From Paris - 'Snowed In?', 'Snowed Up?'

Yesterday was a day we had been waiting for... Swee’ Pea was coming home for Christmas, directly from LA.

When we woke up on Sunday morning, snow had been falling all night long - crazy isn’t it? Snow for Christmas in Paris, Brittany, Brussels. (And in other parts of Europe, so we heard but we were feeling a little bit selfish then and there.)

Swee’ Pea was scheduled to land in Roissy (the BIG international Paris/France airport, northwest of Paris) around noon.

Since the Paris area had already known dreadful snow problems two weeks ago, we figured that this time, our so  incompetent Meteorological Office had sent warnings to whoever was in charge of traffic (both road and air) and that everything would be allright, for a change.

Driving through Paris was very hard around ten and it was still very bad around noon when we left to pick up our dear son in Roissy.

The freeway had been cleared of snow but it still was quite slippery.

When we got to Roissy, we were feeling so elated that we kind of became very stupid. We should have noticed that there were no planes in the sky at all. We did not. The only planes we could see were covered with snow and they looked terribly stranded.

The airport was filled with thousands of people. This was supposed to be a departure day for Christmas holidays... We went to the arrival gate where hundreds of people were waiting, some of them looking awfully tired and worried.

We were not worried because you see, we have iPhones and the ‘Flight Track’ app.

At the arrival gate, the noon flight from LA was already posted on the board. 12:02. And then nothing else.

We checked our ‘Flight Track’. The plane was said to have landed in Roissy at 12:02. (Good.) The weird thing being that it supposedly was still up there, flying. (Not so good.)

Previous flights were shown as ‘Landed’ so we thought that there had been some computer bug.

It was quite impossible to ask any question to an Air France clerk. There was only one at the desk and about 200 people standing in line with the same idea: trying to know what was going on.

I sat down while Popeye was walking around. It had been quite hard to find a seat. But Popeye found one. This man is precious. Next to me, there was a young man, looking truly bereaved. No suitcases, no bags.

I realized that almost no one was coming out from the arrival gate. Roissy at this time of the year being an extremely busy airport, weird, very weird.

Then two guys came up to the boy sitting next to me.

‘Do you want something to eat?’

‘No. I’m so f-g tired, man.’

American travelers obviously lost in the airport. But since when?

We kept waiting and waiting. No announcement made whatever. Except that they were closing the boarding checkpoints for the day. So weird. Because by then, snow had stopped falling.

It was 1:30 p.m.

Still waiting for information.

Then a miracle happened. People with hand luggage came out, looking exhausted. And then people with no luggage at all...

I overheard a woman calling her husband. (Wow, those cellphones are great, after all.) She had been coming out with no luggage and two teenagers wearing sneakers. She was asking her husband to come and pick them up at the station (?) since their luggage had not been delivered and wouldn’t be until a couple of days. ‘They were very cold and with no shoes fit to walk in the snow’, she added.

I asked where she was coming from.

‘New York.’

They had landed at 9:30, right on schedule but they had stayed in the plane ever since until their pilot was allowed to taxi along the runway... four hours later.

I don’t think it was really funny but there had been no snow in New York when they left.

Then my cellphone started ringing. Swee’ Pea’s picture on the screen. Great!

‘Hello, where are you?’

‘In Marseille. We were running out of gas so the pilot decided not to wait any longer circling above Roissy. We are supposed to fly back to Paris in the afternoon.’

Marseille is by the Mediterranean Sea, about 500 miles from Paris.

Great. Then he hung up after telling me that he’d call again as soon there would be some news about their departure from Marseille.

We then left Roissy because we knew that many hours would go by before his plane would make it back to Paris.

As soon as we were back on the freeway, it started to rain. A stormy kind of rain. And no black ice. The temperature was going up like crazy.

It was -1°C when we left Roissy. When we arrived in Paris, it was up to 6°C. Crazy. The snow was melting so fast it was incredible.

We started waiting for some news, hoping that air traffic would resume.

3:30 p.m. A new phone call from Swee’ Pea.

‘We’re still in Marseille. They are letting some people out but without their luggage. Those who live nearby or who can catch another flight from Marseille to wherever they are going to, South of France or Africa. We’ll probably be leaving in a couple of hours.’

4:30 p.m. (It does sound like ’24’, I know.)

‘We are leaving the plane. It will fly back to Paris at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Is there any way you could get me a train ticket for tonight? I want to come home so badly.’

In France, we have TGV (high-speed train). 3 hours from Marseille to Paris. Yes, I know, quite incredible! Planes grounded and trains still running (almost on time).

We booked a seat on the 18:35 TGV from Marseille. Swee’ Pea called us when he was aboard. He’d be in Paris at 9:31 p.m. I love train schedules - so accurate!

We resumed our long wait. But what’s 3 hours compared to one whole day. We were going to pick him up at Gare de Lyon (the Paris station where all trains from Southern France arrive).

By then, we were feeling very sorry for Swee’ Pea who had left his apartment almost 24 hours ago. (He had made a point to book a direct and expensive flight from LA to Paris since last year, he had had so many problems in Chicago due to heavy snow falls. Good for you, Swee’Pea.)

We made sure to get to the station well ahead of schedule. But there was no snow left in Paris. It was kind of warm and very windy, totally contradicting the Meteorological Office, once again.

When we got to the station, all the trains from Southern France were delayed. (Long delay too.)

So we waited and waited, trying to find a warm spot in the station. Train stations are so scoured by drafts. 6°C are allright when you are in a warm car. Quite a different feeling when you are waiting on a platform (the waiting rooms being used as a place of refuge for homeless people) plus the North wind factor.

10:02 p.m.

The train finally came in.

We spotted Swee’ Pea at the same time (the platform was quite dark). Our third eye, I’m sure. Parental instinct.

He was smiling. And he did look dead-beat.

‘I’m so happy to see you. By the way, do you happen to have an extra pair of gloves, please?’

Popeye very gracefully took his off and gave them to his son.

Fatherly love.

I felt a little bit disappointed my gloves wouldn’t fit.

Next winter, I’ll make sure to get XL gloves. Just in case Swee’ Pea feels like flying from LA to Paris for Christmas.

You won’t believe it but it was a good thing he decided to leave Marseille by train. This morning, his plane is still stranded there and will be for a long time.

Snow has been falling over the Paris area since 5:00 a.m. contradicting, etc. Very heavy snow too.

Whoever wrote ‘Let It Snow, Let It Snow’ was having a very romantic view of life, sitting on a cosy armchair, by a warm fireplace. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wikipedia says that the song was written in July 1945, in Hollywood, during one of the hottest summer day ever.

Go back to California, Swee’ Pea!

This morning, while discovering the thick coat of snow in the gardens behind his building, we heard a sigh.

‘This snow is amazing. I had totally forgotten what it looked like.’

I wish I had.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Layla said...

Glad your son made it home safe! Paris is so beautiful covered in snow.

Myrna said...

Well, all's well that ends well. And you got another story out of it! Glad JC got there safely!