Yesterday was supposed to be an easy, relaxing travel day from Paris, France to Salzburg, Austria. It almost began in disaster.
The major airport outside Paris–the LAX of France, if you will–is the Charles De Gaulle airport. Our flight left at 8:45 am, so we got a taxi at 6:00 and drove the 45 minutes out of the city to the airport.
My grandma said a very wise thing to me before I left on this trip. She said, “Enjoy every minute of it. Even on the disastrous days, enjoy it. Those will be the stories you bring home.” It’s so true.
We went to the wrong airport.
We were supposed to be at Orly, a small airport on the other side of Paris. On our way out to Charles De Gaulle, we had seen a major accident coming the other direction, and I was thankful that we weren’t stuck in that traffic. Well, now that was in play, as we would have to come back the other direction.
On top of it, our taxi driver, albeit very nice, spoke very little English. This left us trying to communicate with a confusing mix of English, French, and hand motions. We understood that he knew a different way to get from Charles De Gaulle to Orly, and he would take us that way.
It was on the way to Orly that his car started to break down.
Cars in Paris–or Europe in general–are very different from our cars in the US. Everything is very small, and the cars are no exception. I understand the reason for this after traveling through the middle of Paris. Some of the streets are 500 years old and were made for horses and carriages–the cars must be small. Even their fire engines and dump trucks are miniature. The other thing about European cars is that every one I’ve been in is a stick shift. It’s rather radical to see the taxi drivers swerving down narrow streets, avoiding bicycles and pedestrians, and shifting gears the whole time.
Our taxi’s first gear went out. That meant that if the driver went down to first gear, the car would sputter and die. Basically, we couldn’t slow down. That was fine while we were on the auto routes (French freeways), but when we got off onto surface streets near the airport, it became difficult.
Then his second and fourth gears went out. He was driving us to the airport with only a third and fifth gear.
We got there, but just barely. He was going to have to get a tow truck to move him any farther. We (and our luggage) made it onto the plane, and we are now safely in Austria.
Here’s to traveling, to close calls, and to making it safely onto the flight you were scheduled for originally.