Wednesday, July 11, 2007

packing bags and closing accounts

About two weeks ago Beth and I did a prepack...we pretended that we were leaving the next day and we packed all our stuff. The point was to make sure we could fit it all in our valises and come in under the 22 kilo weight limit too. We borrowed our neighbor's bathroom scales and went to work. Remembering my sister-in-law's advice on rolling clothes instead of folding them we succeeded, barely. Interestingly, because we packed books in a couple of the smaller bags they all weigh the same thing...22 kilos. The only hitch in our rather uncharacteristic display of advance preparation is the fact that all this was two weeks ago. We hadn't anticipated for example the clay roof tile with the water color rendering of the bassin d'Arcachon that would be given to us as a goodbye gift or the distressingly large white unicorn given to Tess, not to mention a handful of other small objects that have crept into the equation. Tomorrow we pack for real.
We managed to find homes for a bike trailor, a couple of scooters, some soccer balls, and an inflatable trampoline. We've taken two or three bags of clothes to the local secondhand clothing store. While closing accounts here I ran into a glitch with the mobile phone provider. They had sold me a two year contract with the explicit assurance that I'd be able to escape the contract for the reason of leaving the country. When I attempted to do that last month however I was told that I needed documentation, proof, of my need to leave. I had a very annoying phone conversation with a man who seemed not all interested in giving me the benefit of the doubt. I ended up faxing him a copy of my letter of intent to return to my high school which I happened to have in my records here. Inexplicably, two weeks ago our phones stopped working utterly. No signal. We had been terminated as far as I could tell even though I had requested service up until we got to Paris. Hardball, I thought to myself. Ok. Then yesterday I got four letters from the mobile phone provider. Unfortunately for me I opened them in the order they were sent hoping that a chronological order would lend some sense and context to the contents, whatever they turned out to be. Letters one and two (we have two phones, each one necessitating a letter apparently) acknowledged regretfully my request for contract cancellation and then announced, regretfully, that it would be impossible to satisfy my request owing to the conditions of the contract. It ended on a cheerfully upbeat suggestion that I reconsider continuing my services with them. While swearing in at least three languages I opened letters three and four. They were nearly identical to letters one and two, that is to say equally regretful, both these two included a sentence accepting my request for termination but they also added that my bank account would be automatically billed up through July. I laid the four letters on the table in front of me. Beside them I lay the dead phones...the horror of it all, the kafkaesque horror. I had to laugh. There was only one thing to do. I went to the bank and closed my account. They would get no more money from me.
We're headed for Paris the day after tomorrow, gonna catch the Bastille Day parades and fireworks, take the kids up the Tour Eiffel, sail little toy boats at the Jardin du Luxembourg, have fun at the amusement park in Bois de Boulogne, see the Cit
é des Sciences in the Villette and see real dinosaur skeletons at the Jardin de Plantes...
Somehow we're going to transport ourselves and eight bags Friday morning to a nearby bus stop in Lege. Then it's on to the train station Gare St. Jean in Bordeaux and a three hour ride on the TGV to Paris on the eve of Bastille Day. I don't know how many taxis we'll need to get ourselves and our stuff to our hotel in the 17th. Once we get to our hotel I only hope we can find space for our bags... we may have to sleep on top of them. It is a dirt cheap two star hotel. We'll be sharing a bathroom with three or four other rooms on our floor...we'll see. I think there's a bar down below with live music, oh and did I mention that we're within easy walking distance of the red light district?... actually we're practically in the red light district. Trust me when I say it was this or Jim Morrisson's last hotel, a dive in the Latin Quarter (I'm not kidding). Paris is booked and plus they just don't offer sleeping accomodations for four people in one room.
Five nights later a private shuttle is picking us up and taking us to the airport and we are flying home. It sounds fatiguing, I guess, but coming over here last year we did the whole enchilada without staying overnight anywhere...that was brutal. At least this way we're breaking the trip into two parts.
Mostly we're counting on good weather to allow us to spend a lot of time outside. Saturday night there will be fireworks at the Tour Eiffel to celebrate July 14. We're not sure how close we're going to try to get to them. That same day in the morning there is a a large traditional military parade in which the national pride is exercised by every branch of the French armed services. Highlights include a flyover by fighter jets in formation trailing the French tricolors (blue, red, and white) over the heads of the spectators along the Champs Elys
Also the final units of the parade are the famous Legionaires who apparently march to a very different drummer. They are last because they are the elite troops, and also because their style of march is very theatrical and very slow. Apparently, the Champs Elysée is closed the evening before the parade and rehearsals take place at around three in the morning. I've been told to notice the bleary-eyed expressions on the soldiers as they pass by in the late morning parade.
more later,


Anonymous CreditGirl said...

Hey guys! You are so responsible! To pack bags in advance to see that everything actually fits in!-That's very impressive, I should do so as well, to be honest, I always do it on the spot! And then if it does not fit in, I through half of useless cloths I have packed away!

9:24 PM  

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