Frolicking in France on an 8 hour layover

I was on connecting flights traveling to Jordan and had planned an interlude in France for 8 hours. my connecting flight from Atlanta to France wasn’t terrible, I met a man from Chad whose brother was in France and he was meeting him to go to his mothers funeral in Chad. Such a sweet guy, he ended up helping me get onto the train in France to head into the city for an 6 hour tour of Paris. I have wanted to see Notre Dame since I was a little girl and watch the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He got me on the train, and there were signs that were easily followed to Notre Dame stop, I got off the stop, walked up the steps and didn’t know where to go. So I followed the sounds of cars and ended up turning a corner and there was Notre Dame, who then started playing her bells with the pigeons dancing in her square at 615am. I couldn’t have been more happy, with tears in my eyes, I took a ton of selfies (with a timed camera & tripod) and then turned around after packing them up again and saw the doors to the magnificent church opening for me like I was the Queen herself. I went in, and there was hardly a soul in the place, took the obligatory pictures of the stained glass windows, walked around, sat down said a few prayers of thanks & quietly walked out. I still had 4 hours of time to kill, so I went to the patisserie close by, got a cup of hot chocolate and croissant…..delicious. Then walked around Notre Dame’s gardens, and happened upon the bridge of love & locks. So many locks…..all representing the love that will be forever endured by locking your lock on this bridge and throwing the key into the river. I swore to myself that when I finally get married I will take my husband there and put one on that said, “finally and forever”, lol. I thought to myself, “maybe I have time to go see the Eiffel Tower”, so I hopped in a cab, waved my Euros, and said Eiffel tower Ci bu plié (or however you spell please in French). The Eiffel tower was better than the one in Vegas by far, and still amazes me that they built it for the World’s Fair and just left it up. There was hardly anyone there. I tried to take a selfie, but it was a little more difficult this time & I really had to tinkle. Let me tell you, trying to find a bathroom in Paris is a little difficult, and you need cash to do it (which I didn’t have much on me to do it). I was running short on Bladder leeway time too (a problem of mine since I was a child). I asked some French ladies nearby in Spanish (I know pathetic) Bano? And they pointed me in the right direction. This is where I became VERY lucky and was able to get into the bathrooms without having to give any cash because they were just opening. I don’t know if this is all bathrooms in Paris or just the ones near the Eiffel tower that are public and not associated with a restraint/eatery/patisserie. Well, it was sweet relief, to say the least, and the saying “when nature calls, don’t wait” kept running through my mind, made me giggle to myself in the bathroom stall. Then I thought, better stop giggling or these French ladies are going to think not only are you American, but a crazy American at that.

After the Eiffel tower, I still had so much time on my hands, and thought, ‘well, why not grab a taxi and go see the Arch de Triumph and drive by the Louvre. This is where it was a little nerve wracking for me, I didn’t speak French, I have SEVERE directional handicaps, and get stressed out in traffic (which Paris has plenty of). But as fate would have it, I jumped into a cab where there was this cute man in his late 50’s who through our language barriers, my drawings, and his broken English – he took me to the Arch and past the Lourve, and asked if it was my first time in Paris. I told him it was, and that there was something so magical and beautiful about the city, and how friendly the people were in Paris, and that it has always been a dream of mine to come to Paris. Well he then signaled that he would like to show me some other great things about Paris, I said, “Sure!” — mind you I was naïve at the time and the movie ‘Taken’ hadn’t come out yet. He took me past Marie Antionette’s House, past the road to Versailles, past several other places I can’t remember the names of, but thought was very interesting because I had heard their history and knew I was witnessing history of the World. We must have driven around for about 30min and I was getting nervous about the cost of the cab ride because I only had so many Euros on me and was trying not to use my Debit Card. So I told him, “my wallet is telling me I better go back to Notre Dame”; he promptly took me back to Notre Dame and I was calculating how much I just spent on a lovely cab ride and collecting the appropriate Euros from my purse. Well I looked up after he stopped and saw that there was no price on the meter. I asked how much? He said, “Nothing” in his beautiful French accent, I think I was in shock at the moment because I had my money in hand and this man wouldn’t take it. I asked if he would take a tip at least, he said, “No”…..I got very teary eyed, and wanted to hug the guy, and said, “BUT WHY????” …..he struggled to find the right English words then threw his hands up in the air and simply said, “Welcome to Pariee”…..I thanked him profusely and got out of the cab, and stood there stunned as I watched him drive off……What a beautiful person, in such a beautiful city. I felt like the world was at my fingertips and kind of floated to the train entrance near Notre Dame to take my train back to the airport to catch my flight. The euphoria lasted all the while, until I got to the train level and realized that I couldn’t read French and all the bloody train listings were in French….. Apparently I look European, because a man tried to speak to me in French as I stared at the train listings electronic display on the wall and tried to make sense of it with the train schedule I had printed off before arriving in Paris. Nothing made sense……and panic had started to set in, which is probably why he approached me. He tried to explain it, but I nodded like I understood, but really didn’t. I had a lot more empathy for people because of this encounter, for people back in the States that English wasn’t their first language. Well he got on his train and all I got was, wait 15 min then that will be your train. Me being the directionally challenged person I am, thanked him and then started to panic as soon as he left…..’what if I get on the wrong train? I’m gonna end up in Northern France! I will miss my connecting flight to Jordan! I will be stuck here without my contact stuff! Oh God please help me!!!’ — I waited 5 min for a miracle, and lo and behold it came in the form of 2 girls walking into the train level with little black tags, and who both looked VERY American, ‘thank you Heavenly Father’, I walked up to them, asked if they spoke English, and wouldn’t you know they did, and even more surprising, they were from my home town! They took pictures with me, we started chatting, and these two lovely (who turned out to be) Missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints helped me get onto my train and make sense of the mess that I had inadvertently put myself into. They got onto the train before I was suppose to get onto mine….and as I stood there letting the wind of their passing train cool me off…..I had a wonderful, and peaceful thought come to mind……’Trust me, remove the fear, I will take care of you, no matter where you are in this world’ and after this thought an immense feeling of love warmed me inside my heart. I know it was God, telling me that I was loved, and that he knew where I was in this world, and that he had things handled. Now I don’t mind if you don’t believe in a higher being, but I wanted to share this, because it has stuck with me all these years…..every time I feel the anxiety creeping in, I just remember my time in Paris and that feeling and thought I had down by that train, knowing…..no matter what happens in my life, I was going to be ok. I love Paris, and don’t want anyone to think that people in or from Paris are mean or unhelpful……my experience helped me to love the French people & embrace the uncertainty that will come for us all in this life.

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