paris arcI’m back from a quick flit up to Paris. Not in my private jet to buy a pair of those €5760 Chanel trousers I told you about in my recent post about mine and Caiti’s recent trip to the City of Light! I know I feel like a footballer’s wife in the summer when I’m having dips in our pool, but that’s as far as it goes. I trundled up and down in our good old Renault.

Caiti starts her ‘piscine’ – trial period – for the computer coding learn-as-you-go course at 42 in Paris tomorrow (15th). We had everything planned out – train ticket booked, hotel booked, things vaguely packed – and then on the 12th there was that horrific train crash at Bertigny-sur-Orge to the south of Paris. That’s on the main route to the south-west, which is our route. It was soon obvious how serious it was and news soon came that the station would be shut for three days. The SNCF website on Saturday morning advised people not to travel to Paris and said that all reserved tickets would be reimbursed.

So she’d have to get to Paris by car, but when? Yesterday, 13th, was one of the busiest days on the road in France. Every Saturday in summer is madness with all the holiday traffic, from home and abroad, and this weekend was set to be one of the craziest. I wasn’t sure I was up to coping with traffic jams and crowded services. However, we had a look on the net and it showed that it was the southbound motorways that were busiest. And if we didn’t set off till late afternoon the traffic should be quietening down. We had changeover jobs to do anyway in the morning, and Caiti still had to pack properly!

We set off at 3.30pm and had a good run, with a pleasant stop for ice-cream – until we got into Paris. It was all Bitchin’ Betty’s fault.

Let me explain. Bitchin’ Betty is our satnav, so named because she can’t half nag. If you deviate from the route she has meticulously planned for you, she doesn’t stop trying to get you back onto it for at least half an hour! Also, there’s a road very close to us that isn’t on the maps so when you drive along it, you’re in a grey roadless void on Betty’s screen and she whines at you to drive back onto the road!

eiffel tower leany picWe needed to get to the Inner Ring Road, the périphérique, because the Formule 1 we’d book for Caits was slap bang next to it at St Ouen. I’d looked at the map and it appeared we’d have an easy journey there along motorways and linking roads. No hassle. But Betty had other ideas. She sharply directed me to leave the nice big, fast road I was on and next thing I knew we were merrily driving through the centre of Paris with everything that involves – impatient co-drivers, multiple lanes of determined traffic and that sinking feeling that coping with a busy foreign city brings.

However, I was a sales rep back in the day and tackled all the big cities in the northern half of the UK and Scotland and I haven’t forgotten that experience. I learned then not to show fear so I gritted my teeth and gripped the steering wheel a little harder than usual and slipped into assertive city driving mode. And with Caiti keeping a sharp eye out to help me we negotiated our way back to the ringroad, at one point popping under the Arc de Triomphe along one of the underpass sections!

To be fair, Betty got us to the hotel, but she dumped us. She’d done her job and was off for some ‘me’ time, probably feeding the cat and having a cup of tea. We’d driven along Ave de Docteur Babinski (whom I have taken an irrational dislike too since I don’t like his road!) past the hotel before realising we had. We were both on sensory overload with digesting her directions, looking out for psychotic road users and generally coping with Paris. So now we were in Paris without Betty with absolutely nowhere to even pull in for a few moments to either scream, hyperventilate, get my head together, or smash Betty into smithereens – but ideally all four.

Anyway, as Churchill said, “When you’re going through Hell, keep going”! So I did, since there was evidently no alternative. I blundered blindly on and vaguely tried to do a loop so we could have a go at retracing our steps while Caiti the unflappable took over with the hardware and coaxed Betty back into work mode. She sounded grumpy though! I think we’d made her miss her favourite soap opera. We got back to the hotel but couldn’t see anywhere to park. It suddenly occurred to me that when we’d booked the hotel, we hadn’t looked to see if it had parking since it was only meant to be for Caiti who’d be getting there by train and then metro. Quite possibly hotels in Paris don’t have parking, I didn’t know! So I warned Caiti I’d probably have to pull in illegally somewhere for a few minutes so she could grab her stuff and jump out while I disappeared into the depths of Paris, most likely never to be seen again. The plan had been I’d stay with Caiti overnight since she had a twin room and it wouldn’t cost extra for me to join her for one night.

There was a sort of space which some bloke jumped into when he saw me eying it, presumably saving it for his mate, but I half pulled in anyway for Caiti’s quick disembarkment. However, at that moment Caiti spotted a sign to the hotel’s underground car park. Yippee! Aware it would probably cost an arm and a leg, but not caring, we drove out of the nightmare streets into the depths of the hotel. Phew!

paris louvreWe arrived about 8pm, collapsed for ten minutes, phoned home, then hit the streets to find 42, which is Boulevard des Bessieres. It’s about 1.5 km from the hotel, along nice wide, safe boulevards so Caiti will be fine getting there and back on her own. We could see rows of gleaming new Macs waiting for Caiti and her fellow pisciners. All very exciting.

We didn’t get much sleep. With it being 13th July, kids were letting off fireworks in the tiny public park opposite our room, and then at 11pm a huge and very noisy firework display started up. I watched out the window for a while but couldn’t see much, but we could sure hear it! It went on and on and on – at least an hour. Now, I’m a fan of firework displays and went to plenty as a child in the UK, but this was slightly OTT, even for a national celebration. I couldn’t help thinking the second half hour of the show was on the unnecessary side. The whole of Paris had already been woken up! Half the amount of fireworks would have done fine with the rest of the firework fund going on, I don’t know, books for local schools or a small hospital wing or something. There was an awful lot of money going up in smoke – pretty smoke, but smoke none the less.

After breakfast at the hotel, and having planned my route using the road atlas, I gave Caiti a goodbye hug and hit the scary roads of Paris. By ignoring Betty I had a very easy run along the ring road to the A6. I got a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and saw at least 40 cops on motorbikes zooming along the opposite carriageway in formation.

I got home safely, thank goodness, and like last time, very happy to leave city life behind me. However, Caits will have a brilliant few weeks, I’m sure.

These Paris pics are from when I went up with Caiti in January 2012. Too stressed to take any on this visit!