Leaving Paris is never easy.
Normally, I reserve my last two days for goodbyes to friends, and goodbyes to the city. I allow myself time to stroll the streets, visiting my favourite places, I reminisce with a lot of heartfelt emotion and in the process work myself into a melancholic state, fighting my inner desire, of wanting to stay or at least stay long enough to suck the life out of Paris.
Tears well up when I least expect them, generally causing me embarrassment at my sentimentality.
However, this brand new, snowy morning was filled with angst, even before I opened my eyes. Waking with the feeling that an elastic band was wrapped tightly around my forehead, didn’t help. Whatever I had caught, cold or flu, it had settled in my head and chest. Just the simple movement of raising my eyebrows, sent pain running through my head.
The emotionally charged difficulty of leaving Paris, is always fraught with despair, but this time, not only in the sense of my emotions but physically, I couldn’t work out how to get out of Paris, and I didn’t feel well. My flight had been cancelled.
I downed a couple of headache tablets and dragged myself into action, I had to find a way out of Paris and get to London, to connect with my forward flights.
The many people I had called upon for help last night, got back to me in varying degrees, offering help but after sitting on hold with British Airways for a half hour, to hear the English accent of a real person, relief or maybe the headache tablet, started to ease the pressure around my skull.
I had two options; re-book for next week or take the only flight out of Orly at 2pm. Tempted to go for the first, I paused as the customer service person waited. I had no choice, I had to go with the 2pm flight.
This only gave me a few hours to spare and left me no time to carry out my rituals or do the things I had hoped to do today.
The French Translator and I were to meet in the afternoon, to say our goodbyes, and I had intended to do some last minute gift shopping. All plans would have to be abandoned. I needed to allow time for snow on the roads and time to check in, which meant It didn’t leave me much time to get things in order.
In an effort to acknowledge everyone’s kind offers of help, I went about sending rushed emails, informing them I had a flight.
A few days back, Paris Furnished Apartments had very kindly offered to send a driver in the afternoon to take me to the airport, a gift for my loyalty to their company. This had to be changed, but where to find the number. Did I throw it out, or did I put it in my suitcase.
My suitcase, neatly packed with items I would have to show at customs, on the top for efficiency, now started to resemble a bargain basement bin of clothing, as I riffled through, there was no time for order and I didn’t feel well enough to care.
Locating the number, the driver responded, he could pick me up at 11.30am, would that leave time for breakfast at my favourite bar with combined goodbyes to Didier and The French Translator. Yes! She agreed to venture out into the snowy Sunday morning, to the other side of Paris.
Leaving the apartment, rugged up with as many layers that I could fit under my coat, I pressed the automatic button on my sexy lime green umbrella, clunk, it formed a barrier between me and the falling snow.
Paris is generally quiet on a Sunday morning but this morning, the snow covered streets resembled a ghost town. Not a person or a moving car in sight. I walked down the middle of the road, making fresh footprints in the snow, and fresh imprints in my heart.
Amazing photo opportunities were everywhere to be seen, if only, I had more time, but I had to get over it, and be grateful; at least, I had my flight out of Paris Orly.
Pulling myself together, I tried to brush away regretful thoughts, it is only going to make leaving, even more difficult.
Arriving at Petit fer a Cheval, besides Didier behind the bar, there were only two people in my favourite cafe. All three of them were concerned about me getting out of Paris and all agreed, I should just stay. All this coming and going says Didier, could be made easier if you just stayed in Paris forever.
Here come the tears.
I distract myself by ordering breakfast and looking out for The French Translator.
Standing out the front of the cafe, she giggles, noticing I have scratched paris adèle into a snow covered table out the front.
Feeling the need to not waste a minute of the hour, our last hour we would have together before I had to leave Paris, we started chatting before she had a chance to enter the warm cafe.
Just as we sat down and settled in, Didier, cramming the tiny cafe table with my petit dejeuner of; freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly baked croissants and bread from my favourite bakery next door, fromage blanc and their wonderful hot chocolate, my phone rang.
The driver wants to leave a half hour earlier, he is worried about snow on the roads, possible, traffic jams or accidents. I struggle to keep our original time, The French Translator talks to him but no, she agrees, he is right to insist on this.
With our time cut short and unable to finish my breakfast, we were saying our goodbyes much earlier than, we had anticipated.
Before we left my favourite cafe for the last time, and walked down the deserted, snow covered street, of rue Vieille du Temple, The French Translator handed me a parting gift. A small tin of foie gras.
It is just small, you can fit it in your bag and well, you know, it is something French, she says quietly in that beautiful accent that the French have, when they speak English.
Sunday night, a few weeks back, at one of Jim Hayne’s dinners, I met The French Translator just as she was about to leave. We quickly exchanged details, within seconds of meeting one another, with the promise of meeting up, and then she left.
She had kept her promise and we did met up at a photographic exhibition and another night enjoyed a fabulous night of great food and cool jazz together.
Fate must have been waving her wand that Sunday night. Otherwise, I would have missed the small window of opportunity of meeting The French Translator.
Now it was time to say our goodbyes, we marvelled at our chance meeting and our subsequent time spent together as we walked down the quiet snowed covered street. At least you saw your snow she says and I hope it doesn’t cause you too much trouble for your journey home. She kisses my cheeks and don’t forget, I remind her; we promised the other two girls at the jazz club, same time next year, we smiled and went our separate ways.
By the time I walked the short distance back to the apartment, the driver was waiting.
Checking the bedroom and bathroom, to see if I had left anything behind, I returned to the main room, to discover Hassan, the driver had already whisked away my bags down the spiral staircase to the waiting car.
Standing in the doorway of the apartment, looking in, on what has been my home for the past month, now seemed sparse and lonely, there was no evidence of me and void of any life. In a short period of time it had transformed from my cosy apartment and back into, a rental property.
Sweeping my eyes across the room, I said à bientôt, took a deep breath and switched off the light and listened to the familiar clunk of the door, as I closed it for the last time, well – for a little while, at least.
Descending the stairs, I observed, as I often do, the left side of my coat, slipping and falling from one step to the next, like the train of a ball gown. This was another small Paris detail, I was going to miss.
Sitting in the back of the car, the tears started to sting my eyes. The snow and the airline company had robbed me of my valuable time in Paris, I wasn’t ready to leave yet, but, I had no choice.
The roads were slippery, we drove at escargot pace, giving me an opportunity to take in my last glimpses of Paris, as Hassan worked his way through the snowy streets and down the highway, delivering me to Orly airport.
My safe and cautious driver, Hassan, provided by Paris Furnished Apartments can be contacted on: +33 (0)220.127.116.11.56