Just Landed

The fourth instalment in an ongoing series about a Eurotrip

By Apurba Jahangir

I was born in Paris. 

That’s a lie. But man, wouldn’t it be cool to say it? How do you introduce Paris to readers? Are you even capable? Are you even worthy? If you are as self-loathing as I am, then no. But I will give it a try. 

Though there’s no such truth in this, when one visits Paris, one cannot but get why Helen left everything and caused all that chaos. If you don’t get my reference, I don’t know what to tell you.

A land of beauty that has influenced the arts, the poetry, the music; life – to be precise in all accords. And closer to home, Chobir Deshe Kobitar Deshe which I think is a masterpiece to say the least would not have happened if this place did not exist. It is said that a walk on Parisian roads will give you a lesson in history, arts, beauty, love, and women all in one day. The city of Godard, Baudelaire, Foucault, Sartre, Dumas, and so, so many more. To me this was the land of the Gods.

And yet I was standing in front of the luggage belt for more than an hour in the airport. I asked a fellow French airport worker, “It’s been an hour.” 

“Your Paris can wait, there’s a strike happening.” In the most French way possible, he replied and that was that. I was almost at the doorstep to one of the sexiest cities to say the least; waiting all alone, for my “baggage.” 

First place in my checklist was The Olympia theatre, situated in Capucines Boulevard or Boulevard des Capucines if you’re felling sexy. Inaugurated by the biggest star in France at the time, singer/dancer La Goulue, the venue has showcased a wide variety of artists over the years, including Dalida, Alan Stivell, Nolwenn Leroy, Edith Piaf, Léo Ferré, Charles Aznavour, Grégory Lemarchal, Joe Dassin, and many others. International stars have included Sting, Billie Holiday, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Judy Garland, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, The Jackson 5, Iggy Pop, Blondie, everyone that resides in my playlist. 

But I wanted to be there for my messiah. Savior to say the least. These halls have echoed the calling of “writers and critics” and were asked to keep their eyes open, the chance won’t come again. I myself felt like the F you Dylan who plugged in a Strat on the stage of New Port Folk festival. I too wanted to say don’t put me in a box, whatever you’re trying to do, I am not buying. So, it just makes sense to visit what I consider a holy site. I wanted to see the stage where my Dylan stood and stood proud!

I apologize for making this travel story about my favorite artists or characters from time to time. Most of my travels have been around the people I fell in love with. This was no different; I came to Paris in search of Dylan, in search of Monet and Hemingway and last but not the least, Bourdain. Throughout their lives, they have come to this city or were born in this city, hating or loving it. These people will come back from time to time in my account but for now let’s carry on.

Almost two hours and a few sighs later, I finally got hold of my stuff. It was around 11 now and there was no way I was going to delay my trip to the theater. But who knew the huge queue of people waiting for taxis was in order? When the French say strike, they mean strike. In front of me there was now almost a line of 30 and all I could see were three taxis. Olympia theater would now have to wait. Meanwhile, why not some French food?

Being pissed off was a universal language. And so is profanity. I wish I knew Italian or French or even Dutch, but I don’t. But sitting in an airport restaurant I could tell that the people around me shared my sentiment. As I waited for my escargot (Not something I would recommend as your first meal of the day) I enjoyed the conversations that my fellow passengers were making. In foreign lands, it’s always these little things that save you from feeling stuck.

An hour and one plate of disgusting escargot (never eat in the airport while there’s multiple union strikes going on) later I again tried my luck to find a fellow taxi. And in 10 minutes of frowning, success!

My hotel booking was done by my travel agent, who was an amazing finder when it came to flight deals. If anyone wants his help, I would be happy to provide his contact. But he was, let’s say, not into booking European hotels. Unless and until I want to visit a particular hotel, in Europe, Ibis or Novotel is always a safe option, especially for someone who has to convert USD to Taka from time to time. This time it was an Ibis, in a place called Bobigny Pantin, a 15-minute walk to the metro. And with all my excitement, I went into the cab and gave the driver the address. He took a 20 second pause and looked at the piece of paper I gave him. He looked at me with a serious face and asked: “Are you sure?” Man, if I had any clue!

To be continued …

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