Final post about my European vacation LAST AUGUST
I'm the kind of person who gets all excited if I run in to someone I know at the local Walmart. I am thrilled to no end if I'm lucky enough to get to meet up with friends in any of the local so. Cal cities in my area..so imagine my delight when I found out that we were going to be in Paris at the same time as one of my oldest and dearest friends!
I have known my friend, Greg Parvin, since my first day of high school. We were..(cough..cough..)highschoolmarchingbandgeeks together. He and his beautiful wife Jodi, were planning a trip to Paris to celebrate Greg's 50th birthday. They had a full schedule of touring and sight seeing and we were very lucky to get our schedules to coincide for even a few hours.
Of course we made no concrete plans in advance, (a huge habit of mine that drives IMOM nuts), so I was very happy when my phone rang that afternoon in Paris and I heard a familiar voice say, "BONJOUR!" It is hard to explain how funny it is when your friend, who grew up with you in the Mexican 'hood' of La Puente, who's only french lessons came off of 'YouTube', attempts to speak French. His enthusiasm made up for any lack of actual French speaking skills, but at least his skills didn't start and stop with "SACRE BLEU!", like ours did. (Greg did admit to us that his attempt at speaking French did back fire on him at least once on their trip to Paris...when he tried to fake his way through ordering dinner in French and wound up with salted cod on his plate. This, if I'm not mistaken is one of those dinners where you basically have a whole fish on your plate, head, skin, scales, and eyeballs.!!)
We agreed to meet up at a particular restaurant at 7:00 pm. Most people in Paris don't even think about eating dinner until 10:00 so we thought we'd be in like Flynn without making reservations. The joke was on us. The bistro turned out to have about 5 tables in it and they were all taken and there was a waiting list that would have put us at the table in a mere few hours. It was a hot and muggy evening and the idea of waiting all that time for dinner didn't appeal to any of us so we wandered around the streets of Paris until we found a restaurant that could accommodate two non meat eating diners, seat us immediately, inside and had air conditioning.
It's amazing how much one will compromise their demands the later and the hotter it gets. By the time we found a place that had 5 empty seats I was willing to eat cigarettes for dinner. The restaurant had a table for 5 so we marched right in. You know that amazing blast of cold air that hits you when you go inside of an establishment after you've been out in the sweltering heat?? Well, this restaurant didn't have that. In fact most places in Europe do not have anything in the realm of A/C. And they do not like to put more than 1 ice cube in your drink either, so I don't know how they manage to cool off. Most of the people sitting around us looked fine. We, on the other hand were all red in the face and ready to start discarding clothing
I can't remember what we ordered but every dish was different than we had pictured it. Rebekah and I got what they called ravioli but when it arrived it looked more like macaroni and cheese. It was very yummy but sadly the "ravioli" was about the size of a moon pie. It tasted good with the wine the Parvin's picked out and since the dinner was so little I was able to save room for tira misu. This was presented to me in a high ball glass! I had my doubts about eating cake out of a glass but I needn't have worried. It was heavenly. Sadly, Greg ordered some fancy pineapple desert that the rest of the table was going to share. I tell ya...we laughed and laughed when that plate arrived with a simple quartered pineapple with the tag still on the leaves. No cake, no whipped cream...no powdered sugar. We all agreed that we kind of thought of Paris as the place where you get fancy deserts. Sadly, the tag on the pineapple was as fancy as it got. I have a feeling that this story is one of those where you just had to be there...We spent the evening laughing our heads off but as I try to look at this event from an outsiders view...it's not very funny. Well, hopefully the Parvin's will read it and it will make them smile.
This next part is a little less "you had to be there"...
The next day we got on the train and headed back to London. We did as much sight seeing as my screaming foot would allow. IMOM had to leave to go back to California 2 days before we did and we only got to see him for a very brief moment the night before he left. So we were on our own for a day and a half before we had to get out of Dodge. Tori, Rebekah and I had a decent amount of English pounds left over and there was enough change in our pockets to almost warrant a wheel barrow. So what do you do when you have scads of foreign money and nothing but time? Of course you spend, spend, spend it with reckless abandon.
The day that we were supposed to leave we got up early and packed our bags. It was a tight squeeze but we still managed to get everything in our original 3 suitcases. We bid a fond farewell to our lovely apartment, squeezed in to the tiny elevator and checked out of the hotel. We weren't supposed to catch our plane until later in the afternoon so we left our luggage at the concierge desk and went to have one last leisurely look at London.
We had walked past this one particular restaurant several times during our stay and I decided that that was where we would have our last meal on this glorious vacation. It was called, "The ha ha Cafe", and we spent a good long time yukking it up.. Oh the fun we did have! Laugh, laugh, hardy har har. Good times galore....hoopla abounded....How fun it was...
And then for some reason I thought to check the paperwork I had in my purse that had all of our flight details on it. I looked at the paperwork and I thought that I had to refocus because I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. Have you ever really, truly, honestly had a moment in your life where your heart makes that boiiinnnng, striking a timpani sound that causes you to actually shake your head?? Well this was one of those moments. The paper work said that our flight was scheduled to leave at 12:00 PM. It was 3:00 PM there in the ol' ha ha Cafe in down town London, England. Even as I write this, 5 months later, I still get that sick feeling in my stomach when I realize that I had to tell Tori and Rebekah that a huge error has been made and even though they all had the same paperwork that I had and they had the same opportunities to check flight times as I did...I was the official tour guide of this vacation and thus I had dropped the ball. And in this case the ball was made of lead and I dropped it right on my own head. I looked up at them and I didn't know if I was going to laugh or cry when I told them..."This just in...we missed our flight."
Even though our first day back was supposed to be Rebek's first day of her senior year she was JUBILANT. "YES!!!", she shouted. She loves Europe as much as I do and I really think that she would have gladly stayed there for an extended amount of time given the opportunity.
Tori just sat there looking at me seething. Our first day back was also supposed to be Jake's very first day of kindergarten and now she was going to miss it. In this picture you can see that she was beginning to either plan my immediate demise or maybe she was beginning to see the adventure unfolding.
When we got to the hotel we all started talking at once and I am pretty sure that that was as close to the Three Stooges that the concierge ever hoped to be. Tori went and stood outside to seeth and Rebek and I continued to try to talk to the concierge. I gave her my flight paper work and she immediately got on line and tried to see if there was any possible way to get us on our flight. I pointed out to her that the plane had departed over 3 hours earlier so she started looking for any other flights leaving for Los Angeles that night. While doing this she had also called American Airlines and had a brief, yet very meaningful conversation with a ticket agent. She smiled as she hung up the phone and told us..."You didn't miss your flight...your flight is tomorrow." So this whole tragedy stemmed from the fact that I didn't know what day of the week it was. Ahhh, the relief I felt knowing that Tori was going to get to take her baby to his first day of school and I wasn't going to have to call my boss and tell her that I would be needing to take an additional day of vacation until I realized that we were now officially homeless. We had already checked out of our hotel and my credit card was beyond maxed. I couldn't have bought a piece of gum on credit at that point.
Tori, Rebekah and I pooled our money together and with the exception of the money I had put aside for our taxi ride to the airport we had...drum roll please...35.00 Pounds Sterling. I asked the hotel manager, who had been standing there watching this whole thing unravel, if there was any room, any room at all, even a closet or an empty ballroom that we could use for one night and he said no. I was actually getting up the nerve to ask the concierge if we could go home with her when the manager said that he would see what he could do for us. He called around and finally found us a room at the Holiday Inn right next door to the London-Heathrow airport. We thanked him profusely for all of his "help", (but I still think that it wouldn't have killed him to find us a room in his hotel. I'm curious to wonder if he thought if he did give us a room did he think that we were going to go put the word out on the street that if you stay in his hotel in a very nice room for 9 days then cry alligator tears to the manager they will let you have a room for an additional night for the nice price of 35 pounds???)
We took a taxi to the Holiday Inn and I saved what little money I had left by not giving the driver a tip. (believe it or not...in London..taxi drivers do not expect tips so this wasn't a shock to the driver.) We checked in to our teeny weeny room and all breathed a sigh of relief. Here is a picture of Tori reading our flight information for about the 100th time just to make sure we had finally gotten it right.
We had one double bed and a cot squeezed in to a room that is about the size of most American walk-in closets but none of us were complaining. We spent the evening playing cards and reciting our favorite "Family Guy" one liners. (If you ever want to make Bek laugh just sing Peter Griffin's version of "The Little Drummer Boy"...)
We took a little walk around town and thanks to the fact that Tori had found a hidden 10 pound note we were able to have a festive dinner at the local McDonalds. This McDonalds had mozzarella sticks so Rebek and I were actually able to partake in a dinner at the most carnivorous restaurant on the planet. On the way back from McDonalds we found a little store that sold our favorite English treat, "Nobbly Bobbly" ice cream cones.
The next day when we checked in at the airport we were surprised to discover that IMOM had upgraded our seats from business to first class. That was an unexpected treat and I'm glad that Tori and Rebek got to have that experience. Of course now I fear that from now on when ever Rebek gets on a plane she is going to expect someone to hand her a mimosa and a bowl of warmed nuts.