23-24 May, 2018
It was just around 10:00pm when a cramped Ryanair plane, with yours truly on board, landed smoothly at the Beauvais airport in a Paris suburb. Less than two hours ago I had left Dublin after having an incredible week with even more incredible friends*, but seeing as I was about to start a 12 hour layover before ultimately flying to Kutaisi, Georgia, things currently didn't feel so joyful. Oh well, I thought, I've done this before in Finland and Turkey and I can do it again.
*Shout out to Hanna, Maud, and Pat
Alongside my beleaguered fellow passengers, I stumbled off the plane and into the dreary cement compound they said was the airport. I looked around and to my delight saw a lounge-bar with couches. This, I thought, was gonna be my place to sleep. Walking over, I took off my backpack and flopped down. The green cushions were far from perfect, but they were still significantly better than the floor. I looked to either side of me and saw a Turkish family to one and a large snoring man to my other. These were going to be my 'dorm buddies' for the night... or so I thought.
Just as I began to relax, a security woman walked over and said something to us in French. Since I didn't understand, I replied with the one French phrase I've memorized, "Je ne suis pas Francais." She then said in English, "We're closing, please move." Damn. I was just starting to get comfortable. 'I guess I'll use the clothes in my bag to make a bed,' I irritatedly thought. I moved aside and began pulling them out of the bag when she said, "No, the airport is closing. You have five minutes to get out."
My heart sank. "I have a flight in the morning," I said, "and no place to stay."
Sounding annoyed, she replied, "talk to the information desk."
I ran over and asked the guy at the desk. "Hello," I said, taking note of the scowl that appeared on his face from hearing the English language. "I have a connecting flight tomorrow morning and didn't know the airport closes. Is there a place to stay?" Grumpily, he handed me a print-out sheet with names and numbers of hotels in town. "Call one of these," he mumbled.
"Do you know how much the rooms cost?" I asked, somewhat frantically.
"I don't know, maybe 100 euro."
Is there a phone I could use? I don't have a French sim card in mine."
"Is there a bus I can take into town?"
"Probably not at this hour. Now go outside. We're closed."
And with that, he closed the window and left (presumably to go kick puppies or something like that). Was this how it ends? Do I just stand outside the door for the next 7 or 8 hours until the place reopens? But then, just as I was about to give up, a hand tapped me on the shoulder. A vioce then spoke in a French accent (albeit much more pleasant that the information guy),"Can I see the list of places? I'm stuck too." I turned and saw a younger guy with a beard, about my age. He introduced himself as Simon. "Sure," I replied, handing him the paper.
Do you have a French phone?
Of course, I'm French.
"Maybe we can split a place and save money? Either that or we both stand out here until the morning." He said as he began to dial. He called the first, but they were full. Then the second. They had a room, but it was 180 euro. No. Then the third, and... yes! A room for just 60 euro (meaning 30 for each of us). Unfortunately though, the guy said he closes up around 11:00, meaning we had less than an hour to get there, and if Mr. Prick the info guy was right, there were no more buses. We ran up to a taxi and Simon, the French guy, asked how much it would cost to get to the hotel, which was just 6 kilometers away.
"50 euro," the driver replied.
Simon then began shouting curses in French and the guy drove off. "Damn it. Looks like we may have to stand outside here all night," he said. I, however, was not ready to give up yet and noticing a nearby parking lot with people and cars, I suggested we go ask everyone until someone says yes. Thankfully (since I wouldn't be able to communicate otherwise), Simon agreed. First we ran up to a lady in business attire, but before we could explain our story, she dismissed us as if we were bothersome flies. Then came a semi-balding man in a convenient store uniform, looking as if he'd just gotten out of work. Simon approached him and asked. The guy paused and thought for a second. I could feel my anxiety growing, knowing that every second was one less we had to get to the hotel. Finally the guy nodded and said he was going in that direction anyway. We thanked him with tremendous gratitude and hopped in the car. Simon called the hotel and said we'd be there in 10 minutes.
Soon we were at the door. We thanked our driver once more before he drove off and knocked. At first there was nothing. They couldn't have closed, could they? No, it can't end like this! But about a minute later, the red door creaked open and a gray haired man of about 60 with glasses on stood in the doorway. Kindly, he welcomed us in and briefly explained the hotel policies and told us which bus to take in the morning to the airport. We then ascended the staircase up to our room on the 5th floor to find a small, yet comfortable room with two beds, and a coffee maker (aka life's necessities). I flopped down on the one closer to the door as I did n't feel like walking across the room.
Before drifting off to sleep, it all struck me. This was my first ever time in France, and it felt as if I'd already seen the best and worst the country had to offer. On one hand there was the airport, the information desk guy and the taxi driver, but on the other, there was Simon, the guy who gave us a lift, and the hotel manager. All in all, I concluded it broke even. And at least now I didn't have to sleep on an airport floor. Maybe someday I'll come back to see more, but now, all I wanted to do was sleep.