Drunk in bed with a 45 year old woman in Paris...life goals.
I'll warn you now - this is more like a novel than a blog post...
This time last year (+ a few weeks) I was standing bloody and sweaty in the Paris airport, negotiating with two airline employees for one of them to take my broken, mangled luggage and get me on my flight – which my friend Sherri and I were getting scary late for. With no money, credit cards or ID aside from my passport I was a ball of anxiety waiting to unleash on anyone who was going to throw me another curve ball in my already unexpected last 2 days of our European adventure. SO in honour of one year (and a few weeks) around the sun since my first trip to Europe where a roller-coaster of amazingness melted with chaos resulting in a mini hibernation upon my return – I thought I'd share my adventures.
To add some context, there are a few things to note prior to me diving in:
1. Sherri (former client turned bestie and well known in the European milliners' scene for her amazing hats and fascinators) and I were 'ballin' on a budget' for this trip - our collectively planned fashion show was to help with her flower making classes (which was ultimately why we were going) and some of the travel expenses of getting to Europe. The event though a great success and a lot of fun - was a b*tch to plan as my full-time job and freelance writing kept me fully engaged in a haze of stress and chasing the clock. Not to mention Sherri's neurotic yet masterful creative mind was on overload and she was a bit of a handful on top of my day to day. I love you Sherri but that is the truth. We survived the month of February and March mostly on tequila, coffee, little sleep and excitement over our upcoming adventure on March 8th.
2. Sherri had plans to reconnect with her ex lover turned pen pal. Though happily married, she met a young lad in her early 20s before her husband and despite it not being romantic anymore they still kept in contact. He (Ron) didn't know we planned on surprising him while in Den Haag at his hotel (even writing that, it sounds more salacious then it was intended – but totally turned a bit weirdly salacious when we got there).
3. Neither Sherri or myself took heed of our own advice – pack light. For those who know me, taking anything less than 5 pairs of shoes on an overnight trip is basically like asking me to speak Mandarin Chinese – I just can't. Like no, that’s not a thing.
4. We left planning our actual hotels and transportation in Europe to the very last minute as noted in the first point – we finalized details on where we were staying literally a day or two before we flew out.
Okay so with all of that said – Sherri and I woke up bright and real fudging (yes, I’m trying to curb my written profanity) early on a Thursday - I had already managed to slot in a few hours at work because when one has an extremely exhausting work load, that sh*t haunts you when you are about to leave the country for two weeks. So yes, we head to Edmonton, excited yet freakin’ tired to catch our Air Iceland flight to, you guessed it Reykjavik Iceland first, then to Paris. Also let me take a pause here...Air Iceland was kind of brutal. Water was charged on our first flight going to Paris and the plane was bloody cold. Not to mention our layover was far too long while their airport was clearly going through renovations – no seats anywhere and mass amounts of people crowded, sitting on their luggage waiting for buses to take us to a plane in the middle of what looked like the desolate arctic dessert. I have never given as much side eye to anyone as I did Sherri on this first adventure to Paris.
Needless to say we make it to Paris, my stress and anxiety haven't fully worn off as I hand over my trust to Sherri and we navigate the metro. Okay that's a lie. My stress and anxiety stay while I reluctantly hand over trust. Also – this is where the first obstacle of our trip shows its ugly head – my f'n luggage weighed more than me and maneuvering in and out of the metro, up and down stairs, like seriously – I wanted to boot kick my big plastic grey suitcase down each flight. I refrained. Barely though. No, instead I would summon the strength to lift the bloody thing and risk hernia, hemorrhoids or a broken chicken wing to the bitter end. Let me assure you, there was a bitter end.
Our first days in Paris were lovely with our first night in an adorable hotel in Montmartre. My introduction to the city included a visit to Vivienne Westwood, one of my favourite designers, trying on some of her lovely designs until I found one I couldn't leave – and truthfully the only thing I could likely afford in the store. We ate a delicious quiche lorraine outside at the Palais Royal - I had my first glass of Rosé and listened to an orchestra mere feet away. This sh*t was out of a movie, seriously. We walked down some beautiful streets and entered into the first (maybe) Christian Louboutin store in Paris - I can't remember but regardless - pure heaven. In my head as I picture it I’m wearing fur, grinning with red lips and clutching a long thin cigarette between my beautifully manicured fingers. The reality is a lot more wool cape, hang nails, dry mouth and wedge heels but you know I had the time of my life. We continued to walk down the beautiful Parisian streets – I was even stopped by a photographer who wanted to catch my outfit for a magazine's street fashion column. Did I mention we just happened to be in Paris in and around Fashion Week?!
We purchased fabric in the textile district and enjoyed amazing coffee, wine and sights while we walked all around. Even Moulin Rouge and the sex shoppes seemed more sophisticated because we were in Paris. I was lured into the romanticized city in a short period of time. I spent my first evening in Paris tipsy off wine, full of excitement and curiousity - and laying basically a foot away from Sherri. Of course I documented that shit with a photo captioned 'Drunk in bed with a 45 year old woman in Paris, #lifegoals'. Everything was glorious! That was, until we had to switch hotels after the first night and lugged our 1000lb bags across the streets in the early mornings. I of course did not pack flats but opted for wedge and chunky heels which for the record were perfectly fine except when I was hauling my body weight in a bag over cobble stone streets and metro stairs. F*ck. My. Life. The next hotel wasn’t as lovely as the first but Sherri fancied the hotel desk attendants and they had an espresso bar open 24/7 that was self serve. So basically all of our needs were met.
Soon we were off to Amsterdam and then Den Haag. We would spend two nights in Amsterdam before catching a train to the 'main event' - the city where we would spend the majority of our European adventure. The plan was simple - Sherri could surprise her pen pal as we were booked into his hotel to stay and at the same time spend her days taking classes from the lovely Berry Rutjes and brilliant Bridget Bailey. I of course took my lap top to catch up on some writing for the magazine I freelance for and to enjoy the quiet of European coffee shops.
We ventured to the bus station to catch our 7 hour bus ride - which we had no friggin’ clue how to get to but luckily by fate we met a lovely French Canadian man who actually led us like stray sheep to the station. 100% without him we would have gotten lost. Thank you Universe. We truly were thankful in that moment for our friend and his kindness. On our lengthy bus ride Sherri and I chatted, ate, judged our bus mates and mostly struggled to get onto wifi. It was also a quiet moment for me to reflect on a special person I had left back home after only meeting him a few weeks prior. I missed ‘the Sexsmith’ - I guess what they say about distance making the heart grow fonder was true for me and hopefully for him.
The bus was relaxing - it was lovely to see the scenic views and to go through Belgium which runs in my families’ blood – we paused for an hour in Antwerp and it just felt like a different world. The air was different, the energy was different – I wanted to stay longer to explore. It is a place I will certainly make a point of visiting again. Soon though, we were back on the bus and in Amsterdam we arrived - getting off on the wrong stop and checking out a bit of downtown before we come back again the next day.
My first mini panic situation unfolds after we got off the train outside of Amsterdam, actually two. Sherri encouraged me to go ask a tenant which train/bus we should take to make it to our hotel – I felt like she was testing my capabilities to function on my own in a foreign land. Perhaps she was right to do. Either or off I go with hotel information in hand to a lady at a kiosk she looks at my papers and tells me this hotel is not in fact in Amsterdam but rather another town which I couldn't pronounce or remember to include in this sentence. My apologies. So naturally I go back to Sherri to announce like chicken little that the sky is in fact falling, hard and fast. Knowing Sherri booked our hotels last minute with a mix of Air Miles and credit cards I immediately assume she made a mistake in booking. A shit ton of questions immediately swarms my head – where the fudgesicle are we staying? How are we going to get there? Do we have to book a new hotel? Do we take a cab and how much is that going to cost? Sherri rolls her eyes at me and finds someone else to chat with – in fact there is no bus to take us to the hotel. Rather the hotel has its own shuttle to take us two and from the terminal which was all of 5 minutes away. I semi apologize to Sherri. Crisis diverted but by this point my blood pressure is through the roof.
We make it to the hotel and because we booked it with my credit card they need ID. No problem...I grab my passport, wait...where's my passport. Frantically I rip my purse apart in front of the poor hotel attendant and guests around. Kneeling on the ground I am about to pull every article of clothing out of my suitcase when I remember - in my previous chaotic state I put my passport in a new secure location, a secret pocket in my bag. Ohhh kay. We are good. *cue in foreshadowing music or some dooms day acoustics.
We spend our first official day in Amsterdam AND Sherri's birthday at the Sex Museum – by her choosing of course. Let's just say they had everything for everyone – shit I would never have even considered looking at or seeking out. Still frame porn – girl on girl, girl on guy, guy on guy, solo, and every group size imaginable. Also – 'yard-scaping' wasn't a thing back then...I'd say '70s chic' but take out the chic part. I know. Nightmares. Ancient sex toys, condoms, variations of S&M contraptions and a giant concrete shiny black penis in the middle of the room that stood nearly 9 feet tall - it was a jaw dropping experience. Sherri drank up every room like it was the best birthday present. I avoided eye contact with everyone.
All in all. It was a good day, we went on a lovely boat tour and I fell in love with the scenic views and architecture of the city. I ate my body weight in bulk candy which is actually nothing new for me and spent an hour in a cheese museum, purchasing my family and 'the Sexsmith' some delightful cheese balls. We of course felt like rebels after finding and purchasing cannabis chocolate only to find out later that it is just cannabis flavoured. Sherri and I purchased tulip bulbs - although that’s still a touchy subject for me. We ended up meeting with Sherri’s cousin who lives near Amsterdam who is just as fun and eccentric as Sherri but in her own way (she owns a lot of wigs). Venturing into unique stores and stopping at a XXX boutique so Sherri could get some presents for herself (we won't discuss) - Amsterdam was what you would expect it to be, the people and surroundings were captivating. The men dressed oh so well and the women…well I didn’t really notice them as much as how great the guys looked in their tailored jackets, fitted trousers and leather loafers. (Take a hint men in Saskatchewan! Seriously!!!)
Perhaps the most memorable sight seeing was the red-light district. Every shape, age and colour of female you could choose from. It was a lot of nudity for my prudish turtle necked self but in the middle of it all came a light, funny moment. In the window, a young and very attractive women trying to get the attention of a group of guys was smoking a very thickly rolled joint – taking in the biggest inhale something went horribly wrong because she ended up choking mid way and spent the next 10 minutes coughing, red faced and gasping. I don't know why I laughed so hard but honestly – I almost peed. We even did a walk back and forth and she was still visibly not great.
We left Amsterdam after evening drinks with a random pilot, some before bed giggles and a great breakfast at our hotel – especially the coffee. Off we were to Den Haag. Sherri was nervous about Ron and staying at the hotel. I was excited for a night in my own room and some chill days spent solo in coffee shops. Again - I love Sherri but my introverted self needed some alone time and an opportunity to speak to 'the Sexsmith' without censorship or Sherri’s funny (judgemental?) glances my way.
We arrived in Den Haag, and caught our train to our hotel - we would be staying at a chic boutique spot a ways from where Sherri’s classes were but only for one night. Once again maneuvering our luggage onto the train and off of it was a full body workout. We, by this point had more bags and stuff - weighing everything down. ‘Americans?’ someone asked as we body slammed our luggage onto the small opening of the city trains - I gaffed and said slightly annoyed ‘oh no no no, we are Canadians’. It was a slight ride to our first hotel and I was completely shocked by how many KFCs I saw. Mostly though, Den Haag was charming with more beautiful architecture and lots of greenery - and well dressed men!
We made it to our hotel and Sherri and I relaxed as once again we shared very close quarters in our room. It was basically two beds squished together - we were sleeping in the same bed pretty much. We went for a walk around the area and checked out the boutiques. I found a tasseled bra number I thought 'the Sexsmith' would appreciate. I think he was more confused by the picture though. The next day Sherri was off to her course while I slept in and was in no rush to do anything. I think I drank wine in the room for most of the day and did computer work until she arrived back to fetch me.
Downtown we went, and off to find our next hotel - immediately I’m laughing at all the cobble stone streets we will have to push and pull our suitcases down. I’m more cursing my own name as I rolled my ridiculously large luggage through uneven sidewalks and construction. I was starting to get nervous the more aggressive I became with my suitcase. It was old. I wasn’t sure how many more assaults it could take. I likely looked ridiculous and angry. I was all of those things. We immediately headed to Berry Rutjes' boutique, Sherri was taking a class through her as she was a well known European milliner. Her shoppe was everything you'd expect, chic as f*ck, tidy and smelling of fashion snobbery in the best way possible. I swooned. We hauled our luggage in the back and left it there while Sherri finished up her course. I needed a quiet place to work although was kindly invited to stay. Declining and off on my own I found a cozy coffee shop with the best cappuccino.
After the day was over we found Hotel Room 11/De BieB - our new home for about a week. Sherry was all nerves as she wasn't sure what to expect after many years of not seeing her past fling. I mostly needed a drink and at that point - a European thin cigarette. I checked us in as Sherri waited by the outside entrance, texting me, asking if I saw Ron - as if I'd really be able to notice who he was anyways. We plotted how we would find out if he was going to be at work later. I'm a horrible liar and never like to take part in this conspiracy work. Either or we got our answer and our hotel rooms keys. Looking at the steep but long stair cases – I half laughed and half died a bit knowing what it would take physically to get our luggage up the stairs. I think I actually peed a little while laughing as I pushed Sherri's suitcase and she pulled from infront. It was awful yet hilarious. My luggage survived as I heaved that huge piece of sh*t up what felt like 20 flights of stairs. I think it was only three. But basically a ladder going straight up though. We helped each other out and managed okay but knew someone in the Universe was having a great laugh at our expense.
That night we would stay in separate rooms. I had let Sherri choose which key she wanted for her room - figuring it didn't matter they would be the same. F*ck me. Nope. My brown horrific room was something out of a YWCA in the 70s. I was pissed. Sherri's cute pink European styled room was as delicate as could be. I needed wine to survive the night. Down we went back to the lounge. Constantly over-analyzing as she does, Sherri went back and forth between this being a great idea, it being a horrible idea and not caring. I drank. Ron arrived, Sherri went over and said hi and he sat at our table. He was clearly dumbfounded – I tried to be a polite friend, Sherri was more calm but excited and likely I think Ron never expected this reunion to happen. He bought us a drink, we stayed in the quaint bar/restaurant - I enjoyed the people watching, Sherri enjoyed the Ron watching. Admittedly I think she was transported back to her younger self in Australia, soaking up the wave of new love. Things were different yet, they remained close via letters all these years. We said goodnight to him and upstairs we went.
Since I imagined every 70s horror movie to begin or end in my room, sleep didn't really happen my first night in that hotel. Instead I pestered 'the Sexsmith' until he had enough of me and then I reluctantly shut my eyes and prayed for dreams of unicorns and teddy bears. I woke up that morning happy to be alive and not to see REDRUM written in blood on the walls. But to my dismay a different disturbing thing had happened – Ron K., Sherri's Ron had taken it upon himself to message me. It was from what I can remember fairly innocent although I knew telling Sherri wasn't going to be so great. As a fellow over analyzer I already knew what she would say, how she would spin it. Luckily there was no spark on my end. Without being rude...actually f*ck it I'm rude sometimes he reminded me of a wet rat. He was married, with children and had a friend who came to see him – I knew his intentions weren't honest and yet I played dumb.
The next week was a bit of a blur because I tried to remain steadily buzzed off Rosé…but this is what I know. We switched rooms to a better room – shared. I requested they not move my luggage in fear a handle would break – but the hotel insisted. And of course, one of the only two usable handles was now broken. This caused much panic for me. I continued to find reasons and non reasons to drink wine everyday as per myself induced stress relieving prescription. Ron continued messaging me late at night and the messages became progressively worse. It hurt me to see Sherri upset. I think she thought I enjoyed the attention – I did not. Not one bit. One night he kissed my shoulder while Sherri wasn't looking. I don't know if I ever did tell her that. It made my skin crawl – a feeling I was familiar with. I had a melt down on 'the Sexsmith' - distance, frustration and wine can cause these little ruffles in the road to happen. I met an older Italian male who stole my heart with his espresso skills – I visited and wrote in his coffee shop for two days, and two days I felt his affections via heart shaped cookies and heart shapes in my frothed milk. I too had a crush. Sherri and I smoked. We had fun. We laughed a lot. We ate a lot. We...or more like I drank a lot. We met amazing humans like the curator of the Givenchy exhibit at the Den Haag museum, a friend of Berry's. I melted in her presence. She was a delight. We gabbed like old friends and I secretly wanted that to be my life everyday. She was joking about Givenchy pretending one of his earlier designs was not his own because he despised it so. He was refusing to tell his staff or the museum staff where the accessories for the outfit were so it wouldn’t be displayed - it sounded like managing him was half the battle. In that moment I just didn’t want to leave - I wanted to stay forever.
The last day of Sherri's training I crashed their celebratory drinks after, I met Bridget Bailey who is a beautiful genius, a little eccentric but absolutely wonderful. Another milliner there - Daffy de Vyldre would soon become Sherri's 'Dirty Curty/Curtis Scissorhands/platonic life partner' - every woman needs one.
Our last night in Den Haag was bitter sweet. By this point I had to tell Ron off – Sherri and him had a weird interaction. He had thrown her out of his office and said some quite awful things as she just wanted to talk with him and apologize for any miss-communication. He was clearly not as excited about us being there as Sherri initially hoped. I had wanted her to see him as the garbage human I could see but she needed to experience that for herself. After their altercation he messaged me later that night. I went off on him. I knew he had my credit card information and I had to deal with his staff tomorrow for the room charges but I believe I made it very clear to him between swearing and calling him a piece of shit that there was no flirtation on my part and that the whole married with kids thing was so beyond disgusting to me that even if he didn't look like a dirty wet rat, and had I not had a really great guy at home there would STILL be no chance in any hell - not one. He didn't quite seem to catch what the big problem was. I blocked him from all social media – as he had taken to adding me on more than one. I shared the content of our discussion with Sherri. She deserved to see it. Luckily that chapter was now closed for her.
Back at the train station there was one thing after the next – Sherri didn't trust my judgement on where we came in from Amsterdam and where we need to go on our back track to Paris. She wasn't taking her thyroid meds regularly, causing some confusion as she wasn’t quite piecing everything together. It took me talking with a few agents to convince her where our route was. Then, news that a fire on one of the tracks prevented us from going the route we would need to go, we had to find an alternative AND catch our bus to Paris. Once again the Universe provided us with a stranger who had Canadian ties – helping us navigate trains and get us back to Amsterdam. Along the way, I dropped my glove – one of my favourite suede gloves would not make it back with me. That was the beginning of some very bad luck - or rather valuable learning lessons. We successfully got ourselves to Amsterdam but now needed to get ourselves to the bus terminal. Our new friend and some others caught a taxi to the bus terminal – it was close but we made it. Just barely.
Sherri and I did another 7-8 hour trip this time through Brussels arriving at our Paris bus terminal. It was late and we wanted to get to the hotel, we weren't going to chance the washrooms – but at the last minute we changed our minds. This will be one of my greatest regrets although I understand I can't do anything about it. As if a warning beforehand a gentleman walked up to me and asked me for some change. I lied to him and said I had nothing to give him. Oh the irony. Leaving my stuff behindfor Sherri to watch and/or taking it with me, I can't remember – somehow in the mix of things my money – credit cards and all its contents were stolen at the bus terminal. Silly me, I was in a rush and wasn’t thinking. We did not realize this until we were at our hotel. I was in full panic mode at this point. We back tracked - I ran full speed ahead from the metro station to the bus terminal up the incline and high tailed it to the ladies bathroom. It was closed and they would not let me in to check the bathroom. I was livid. Sherri trailed behind me and asked me what was wrong - the staff were getting testy as they thought I was accusing them of stealing. A lovely lady who was there and spoke both French and English tried to translate and help me get into the bathroom to check. Finally security came over, hearing the loud elevated voices and asked me what was wrong. I tried to tell them through my panic and tears. They let me into the washroom. Of course - nothing. I went outside to see if the man who asked me for money was still around. He was gone. I checked every dumpster and every trash can hoping to at least find my wallet to verify my fears. I wanted to puke. I was shaking. Close to crying. This sh*t doesn't happen to me in f'n Paris. Not my first overseas vacation. All of my Canadian and Euros – and cards off for someone to enjoy. (As I write this my blood still boils a bit). I was devastated. But, that was only the beginning of the next 48 hours which would test my sanity one small paper cut at a time.
After coming to terms with my stolen money and no cards I had done what any woman does, ensure everyone else was as miserable as me. I spent the rest of my evening on the phone with my mom who called my banks and credit card companies trying to be middle man as I Skyped her. Have to love my mother for dealing with an edgy daughter and trying to negotiate with the banks on her cell phone while I was on the land line (who even has one of these anymore!) - she even smushed her cell phone and the land line together so I could verify my identity to the agents. We froze my accounts and canceled cards. And as most parents do - my mom offered to transfer me money - which of course she did but I couldn’t accept as my accounts were on hold. I had told Sherri I would forward the transfer on to her and she could accept it into her bank account but we’d worry about that later. Sherri and I actually enjoyed our last day in Paris, we did some sight seeing and even though I felt impoverish my attitude quickly went to my zen space and I counted all the blessings I had. We went to a lovely restaurant so Sherri could have Duck Confit, a tradition. We settled on Le Saint Andre and Franc our waiter was smitten with Sherri. The two exchanged pleasantries while I devoured my meal like a vulture - with wine of course. We purchased art on the streets and I fell in love with handsome four legged Frenchie in the window of a pet store - I still think about his sad face. Sherri purchased some hat supplies at Schmid, we ran around the streets of Paris in the rain and all was right with the world our second last day in Europe. I needed a peaceful day to prep me for the crap shoot that was nearing our future. This is also a great entrance way to always remind people to follow their gut instincts. I have a bad habit of ignoring mine and it always comes back to bite me in the a$$ x 1000.
Sherri and I woke up bright and early, the plan was to transfer her money so she could take cash out for me – but of course we put this off as we are rushed to leave.It’s chaos trying to put all of the shit we had acquired in two weeks into our bags. My over sized suitcase was full to the brink and surely weighed more than when we arrived. I think at that point I had my ridiculously heavy suitcase, purse, a carry on and a shopping bag to maneuver as well. Sherri was in the same boat. I’m the last to pack and it wasn’t pretty - I did what I could and hope for the best. I laugh even typing that. We said goodbye to the hotel and suddenly notice a shuttle sign to the airport, we gave this like a 30 second consideration but then figure we both have our last metro ticket - let’s just use it and go. So off we go, my insides are nervous as I’m pushing and pull my suitcase I’m very aware this thing is on its last leg. The last handle does not push down anymore and the other two handles are completely useless. This isn't a great sign but we continue to the metro and maneuver through the gates with our luggage. Sherri and I both put in our tickets and off we go through the gates no problem. We are already on one train and moving to our next - half way there. All of a sudden - a stopping station with dogs and security. Immediately I don’t feel great about this. They are checking stubs - Sherri shows hers and is good to go, I show mine, nope my stub is invalid. I go through all of my stubs in my purse and not one will work. I negotiate with the lady – there is no way we could have snuck on the metro look at our bags! She won't hear it. I must have dropped it or it is at the bottom of one of my bags. They didn't care - it is a fine of $50 Euro. I refuse to pay and say this is ridiculous. The lady security guard is a total b*tch - they will detain me if I can’t cough up the money. I have stopped being kind. We exchange words as I explain we are on limited time and we don’t have money for the fine. She calls the Paris Police. Secretly I know Sherri is half delighted by this because truthfully Paris has some attractive officers on their team BUT this isn't the situation we need right now. Sherry and I stand there considering negotiating with the cops when they arrive but we don’t have time - between credit cards and cash/coin we give her everything we have which royally fudges us for our express bus passes we need to get us to the airport. We can’t do anything about it so we catch our next train and rush to get to the street to find wifi. Sherri and I both realize this might be a really f’n long day.
Back on the streets of Paris we are in desperate need of internet. A secure line for me to get into my email and forward Sherri an email transfer. We are mere minutes away from our express bus arriving – if we don't catch the next one we could be late for our flight and miss it. By this point Sherri is just as frazzled as me and has again forgotten to take her thyroid pills. She’s not thinking clearly and I’m already standing at the edge of a full on mental breakdown. We are both a razzle dazzle of nerves. We find a luxe hotel and beg like little dirt squirrels - asking them to give us access to their secure internet line. We are sweaty, gross, and look like bag ladies galore. Sherri tells them our sob story while I have lost all emotion in order to deal with this – I'm in robot mode. I transfer her money and she runs to the ATM. We see our express bus. We bolt as Sherri grabs the cash out of the machine - we see the crossing sign is flashing the last few seconds. Sherri makes it, I’m fumbling with my luggage feeling the last handle give way - SNAP! It busts mid way as I’m running in the middle of the street in Paris. I feel the handle in my hand but not the weight of the suitcase. The big piece of grey shit plastic falls behind me as I still clutch onto the broken handle looking utterly shocked. Cars are starting to drive past - honking at me. Sherri sees me stranded and runs back out - I figure this is it, this is how I die. Paris road kill. I can’t even speak - we fumble the plastic 1000lb suitcase across the street among angry drivers while everyone on the bus witnesses the chaos. The bus driver looks less than amused by his two guests. Apparently he can’t appreciate the humour in my luggage dead fishing it in the middle of downtown Paris traffic. To be honest in that moment I couldn’t find the humour in it either. We get on the bus and Sherri and I both find a seat in silence. We barely talk the whole ride to the airport. We are both too traumatized by the last few hours.
As we near the airport I realize we don't know which terminal we need to get off at. I ask the bus driver who tells me in English he only speaks French. I stand beside him confused. “I don’t speak English” he says so fluently that I wonder if he too is trying to mind f*ck me in this most sensitive of moments. I rephrase my question. His response doesn’t change. I go back and sit down next to Sherri who looks as stunned as me but tells me I have to figure this out because she can’t do any thinking at the moment. She can’t see the terminal number on the tickets. I ask to see them - as predicted we have already passed Terminal 1. I quickly stand up and ask the bus driver to stop. He looks at me and shakes his head. F*ck you Frenchie I think as I sit down. We get off on Terminal 2 - I kick my luggage off the bus. This time literally. People standing outside look startled. I struggle to get it back up while keeping my bags on my body. We get inside the airport and grab a luggage cart, we ask some friendly airport staff how to back track to our original terminal. It sounds complicated. We go as far as we can with the luggage cart and then ditch it when we realize it won’t work down the escalators. With no handles on my luggage I koala bear style it onto an escalator. I stay steady about half way down before it and I fall the rest of the way - it isn’t pretty. Sherri is a ways in front by this point and I’m wondering if she’s just trying to avoid being seen with me or trying to find our way so I can follow. I want to cry at this point but know it isn't a good time. The fall has caused me to cut open my hand – blood is now on my suitcase, clothing and all over my hand/arm which is the greatest accessory to go with my sweaty face, damp hair and utter look of despair.
It takes us nearly an hour to go down 3 escalators, 2 elevators and make our way to a shuttle train. I once again give Sherri a look. She is trying to talk to me but at this point it is all just way too much. We make it to our terminal and finally, excitement builds as I can hand off my luggage and move easily without the burden of this broken piece of sh*t suitcase that has been the vain of my existence since we arrived. Sherri goes first, and then my turn. I can’t get my luggage on the belt and the airline employee realizes it is broken - he can not accept my luggage, it has to get checked elsewhere - he points down the hall at a station with one male sitting, reading. “Fuck you” I whisper under my breath as I turn around and walk past the people in line – I'm not pleased by this extra effort. I walk down where I am shown and explain to the man why I'm there. No no he explains, he can't take this luggage it isn't broken enough (I'm serious this happened - like wtf extent does it have to be in to not accept it in the broken luggage area) – take it back he tells me. I stand there looking at him with dead eyes. I say nothing and turn around to walk back. I cut in line back to the first airline employee who once again tells me to go back and tell him he has to take my luggage. I walk half way and abandon my luggage with Sherri standing by it wondering if I will snap at any moment. I return back to the man reading and he once again tells me he can’t take my luggage, it can be checked by the airline like usual. I throw my hands up and walk nearing the first airline employee who sees me, I stop and yell from across the hall 'HE SAYS HE WON'T TAKE IT'. I'm now causing a scene. The man jumps from his station and the two have a chat – finally the first airline agent tells me he will take it but can't guarantee it will make it to Edmonton in one piece or at all. I tell him “good” and move past the rest of the crowd who all look at me like I have some transferable disease.
We pass through security - I get the wand search and some weird looks. I need a bathroom to wash the blood off me - I’m starting to look a Dateline NBC mystery murder suspect. I don’t truthfully care though. Sherri and I board our plane and out the window on the tarmac with no other luggage around I see my grey blob plastic suitcase laying there like some rejected kid at school during recess. I start to cry. I just want to go home.
After reversing our route and once again going through Iceland Sherri and I finally make it to Edmonton. We are nearly home free...I can almost feel the finish line. Remembering the way in which I packed my suitcase I was praying as we went through customs I wouldn't get checked. Sidenote, Sherri and I both had our periods on this trip and I had purchased the largest jumbo pack of tampons before we left for Europe - I’m not sure if I thought French women are so chic they don’t get their periods thus unable to purchase tampons at all but either or, I was left with a mass amount still to pack on the route home. The box no longer fit properly in the suitcase so I just poured the tampons around like confetti in my bag. They were everywhere. Also, having picked up some stuff in Amsterdam including faux marijuana chocolate, cheese, tulip bulps – I didn’t realize any of which would be a red flag when declaring it. But just my luck. Sherri waltzes through security, no one flinches. But this bloody mess that looks like she dragged herself up from a ditch? Yes me, yes they did a full on search with not just one male customs agent, but two.
As you can imagine by this point I want to find my car and get the fudgesicle back to Saskatoon – I was beyond tired and beyond capable of handling uncomfortable situations. The two younger male customs agents stood trying to make small talk as I watched them slowly open my broken suitcase. Immediately before even lifting it fully 3 tampons came tumbling out on the metal table. I didn't flinch - I was just waiting for the rest to pour out. “Oh, in a bit of a rush this morning?” - I replied “yup” as they continue to sift through the contents of my bags. Dirty clothes, more tampons, and squished gifts - they of course confiscate my bulbs and faux cannabis chocolate trying to explain to me why when all I can think about is how many bulbs Sherri still has in her suit case and all the chocolate she managed to leave with. Infuriated after my broken suitcase has just been dismantled they politely try to gather everything together and insist they will let me make it all fit again. Welcoming me back to Canada and asking me if I’m staying the night I reply “hell no” and throw my bags back on the cart. I find Sherri on the other side of the swinging doors and we both don’t say much. We find a shuttle to take us to the park and fly and off we go. Getting lost a few times out of Edmonton I drove the whole way – mostly in silence as Sherri slept and I replayed the last 48 hours in my head swinging from one emotion to the next letting myself get swept up in the situations over and over again. Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda. It's a dangerous game.
Sherri and I arrived in Saskatoon in the wee hours of the morning. I dropped her off hugged her and then didn't speak to her for nearly 2 months. More like 2.5 to be honest. We laugh now but at the time this 'care free' adventure was supposed to relieve me of the chaos back home but ironically I would have traded the last 48 hours in Paris for a more familiar shit pile. I had never been more happy to be back in Saskatoon.
In the moment I was swept away with such anger and resentment, how could this happen to me, why am I going through this bad luck but at the end no one was hurt, I am not starving from having my wallet stolen and I was able to keep my passport on me! I’m grateful for the opportunity to have gone, the experiences and people I met and all the goodness I felt while in some amazing cities. The truth is - the first week and a half of the trip offered me far more goodness than the last few days. I tell this story because it is funny and slightly unbelievable. There is a quote I love by Candace Bushnell or Carrie Bradshaw rather "The universe may not always play fair, but at least it's got a hell of a sense of humor." I adore that quote because it so applies to me. Life isn't fair - it's just life. Everyone's story is uniquely theirs - that's the point. We make of it as we do and want.
The Universe gives you nudges and hints that something chaotic could happen if you don’t/do - it is our internal cues that we sometimes ignore. This trip has taught me to really trust my instincts and to SLOW DOWN. It’s easy to be rushed and to just not think about things - but small errors can result in big ‘kick me’ moments later. Take a breather. Relax. Give yourself extra time for everything and if you feel something isn’t right - trust yourself.
Huge thanks to my lovely friend Sherri for being such an understanding travel partner and mama bear at times - especially when yelling at the bathroom attendant in Pairs. That was both shocking and awesome! I can’t wait to experience Europe with you again - this time with some lessons already learned and hopefully a much less anxiety clad friend.
#candaceandsherridodenhaag #candaceandsherridoparis #candaceandsherridoamsterdam #candaceandsherrieuropeanadventures #candaceandsherritakeovertheworld