This morning in Paris and in Saint-Denis, just on the northern edge of the city and not far from CDG airport, some kind of stand-off between French police anti-terrorism forces and suspected members of the terrorist group that struck last week is under way. That's what I'm seeing on TV after turning it on to catch the weather and news at 7:00 a.m. The scene is one of dozens of red fire department vehicles with lights flashing, white SAMU ambulances, police cars, and riot police in black uniforms crowded into narrow streets before sunrise this morning, near the big Saint-Denis church where so many French kings are buried.
I made it back to France just fine. In fact, it was one of the easiest trips ever. My short flight from New Bern NC to Atlanta arrived on time. I rode the people-mover train at the Atlanta airport over to the international terminal to find the gate for my Air France flight to Paris, arriving an hour before the scheduled departure. Boarding was already under way, which surprised me. I got in line and was soon seated on the plane, a big Boeing 777.
We pulled away from the gate on time at 6:15 p.m. and we were quickly in the air. Less than eight hours later, we had landed at Roissy-CDG airport, in the rain. When we disembarked, we found ourselves outdoors, where a fleet of buses waited to drive us around for several miles around the airport on our way into Terminal 2E. There, the lines at passport control were relatively short, and very quickly I found myself in the baggage claim area. After some searching, I finally found the right conveyor belt and suitcases from the Atlanta flight started coming out. Mine was among the first ten to appear.
The TGV (high-speed train) station is close to Terminal 2E where Air France flights from North America arrive, so it was a quick walk. I looked for a pay phone along the way, and I found one, but it swallowed a couple of euros in change that I stuck into it but never allowed me to dial our home number so that I could talk to Walt and tell him I had arrived in plenty of time to catch my train down to Tours. I pushed my baggage cart onto an elevator and descended the two floors down to the TGV station to see if I could find a working phone down there. No luck.
By then it was about 9:30 and I had 45 minutes before my train was to leave the station. I went back upstairs in the airport level and looked again for a phone. Finally, I found one and was able to connect with Walt. Back downstairs — thank goodness that those elevators were working and would accommodate me and my luggage cart — I stood around for another 30 minutes waiting for my train to be announced. It eventually was, and at 10:16 a.m. I and my bags were on a train that wasn't at all crowded.
Everything was going smoothly, and I couldn't quite believe it. The train runs on tracks outside the city around the east and south sides, and and it goes fairly slowly through built-up areas. The first stop is at Marne-la-Vallée, outside the Euro-Disney theme park. The train came to a halt on the tracks before we got there. We sat for a few minutes, and then a woman's voice came on the intercom to tell us that a suspicious package that might contain explosives had been found inside the Marne-la-Vallée train station. We'd have to wait until the police bomb squad could get there to defuse it if necessary or declare it not a danger. Trains were creeping by in the opposite direction from ours.
Fifteen minutes later came an announcement that our train wouldn't stop at Euro-Disney after all, but ride quickly through the station and continue on to Tours and Bordeaux. People headed to Marne-la-Vallée would have to ride on to the next station and then get a train back to their destination later. We rolled on slowly toward the Gare de Massy, but then the train stopped again before we got there. A passenger speculated that maybe there was also a suspicious package in the Massy station. A train rolled by on its way east, and a different passenger said that maybe it was people on the trains going by in the opposite direction who were leaving the suspicious packages in the stations along the way. There was much laughter.
The train finally started moving slowing again, stopped at the Gare de Massy. A third passenger made some wisecrack about having to ride on a TGL — a Train à Grande Lenteur — all the way to Bordeaux. But after Massy, our TGV built up speed and we cruised at high speed through the emerald green countryside between Paris and Tours. We were 30 minutes late arriving, and Walt was waiting on the platform. He and I had an uneventful drive home under rainy skies, arriving about 20 hours after I left Morehead City. I hadn't slept at all. Walt had a pot of coq au vin waiting on the stove. All I had to do was start unpacking my cases and then sit down at the table and enjoy a warm, delicious lunch.
I took Callie out for a walk in the rain at about 5:00 p.m. Then I slept like a lead weight (comme un plomb) from 8:30 p.m. until 7:00 this morning. It's time to go walk the dog again right now. Whatever is happening up at Saint-Denis this morning seems very far away from Saint-Aignan