Its now almost three months since I arrived in Paris and the time has just flown by. As I write this update it has just ticked over to 2013 in New Zealand and I wish you all a very happy and successful year. We have celebrated our first Christmas here in Paris with our daughter Katherine and her partner Steve visiting from Dusseldorf, and his mother, Angela and brother Evan coming over from Brighton (England). It was a real treat having family to share the occasion and we had great fun preparing a French style Christmas dinner. I’ll write more on the spectacle of Christmas in Paris later.
I am well settled into my new life here and loving it; I am a regular at the local boulangerie, at the butcher’s on Rue des Moines and the various market stalls there. Getting settled in has not been without its challenges as we stumbled through the bureaucracy that is part of everyday life here. Its not that the bureaucracy is all that bad, its just that vital details got lost in translation on occasion and before we knew it, the situation had all the fun of a minor debacle. Getting our boxes from the airport (CDG) freight division was one of those experiences.
A few days before I left NZ I had despatched the boxes with Cargo Central Ltd in Wellington (who were wonderfully helpful and everything occurred exactly as promised). On my first day home alone in Paris Derek received email confirmation that our boxes had arrived and could be picked up. He was offered the use of a vehicle from his work so we decided we’d go and collect the boxes ourselves. Reneylde, a kind French colleague came with us to retrieve the vehicle from the garage which was just as well as it required familiarity with the security system and intercom to get into the garage and then into the basement garage via the cave (basement storage area). The concierge was nowhere about at the time so Reneylde interrogated building residents for advice on how to get into the garage. I was even more glad we had her with us as we descended into the dark and narrow cave – it crossed my mind that if we were lost and trapped down there at least she could call out for help in perfect French. Phew, we located the vehicle and agreed it would be big enough to fit our boxes in. Next hurdle was to get it out of the garage via the extremely narrow corridor and through the exit barriers. Despite trying for some time to trigger the release of the barrier we were flummoxed. On the retreat back to Derek’s office to revise the plan we bumped into the concierge and found out the secret to triggering the barrier. However by then it was too late to attempt to go to the airport so we abandoned the mission for the day, mentally exhausted but a little wiser.
Day 2, attempt 2, Derek and I set off early, firstly into the garage and retrieved the vehicle. Yippee, already one step better than the day before. We were armed with a GPS and all our paperwork including the address for the freight pick up location. The trip out through central Paris and onto the peripherique was nerve wracking but uneventful and with excellent instructions from Ms GPS as to which motorway lane to take we found our way perfectly to the almost correct spot in the cargo zone of CDG. I say almost because in our excitement at actually reaching the cargo zone we neglected to take note of exactly which of the many France Handling buildings we were supposed to attend. We found a busy office and I managed to ask in my less-than-perfect French for advice and established we were just a hundred metres from our correct destination. On we went and found the right building. We spotted what appeared to be the right door and sailed in, papers in hand and my spiel in French ready in my head. Unfortunately we stumbled into one of the correct offices we needed to visit. Again, I say unfortunately because we had accidentally got ourselves to the second correct office before we had found the first correct office; sequence is very important. So when the kind official who signed off our paperwork told us to go back to the first office we had come from we did just that and went back to the office we had come from. Wrong office! However, despite the stories of the French being unhelpful we were inundated with helpful advice, in a mixture of fast French and halting English, from a bunch of chaps outside wrong-office-number-1. One chap offered that he would come with us and take us to the right place, which he did. For the next ten minutes he made it his mission to help us get our boxes, striding ahead and shepherding me through all the steps to complete our paperwork. Of course the correct office-number-1 was not even a stones throw from where we had been at office-number-2, but was hidden behind a large freight truck parked in front. If only we had stumbled into the correct doorway………..??
My French withstood the next round of questions and eventually I was despatched to the yard to wait for the forklift driver to bring our boxes. Hurrah. Merci beaucoup to Monsieur Helpful. Back to the apartment and we park French style pretty much across the nearby pedestrian crossing to unload the boxes and hump them down the corridor into the tiny lift, one at a time, extricate them and into the apartment. Mission completed, mentally exhausted again but wiser still for the experience.
It would all have been much easier if we hadn’t tripped up the process. We live and learn.