to get on a particular train without paying- oh great! I sent a Mayday to Victoria. Thank goodness she answered. Like a trooper she called my french bank for me and found the number to call for me to contact ASB Auckland. Shaking from all the stress I finally got through to the ASB but couldn't stay on the line long because international calls on my prepay phone chew up the credits. I called them back when i got back to the studio. Camille called me (alerted by Victoria) and called in to pick me up to help out with the language barrier of making a statement in French. Thank God for those two lovely ladies. My bank cards are cancelled but the other stuff is a problem. I have no money and no access to money for some days. I have to sort out the issues of my drivers license.

I am so glad I do not usually carry my passport. I could use that to prove my identity to the police in Cafeolait. Folks, scan ALL docs and save them on the gmail or hotmail servers. I must stay inside my uncomfy little studio until work on Monday. I can't even buy a loaf of bread. What an awful weekend. Hope yours was better.
Photos: Castle (Henry 4th) at Saint Germain en Laye, and Galeries Lafayette

3 comments:

Alison said...

That is just such an awful thing to happen. You poor thing! Good luck with getting everything sorted. I was interested in your comment about the Louvre queue - I'm not looking forward to that when I'm over in July. I hate long queues! Anyway, once again, bonne chance et bon courage!

Nada said...

A reformed playboy - is that not an oxymoron? But so sorry to hear about the theft (shades of my troubles in a Spanish train!)...

Maria said...

Frances,
Thank you for sharing your experiences. It makes me think that we can't count much on others, but at the same time there is hope... always...
Maria

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