On leaving Paris, or how to get a car roof scraped in a parking garage

The Mathieu home in France where we stayed as the then six person Koerner family while on the Ile d'Oléron.

The Mathieu home in France where we stayed as the then six person Koerner family while on the Ile d’Oléron.

Although I lived in the Loire Valley in the 1971-1972 academic year, I somehow never managed to see this jewel of a château.

Although I lived in the Loire Valley in the 1971-1972 academic year, I somehow never managed to see this jewel of a château.

The infamous car, new to the Charles De Gaulle airport in 2002.

The infamous car, new to the Charles De Gaulle airport in 2002.

Sounds kind of crazy. For those of us who have been to and love Paris (how can you not love Paris?), this might be an extremely hard concept to wrap one’s head around. But the Koerners had one Paris departure that was fraught with craziness.

The other day, I was reminded of a situation that occurred a few years ago, before any of our children were married, and we took a family trip to Europe. We were a large group and our trip involved flying to Frankfurt, being chauffeured to Strasbourg, spending the weekend there, taking a train to Paris, spending almost a week there, and then renting a car and driving to the Ile d’Oléron for a wonderful stay in a beautiful home belonging to the extremely generous family of two of my high school advisees.

It was a picture perfect trip of a lifetime. We had an amazing time and despite the fact that my sons are not necessarily big city people, they survived what was affectionately called, “the death march,” AKA Dad’s tour of Paris. The Ile d’Oléron provided a wonderful ‘recovery situation’ from our busy time in Paris.

Our last full day in France was spent in the Loire Valley, Chambord in particular. I cannot remember how many of us were starting to feel ill but several of us, being Christian and yours truly, were feeling on the edge of something.

We were on the road, the main trip to Paris being easy, but I realized why I had avoided driving in France, or more particularly Paris, for so many years.

I am sure that I will get some of the details wrong, it has been almost twenty years, but some of them are disgustingly welded into my neurons.

We were on the approach to Paris. The maps and route we had were less than perfectly clear once we were on what I dreaded most, driving the ‘Périphérique,’ the highway encircling the city. Christian was the main navigator and was doing the best job he could but when we needed clarity most, we didn’t get it map-wise. He was at a point of getting closer and closer to losing his stomach contents. I was queasy by this time. Through luck and some quick decisions, we found the exit and then we had to figure out where the booked motel happened to be. I am hazy on finding it but I am guessing that it was less than easy.

We found it and Christian and I dropped our passengers off and set out to drop off the rental car. That was one huge event and we were not feeling great, but Christian was far worse off than I was.

We located the car rental drop off. It was pretty logical, but the rental car we had, one capable of having six people in it, presented issues that we never expected. It was too high to get through the circular, low ceilinged entry into the parking garage. In my total disbelief, I actually moved forward, scraping the roof of the vehicle, never thinking that it was possible.

I put the car in reverse. Christian’s malady was worsening. I had no clue as to what to do. We pulled out and went out into the traffic circle surrounding the Charles De Gaulle airport and I am not even sure where we went. What I do know is that I stopped our vehicle in numerous places, got out, asked questions. I was frantic. I did find people, I did not find a lot of answers. Meanwhile, I got queasier and Christian got closer and closer to tossing his cookies.

I finally found someone who explained to me that this was the strangest thing that had ever happened but apparently our new vehicle was not made to be rented out and returned to the usual rental return location. He told me that we had to go to a different terminal to return the car. I had to totally leave the area and get back into the airport complex and find a new rental return location that would not require my taking the vehicle into the usual airport parking garage return, which only had low clearance for vehicles.

We finally found it, returned the car, one of those moments where it could not have happened sooner, and went to the shuttle area where we could find a way to get to the hotel. This should have been easy, and in fact was, but hampered by the fact that Christian was totally in a near to upchuck state and I was fast approaching it. I think a shuttle came, and as we stood in line, realized that it was full. I begged the driver to let us on, it did not happen. We had to wait for the next one.

We finally got on the next one, I believe. I cannot remember if Christian made it to the motel without ‘losing it.’ I remember that within a short time of our return that I did. Luckily, we went to sleep that night, our last full day in France, and woke up feeling well enough to get on the plane.

That was one heck of an experience!

About Richard Koerner

Sixty something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
This entry was posted in Cars, Family, Life in general, Odd occurrences, Thoughts and philosophy, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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