Two flights, ten hours of flying, and a four hour layover later, I made it to Paris! The flights were uneventful and easy. They both were ahead of schedule! That's a small miracle. Hopefully a sign of a great trip to come!
After retrieving my bag, I headed out to get a taxi only to find out that the taxi drivers are on strike.
After weighing my options - some creepy guy who wanted to charge me 100 Euros to drive me to my flat (uhhh....NO!) waiting an hour or two in hopes that a taxi would show up, or taking the train - I decided to take the train. Why not? What have I got to lose right? I made my way to the ticket area and found a nice woman in a red vest to help me figure out where to go. With limited English on her part, limited French on mine, a cell phone and a map, she figured out exactly what I should do, had me write it down (teaching me how to read the subway map in the process) and helped me purchase my ticket. There were may of these train workers milling about to help people - so great! I paid only 9.75 Euros for the ticket too. If I had taken a taxi, I would have paid a ton more money and probably would have had to sit in traffic. The train was the way to go for sure!
I followed Ms. Red Vest's directions and ended up exactly where I needed to be! I made my way to the correct street and actually found the bakery where I needed to pick up the key to the flat. No one in the bakery spoke English and with lots of pantomiming, I managed to get a key. Okay, it was the wrong key, but it was a key! I made my way to the flat and someone happened to be going in the front door just as I go there. He helped me find the right flat despite not speaking a word of English. I quickly found out I had the wrong keys so back to the bakery I went. This time I got the correct keys and a baguette and made my way back to the apartment. Did I mention that I am dragging my suitcase and carry on through the bumpy, narrow streets for all of this? No one even looked surprised as I walked up and down the street with all this luggage. Ha! When I got to the apartment I realized that I didn't have the code to get in the front door! I was stuck outside with no way to get in. I waited a little while, left a message for the host, and waited some more. Finally the nice French guy who originally let me in, leaned out his window and noticed me. He ran down the stairs, let me in and gave me the code. He even helped me carry my bags up the narrow, wooden stairs to the flat. He helped me unlock the door and waved good bye. I had officially arrived!
It's about four in the morning California time and about one in the afternoon Paris time. I've decided to lay low today, take a shower, go to the corner market and relax. Tomorrow I will begin to explore. Right now I'm just letting it all sink in that I am actually really and truly in Paris!