Ce train ne va qu’au Port Royal

I booked a flight for Vienna a while ago. Because I’m cheap, I didn’t book any check in luggage. Turns out 8 kilo really isn’t much. I did pack knickers this time, but no second pair of shoes nor anything warm. I also decided to leave all the presents behind for Gergö to bring along when he joins me. He isn’t as cheap as me and booked a flight with check in luggage. But he stays less than a week, because he wanted to avoid the expensive Sunday prices.

My flight left on Tuesday at 9 pm. I left for the airport with plenty of time to spare. At 6:21 pm I was on the lovely air conditioned RER to the airport. About ten minutes later I was bathed in sweat because the air condition didn’t stand a chance against the heat and the amount of people joining us. Besides, the train was really slow and it didn’t take long for an announcement of delays on our line. Technical difficulties between Gare du Nord and the airport. The train will terminate in Port Royal. I’ve never heard an entire train of French people make that disappointed “Nawwww!” before.

The train driver suggested to get out at Denfert Rochereau, which has lots of metro connections, but I hesitated. By the time we were in Port Royal though it was 7:21. It should have takes about 20 minutes instead of an hour. I checked alternatives but the airport bus takes an hour from the city center which was still far away by then. So I decided to get a cab instead.

When I had flagged down a taxi on the street and told the driver where I need to go and by what time, he actually said “Oh la la!”. He seemed more nervous than me, which in turn made me more nervous. He told me the price (55€), checked the traffic information on his tom-tom and gave everything. We crossed at least one red light and honked our way through the étoile. He really leaned on the horn when a car blocked our way at a crossing. All the while he told me stories of how he is usually lucky when it comes to close calls. It was the last ten minutes or so when I started to get really nervous. You know, when after a highway you have to slow down again and everything seems to go in slow motion.

My fear was unfounded, though. We arrived with about 15 minutes to spare until boarding. I had forgotten how close the drop off point for cars is to the terminal (compared to the train station). I also realised about half way to the airport that I only had about 25 € in cash on me, so I asked if the cabbie accepted cards. Of course not. Cheques on the other hand are no problem. When I explained that I didn’t have any cheques, he suggested I get the money at the airport ATM, but we both weren’t sure if there was one. Alternatively, he suggested I give him as much cash as I have and post the difference to him by cheque. When I said that I don’t even have a single cheque he was quite surprised. He gave me his address to send the money by post but also accompanied me to the airport terminal. The ATM was about 10 metres from the entrance. I was so nervous about missing my flight, I even asked the guy ahead of me in the queue if I could skip ahead  in the line. I still have the cab drivers address in my purse somewhere and have vague plans of sending him a thank you postcard from Vienna.

Inside the terminal I was suddenly alone and didn’t need to pretend to be calm anymore. I actually ran the serpentines of the empty security queueing area. The queue consisted of one (1) single person. He waited patiently to be called to the security check while I danced around nervously behind him. I managed to skip ahead and gain valuable 10 seconds or so while he took of his belt. Then I harangued a woman who blocked the place where the luggage comes out of the x-ray machine to move out of the way. I walked out of the security check with 10 minutes until boarding and no gate announced yet.

It was only about then, that it sank in that I would not miss my flight. Despite the air conditioned cab and airport building I was sweating heavily and used the waiting time to buy an iced shake.

While I cooled and calmed down I messaged Gergö who had been following the drama from afar. Upon boarding I met the woman from the security check again, this time checking my boarding pass and ID and was relieved I had been apologetically nervous and even remembered French at this point in my journey.

We needed to take a bus to the plane. In true fashion I have come to associate with Parisians but have to accept is really everyone everywhere, people stepped on to the bus and then stopped walking. More people tried to get on, but nobody moved out of the way and further into the bus. Not even when airport staff asked and waved and made pushing movements with their hands. It took at least five minutes until people seemed to accept that we wouldn’t leave unless they let the remaining 10 or so people board the bus. When the bus stopped at our plane they didn’t open the doors, though, but waited with closed doors.

This lead to a red man in a pink shirt shouting the word “air condition” at the bus driver, who nodded his head but left all the doors closed. They started letting people off the bus in small groups and only by the front door. I assumed it was the revenge for taking so bloody long to board a bus. At some point they agreed to open the doors but asked everyone to only leave by the front door. That way we had a bit of air circulating. A guy in shorts, high brown socks and ugly sandals tried to sneak out though and was told off and sent back. Which confirms all my preconceptions of men wearing socks in sandals with belted shorts.

The flight was uneventful and arrived on time. I spent it sitting with my feet on top of my little purple wheelie suitcase because all the overhead compartments were full. After landing and firing up my Austrian SIM card, I learned that there had been no trains between Gare du Nord and the airport until at least 10 pm, because there was a fire that was thought to be arson. Apparently somebody tried to steal cables from a substation and tried to cover the theft up with arson. (I might be getting the details wrong, because at this point I was still coming down from quite a lot of adrenaline).

Since landing in Vienna I spent a lot of time picking up nieces from the kindergarten and walking them home in midday heat. I didn’t regret leaving my sneakers and hoodie at home, yet. The park across from my sister’s flat is finally open and she has a small spot in a community garden, where I took the image of the full moon rising over Vienna. In reality it was huge and red and much more impressive.

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