Before I sing the praises of lady Paris let me get these out of the way. Also, for those of you thinking about navigating away from this page after scrolling through this post, please read from the bullet points down. You'll be missing out on some inside jokes by not reading the top, but if it's only partial reading or nothing I'm okay with that.
It started at the airport. What the English have in order (queues and systems) the French have in… well, disorder. When the boarding call for priority travelers was made, every single person waiting to get on the flight pushed themselves up to a giant blob around the gate and then when they called up people traveling with children you had to shove your way to the front of the blob. It was like they thought if they didn’t move, you might just give up and they could get on sooner. After getting through the masses we all had to get on a tram to take us to where the plane was parked, but after standing on the tram for 10 minutes or so they came and took us all off saying that they couldn’t find one of the pilots (who we supposed was on a smoke or wine break somewhere). After some more waiting we had to do the whole fighting through the blob thing again (with people who were now even more frantic to secure their spot) and get back out to the bus and finally to our plane.
The next day’s low point was mid afternoon (after trying to go to Versailles and buying the wrong train tickets). We were all extremely hungry and couldn’t find anywhere to check in our rented bikes after a hour and a half ride across the city ending in a giant hill (they had to be checked back in every 30 minutes or we would be charged extra). Fighting off irritation we found food and decided to picnic in the city cemetery. What we didn’t know was that it only had one entrance and a giant wall. On the 25 minute around the wrong side of the wall our wine fell out of the bag and broke all over the sidewalk. When we finally did arrive we realized our horrible mistake in assuming this was a normal cemetery with grassy areas. It was entirely covered in mausoleums and all the benches already had people at them. We ate quietly and left.
Friday’s low was the entire day. This day our attempt to get out to the Versailles was successful, but after that is was only one disappointment after another. We knew getting into the palace was expensive, but thought maybe we could get student discounts. No. We thought that since it was earlyish there wouldn’t be too long of a wait. No – at least 500 people in line for tickets when we arrived at 10am. We thought we would just go to the gardens instead since they were less crowded and free. No – because of a special fountain show only on that day it was busy and 8 euros a person. The only part that was free and not packed was the north garden which consisted of meadows and sheep fields. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of pretty there and we got to see the grand canal, but after walking along the wall of the main gardens and gazing in through the gates, seeing what could have been, we all agreed to call it Ver-suck the rest of the time we were there.
Before I offer you the crown of low lights, the one that actually made me cry, here are a few worthy mentions:
- 1. Nathaniel running a fever and crying for a day and a half, which kept us at home the whole time. The plus side was that he had never cuddled before, and him being sick was a constant cuddle. He would cry if we weren’t cuddling him.
- 2. Riding through busy downtown and seeing a man in broad daylight pooping on the sidewalk with people walking all around him.
- 3. Having a man come up right next to me in the park to pee in some bushes.
- 4. Almost getting run into by a bus while riding with Nathaniel because the car in front of me cut me off.
- 5. Forgetting our guide book of the city (that we had rented from the library) in the basket of our bike.
And now, drum roll please… yesterday:
We headed to the train station on luggage laden bikes. That went surprisingly well. The train is where things started going down. The high point was a man offering me his seat, but then as we progressed down the line, at every stop no one got off and there were hoards of people waiting to get on. At one point I was sweating and hot to the point of nausea and a very large woman backed into me with the backs of her knees squishing into my seated ones and her palm tree print bottom in my face. The feeling of her knees mushing into mine is still making my stomach turn at this moment. Even though she repositioned relatively quickly, the hot body odor humid ride took about 40 minutes. We arrived at the airport to find out that our plane was delayed by an hour (the amount of time we had between arriving in London and catching the bus back to Oxford). We hoped. The screen said go to gate 28, the security point people said go to gate 29, gate 29 said go to gate 31, who then told us to go back to gate 29 and that’s where we sat for more than an hour waiting for our plane. When we boarded we almost forgot our sadness because of the pilot’s recounting of his day and why the flight was late “It really started out as a bugger of a day for me.” He said “The first plane I had today had something wrong with it so we had to go search around for a spare one, then we found something wrong with that plane at the next stop. We could have been discouraged, but we’re good British folk so we soldered on and now we are late because we had to do a thorough mechanical check of this plane before we could leave again. But now we’re on our way and we hope you have a great flight.” His determination and wit raised our hopes of getting home that night on the bus that was scheduled to leave 5 minutes before we would get off the plane. No. We missed it by a long shot, the station saying the next Oxford bus didn’t come until the next morning. The current time was 11:00pm. Other options? Bus to London Victoria station and train from there… after asking some questions, the grand total of that trip would be around 40 pounds a person. Not an option. Now to ask a favor from a friend. Would Jon Mcnally (a housemate) drive the 2 hours from Oxford to come pick us up in the middle of the night? Text, no reply. Call, no answer. Text again later, nothing. It was at this point that I cried. Another night in the airport is was, and this time there weren't any seats to make beds on, or even any carpet to sit on. Just a tile floor in the front of the airport with the automatic doors letting in the cool English air and us being sunburned from being weeks in the warmer continental Europe. Cold and aching and wishing for the sun to hurry it’s arrival so this night could be over, Jon checked the bus stop again. The next Oxford bus came at 2:05am and it was 12:30 right now! The joy we felt warmed and waked us. We passed the time snacking and taking turns trying to beat the first level of Winter Angry Birds and failing. Now the next hurdle – we still didn’t have any money, and since we missed our bus, it was almost assured that our tickets weren’t worth anything. We presented our sad story to the bus driver and he told us to wait while he called in. We stood our three shivering bodies outside the bus listening to the operator “What’s the ticket number?” “No, those kinds of tickets are unchangeable.” “No, they’d have to pay full price.” “Wait, is there a child with them? Yes? Oh, then let them on for free.” Thank you boyo! We rode home on the full bus driven by a slightly crazy man who pulled over at one point to come into the back to find out who’s music was too loud and tell them to turn it down. I got carsick and was so tired I almost dropped the sleeping Nathaniel so many times I had to ask Jon to hold him. Jon Mcnally came to pick us up from the bus station at 4:30am when we arrived but was long enough in coming that we were teeth chattering disasters by the time he got there. We could barely even answer his questions because of tiredness and cold. The cherry on top of this miserable travelling experience was that half way home we we got pulled over. I was holding Nathaniel wrapped in blankets and jackets in the backseat and not wearing my seat belt so I could snuggle close to Jon for warmth. The cops had pulled him over because Jon M. forgot to turn his lights on in the well lit downtown. While checking the plates, the back up cop was looking at all of us, points at me and says “Miss, you’re not wearing your seat belt.” I said sorry and pulled the belt over my mass of child and blankets, they told us goodnight and we went home and slept. The End.