Jetlag-It’s better than Ambien!

Our last day in Paris was a little on the hard side. I think all of us kind of hit a wall and were ready to be done with France.

I woke up around 7 (as usual) and got ready. I decided that I trying to blow dray my hair was now completely pointless as the weather appeared it could go either way.

Mom and I were going to meet Susan at the cafe by our hotel and go to the catacombs and then finish the day at Père Lachaise Cemetery before catching the Eurostar to London at 4:00. Since Susan was working in Paris, mom and I were to spend the next few days just us two in London.

Grave marker Père Lachaise Cemetery
Visiting the cemetary was Susan’s idea and it was hands down a good choice!
So here’s the set up for the day….it’s been days since mom and I ate anything other than a pastry and we are DYING for something with protein–like eggs. We decided to go to a different cafe across the street from our hotel and wait for Susan since they appeared to have what looked like an American breakfast. And…they spoke English!
We both ate amazing omelets and Susan showed up about 45 minutes late but I felt really bad for her as she slept through her alarm and raced out the door without really taking a shower or getting ready (and she had to work that afternoon) all because she knows my philosophy about tardiness (there is no excuse for tardiness).
Here comes poor little Susan, tired and hungry but she still somehow manages to look good. We had some coffee and decided to go take…surprise, our favorite form of Paris transportation, the M!
We rode three M’s to the catacombs and used Susan’s trusty pocket map to find our way around again. Interestingly enough there were tons of signs that said ‘catacombs’ but then all of a sudden it’s like they just disappear and you are left standing in the middle of a roundabout with five streets intersecting and no clue where to go and no indication on the map. We see this HUGE line and decide this MUST be the line for the catacombs….which, predictably, it was.
Père Lachaise crematorium
The line was around the block, we heard some people saying they had been there since 8:00 (it was now 10:15) and the catacombs opened at 10:00 not to mention they only let about 200 people down at a time.
The tour runs about an hour long and there are 298 stairs down, and then 298 back up. We all looked at each other and decided to bag it and go to the Père Lachaise Cemetery instead.
I don’t know what it is about cemeteries but people seem to be morbidly attracted to them (which includes my mom, my sister, and myself). The cemetery was like a huge tourist attraction and boasts such residents as Oscar Wilde, Frederic ChopinJim Morrison, and many other historic and famous figures (most of them French though).
Oscar Wilde’s tombstone
The cemetery is considered the most visited cemetery in the world and was also featured in the Phantom of the Opera (this is where Christine goes to visit her father’s grave), ironically Gaston Leroux who wrote Phantom of the Opera is not buried there.
At this cemetary, art and death are merged beautifully together, its absolutely amazing and a real work of art. If any of you ever are in Paris be sure to visit this cemetary….it’s peaceful and elegant, not to mention full of interesting history and interesting dead people.
So enough of the history lesson, back to our adventure!
We get to the cemetery and buy.…yes, another map and try to navigate our way through the millions of monuments and uneven pavement. The entire cemetery is a death trap (no pun intended) as all the sidewalks and paths are 200 year old cobblestones! I about fell on my face the entire time we were there. It was not as hot and humid as the other days had been plus with all the trees we were in the shade throughout the cemetery so that meant that we didn’t have to listen to mom complain about not having a hat or wearing sunscreen for too long!
Autographs and Kisses on Wildes grave
It was immediately clear that all of us were suffering from lack of sleep and food. I was not necessarily tired but I was tired of not speaking the language and navigating….and don’t even get me started on how tired of public transit I was by now.
Mom was majorly jet lagged (mom, you should have taken my advice and slept the first night!) and Susan was clearly exhausted from just being in Paris for 10 days and trying to recuperate from being with family all day. I think we were all just DONE but we marched on. Susan and mom stopped frequently for breaks while I wandered around and took pictures.
It was really cool for me to see Oscar Wilde’s grave, which was oddly modern. It stood out like a sore thumb around all the classic grave markers and monuments. He was truly a men who did things that others in the Victorian era did not and for that alone I admire him.
Yep more navigation and maps
Being an English major, I have enjoyed many of his books and poetry. His grave was clearly an iconic marker to generations of fans with many people leaving autographs, tokens of affection, and ‘kisses’ which you can see in some of my photos. T
his was one of the most memorable things about our trip for me. Even though a cemetary might seem far from a tourist attraction and probably not on anyone’s top ten list but it was honeslty one of the least busy, quietest, relaxing places we saw. It’s a very strange feeling to be wandering through rows and rows of history and literary, musical, and inconic figures who would normally be completely off limits to the public but oddly enough become equals in death.
Visiting the cemetary was the ‘must do’ for me. I would have been sad if we didn’t make it there and see both Oscar Wilde and Chopin’s final resting place. After we rested, we decided to try and locate Chopin’s grave since mom plays piano and loves Chopin, we could hardly leave without seeing it!
Susan and I infront of
Wilde’s tomb
Well we wandered for what seemed like hours, wandering…..checking the map….wandering….checking the map….and going the wrong way….stopping….checking the map….and more walking!
We finally found it and it was actually very classic and beautiful (mom cried of course). I am so glad we were able to find it because I know how much it meant to mom to see it. She wanted to bag it at one point but we decided to keep going until we found it. I know it meant a lot to her. We decided to pass on Jim Morrison’s grave….sorry I’m just not a Doors fan. About that time we realized it was getting pretty late and decided to start heading back toward the hotel since mom and I still needed to pick up our baggage from the hotel and get to the (shocker) train station to catch the Eurostar.
Susan wanted to eat before we went back on the M and then go home so she could nap before she had to go to work. We stopped at a little pastry shop where Susan got a sandwich. Mom and I weren’t hungry after our huge breakfast but we sat with Susan while she ate. As we sat and enjoyed the Paris traffic zooming by, mom confesses that she just can’t do any more public transit and she suggests once we finish with lunch, that we go back to the hotel, get our bags and WALK to the train station 6 + blocks away!
I point out, that while it sounded like a good idea, knowing our luck we should stick with the plan and take the M. I still don’t know why we didn’t just get a taxi, that truly would have been the easiest.
I allowed myself to be convinced by Susan and mom, that walking would be better than trying to hassle with the M and all the stairs again. I will admit….it SOUNDED better…..
Sounded and actually being better ended up being two VERY different things!
Susan and Mom taking a break

Yes mom’s feet are killing her!
We got back on the M and decided that mom was less likely to cry and be hysterical in public when we had to say goodbye to Susan rather than standing at the train station or Susan’s house.
We said our goodbyes at the M station by our hotel….but mom cried anyway and everyone looked at us like we were doing something horrible to our mother. It was sad saying goodbye to Susan but we were also eager to go to London and on to our next adventure.
Since it had been so hot out, I realized that I needed alternative options to the clothes that I had brought. Spying a small boutique on our way back to the hotel, I stopped and bought a linen sundress to wear on the Eurostar. We then made our way to the hotel and picked up our bags. By this point it was getting warmer out and the clouds had burned off so it was again hotter than Hades so I slipped into my new (much cooler) sundress.
Mom was very insistent that we walk to the train station rather than try and carry stuff up and down stairs and hassle with the M. I packed some of her stuff in my suitcase so she wouldn’t hurt herself pulling it, I grabbed two huge water jugs, and then resigned myself to the walk.
Chopin’s tombstone
It was all uphill, in the blazing heat, on uneven cobblestone sidewalks….I am lucky I made it to the train station a live! About half way there the wind starts to pick up (which if you know me, you know how much I HATE WIND!) which blew my hair and my dress all over the place! Mom complained that her bag was heavy (never mind I took about 20 lbs of luggage out of her suitcase and was hauling it along with my camera bag, tripod, and 50 lb suitcase uphill in 90 degree weather).
We finally reached the train station and locate a ‘billets’ machine where we needed to retrieve the Eurostar tickets. It took us about 15 mins to figure out the billets machine and get the tickets because it was all in French and on the screen in English it says ‘check in at Eurostar desk’ which implies a singular desk/check in area.
We look around…..there are about 50 Eurostar desks with no signs in English. WTF. So I went to the info desk and luckily some Iranian man spoke enough English to point us in the direction of an escalator and tells us ‘up’. We get on this escalator and see all these people standing around….in uniforms. This man sent us up the employee escalator. There was only the one escalator for employees that went up, none that came down. Who the hell makes an entrance with no exit?!?!
Mom infront of Chopin’s tomb
The EuroStar staff have to escort us to the REAL entrance where there were, again, tons of people. By now, it’s about a million degrees outside and I am sweating like a beast! It’s so hot and there are so many people.
We are so tired of hauling our stuff that we just want to get to London and our hotel already. The customs people give us a little ‘travel card’ to fill out but no pen. Mom is sure she has a pen but remembers that she gave it to Susan to use at lunch.
We have no pen and have to borrow one from the EuroStar clerk at the info desk. This starts a chain of disastrous events.
The desk clerk reluctantly gives us a pen but refuses to help any other people until we are done with his pen….don’t ask me why, apparently it was the only pen he had so we were holding up this giant line of people trying to catch a train leaving an hour before ours because we don’t have a pen.
But again when they realized we were American, people just rolled their eyes and ignored us.
We got through the turn-style without incident (since we clearly had practice with the M turn-styles). The French/British customs stations are nothing like America. In America we wait in a single file line till called and remain behind the yellow line. In France it’s like someone announced a buy one get one deal on coyote trafficking in Mexico….everyone and I mean everyone just crowds around the desk pushing their way to the front.
We CLEARLY have these huge bags and no room to navigate…..yet people kept elbowing us and pushing us out of the way…..I was about two seconds away from yelling BOMB…..it was so sick of people all up in my space!
Susan and mommy eating more amazing French food!
By now mom and I are at our wits end and crying because we are laughing so hard at how difficult it’s been to navigate around Paris with giant suitcases (little did we know what was in store for us in London).
I happened to overhear some ‘cheeky’ English man comment that we had some ‘serious luggage’ and then give us the evil eye like we were doing something WRONG by taking the train from Paris to London. I am curious what other means he would have us travel by as it was clearly NOT by train.
We get to the English customs window and the lady asked me if I was there on business or pleasure…I said pleasure and she asked me what kind of pleasure….vacation?
I kind of felt like she was asking for a smart comment back so I said ‘that depends on what you call vacation’ and kind of giggled….she looked at me like ‘dumb American’ and didn’t laugh….didn’t even crack a smile…stamped my passport and motioned me through to the scanner. Awkward.
A hillside at Père Lachaise
We stand in yet another line a mile long and get pushed and shoved some more before I realize that hummm…..everyone else is hoisting their bags onto some giant conveyer belt scanner….I bet I have to do that too.
I immediately start panicking about how this is going to happen, considering I can’t even lift the bag two inches off the ground. I was hoping someone would help me, I should have known better. It’s amazing what one can do when you have to….I get up there and somehow get the suitcase on the belt.
I unharnessed myself from my camera equipment and purse.…go though the metal detector and look back to see mom just standing there with her bag. Apparently she’s waiting for me to get it up there for her! I had to go back and put her bag on the belt and while doing so I am sure I flashed everyone in line as I was not being very lady-like in my new dress.
We got through and got our bags off the belt ok only to be almost ran-over by a huge Asian family with literally a flat bed of luggage……because there CLEARLY there was no other way for them to navigate except to mow us down and yell at us because OUR bags were too big to let them by….WTF?!?!?
Monuments at Père Lachaise
We sat down at the Eurostar waiting area until it was time to start boarding the train. Everyone started to queue up about 45 minutes BEFORE they opened for boarding. The gates let us in and we see several Eurostar agents directing people and offering assistance….except to us of course.
We had to lift our suitcases up two stairs through some little narrow doorway (which barely fit our stuff) into the train. Behind us was a male passenger who clearly sees mom and I are struggling with the bags but rather than help us he stands there crowding us. I got onto the train and lifted one end of the suitcase while mom lifted the other but thanks to this very rude passenger, mom was forcing the suitcase in the train before I could get a real grip.
I lost my balance and fell over the suitcase face first onto the train stairs. It was gnarly. The man pushes past us, rather than apologize or offer assistance.
An inscripton on Wildes tomb, it says
“You’re one of the few reasons I’m proud to be Irish”
J.C. Jan 18 2010
The Eurostar has assigned seating and was not really that full. I had requested a forward facing seat for both mom and I since we get motion sickness but we both got rear facing seats and we were NOT sitting together.
Most people would not mind moving so others can sit together….oh hells no, not in France! No one would move so mom and I could sit together even though the train was not even close to being full.
The French girl sitting across from me who was in her 20’s refused to move her feet the entire journey….she had her feet stretched out below my seat the entire train ride and she got mad when I stepped on her toes for good measure.
As soon as the train starts pulling away they make an announcement that there are refreshments in various cars and bathrooms in others. This train ride is only two hours long…..it was like a mass exodus to the food and bathrooms for the ENTIRE TRIP! I was on the end so I kept getting hit by everyone. Mom fought the urge to heave her guts out the entire train ride and I made notes of our adventures which got me thinking about a couple of very important….reflective….questions and revelations about our time in France:
Père Lachaise and yes the sidewalks
were that uneven….see I’m lucky
to be alive!
1. I smell like a Mexi laundry mat, no one else in Europe uses fabric softener so it was clear that what the Mexi laundry smell is to us…..the American smell is to the French. I wreaked like Downy vanilla orchid fabric softener and there was nothing I could do about it.

2. I hate all things French

3. Mom cursed our trip by saying I had planned the most excellent adventure
4. My entire life had revolved around public transportation for 4 days
5. The word ‘baggage’ has taken on an entirely new meaning and anxiety
6. Whatever happened to the ‘English gentleman’ concept?!?!?
Another inscription from Wilde’s tomb, my favorite inscription
which says: “I have nothing to complain about- except my genius”
7. Is it too much to ask for people to remain in their seats for a 90 minute train ride?!??! People manage to sit through a movie without going to the bathroom or flocking to the concession stands 90% of the time…..why not a train ride?!? It’s like they think they will never see land or food again!!!!!
8. When you are three feet from the train do you really need to push???? Because it’s CLEARLY LEAVING WITHOUT YOU!!! Where’s the fire?!?!?!

9. PERSONAL SPACE…..it’s obviously only practiced in American culture.

And last but not least
10. Whoever thought backpacking through Europe was fun was a f-ing idiot or had a really small backpack because luggage/backpack/baggage and Europe simply DO NOT mix!

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4 Comments

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