Prescription for Disaster

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Parisian Bus Warden and a visit from the RSPCA

So my darling husband has been on a European road trip with a friend (not me) for the last 10 days, leaving me at home with the kids, a job, a disease, a pissy shihtsu and the cat - who actually cause the most problems of all those listed above, as in his desperation of dreadfully missing Paul, the cat had taken to biting the children at night as they slept. 

You know, like cats do.

Sick of spending my late-nights exhausted, sleep-deprived and covered in the limbs of my children while warding off our bastard cat I booked a quick weekend trip away to meet Paul and his friend in Paris - single parenting be damned.

And so commenced my first, and ONLY, experience with the international Mega Bus - London to Paris for £30 on an overnight bus that left London at 8:30pm and arrived in Paris at 7:00am. 

No big deal. The kids are pretty resilient travelers and hey, this would be fun, surely! An adventure was due!

Aaaaaaaaand that's when things went downhill fast.

First, there was the whole 'getting everything and everyone on the tube and to the bus station' thing. So we pulled out the old super-mega-twin-double-buggy-pushchair from the back of the garden, where it had spent the last year completely uncovered and having been taken over by giant spiders and a rather large snail-army. My cousin Shandi, who was coming with us to Paris, was tasked with 'de-crittering' the buggy while I was at work, which she did with the hose until a large white spider jumped out at her, said 'Hi Shandi!' and scuttled off into the rose bushes. 

She was done, and ran screaming into the house.

The buggy was then dried off and packed up with the twins, their backpacks, our backpacks and, as we would be driving home with Paul later on, two oversized Batman Car seats. And spiders. Many, many spiders and snails crossed international borders with us. I just told the kids that if they saw a hole or a rip in the buggy 'don't be sticking your fingers in there'. 

Just in case.

That thing was pretty well loaded - and I'm sure everyone remembers the last time I took the double buggy on an escalator and how that ended. So I made the children get out this time.

I figured that the bus wouldn't be so bad, we would just sleep on it all night - like an airplane. Only 9.5 hours, not that bad.

Yeah.... that's not what happened.

We got on the bus, everything was fine - I sent Shandi on ahead to grab four seats together and she did great... for herself and Kaitie. For Lochie and I she grabbed the smallest two seats on the entire bus, wedged between a window divider and a 'break glass' hammer glued to the wall. I could practically taste the seat in front of me. She had ONE job. One.

We were then woken two spine-compressing hours later at Dover to gently wake the children, disembark with our passports and line up for customs. The kids weren't budging. I prodded them. Nothing. I poked them - a snarl was emitted from each. I lovingly stroked their foreheads, telling them we had to get off the bus for a minute... still nothing.

So I unceremoniously manhandled them up each onto a shoulder and hauled their snoring arses off the bus and into line, my mouth full of passports and Shandi beside me convulsing from hypothermia.

Okay. Okay. Back on the bus. Back to sleep babies, and back to sleep they went. Until five minutes later we had boarded the ferry and were being kicked off the bus again. Oh goddammit. Kids up, coats on, backpacks wrangled onto my sleeping-noodle toddlers and onto the Ferry we went, up six flights of stairs (Remember! The bus is one of six huge white buses on blue deck! WTF is blue deck??? The floor is freaking yellow!) and into the only open area of the boat - the bar.

Okay, okay. This was fine. I just had to make a quick bed for the children and I would totally be back to 'mother of the year'.

And this was absolutely fine as we cruised along the English Channel in the dead of night.. until the Guns & Roses MTV special was started over the boat's loudspeakers. 

Paradise City and Sweet Child of Mine have whole new meanings to me now. Whole new meanings.

Exhausted and ears ringing, we made our way down to God only knows what deck, somehow chose the right bus using my preferred eenie meenie miney mo tactic and settled back in for a nice 5 hour ride to Paris - so we could at least get a good long shot of uninterrupted sleep.

Oh hell no. God no. 

At exactly 4am the lights were switched on, the bus was parked and we were shouted at to 'WAKE UP AND GET OFF THE BUS PLEASE!!!'

Wait, what? I looked around. Only one passenger was up and getting her coat on. Maybe this was just her stop. The other passengers were not moving, squinting up at the driver with confused expressions. She shouted again for us to all wake up and get off the bus. 

Oh. I get it. This is like, the stop before Paris or something. Still nobody was moving - and the driver was looking very angry. So I spoke up:

"Oh. No, sorry. We're going to Paris. We still have another 3 hours to go."

Oh no. No no no no no. This was Paris. We were just 3 hours early.

Mass sudden scramble of people grabbing coats and bags, fleeing the bus like it was on fire. The driver's assistant yelled over to me that she had already taken out our pushchair and left it on the street for us. Wait, what? Go babies go! We don't know what kind of weird French early morning scavenger might scavenge our buggy! Or worse! Run it over or something! Or worse - animals could steal it! I've seen Ratatouille. I know what happens in Paris! GO GO GO!!!

And so this is how I saw Paris at 4am. Not being able to check into our hotel until noon, having NO Euros, no food and no water with no stores open we wandered the streets of Paris, pushing my comatose toddlers in the overloaded buggy to see the sights, as we had nothing better to do.

Six hours of walking through Paris, which in the very early morning was slightly underwhelming.

We saw the Arc De Triumph.

We didn't get mugged in the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower.

We saw the Eiffel tower.

We walked away from the Eiffel Tower.

We walked two hours uphill to the Moulin Rouge, which was a big deal for me to see but rather underwhelming in the morning.

And then when we met up with my husband and his friend in the evening we walked the entire thing again until 1:30am - with the kids. 

So what did we want to do the next day? Relax? See more of Paris? Walk the streets yet again? 

Hell no. We went to Disneyland.

We rounded off the trip arriving home, exhausted but happy. The dog was thrilled the see us and the cat has now stopped biting the children (for the most part). We even had a visit from an officer of the RSPCA, as our old lady neighbour had reported us to them - us having left a violent 'Akita' in the house for days without food or water.

To which Paul responded 

"Oh, you mean this violent Akita? That a friend of ours came by to look after while we were gone?"

The officer apologized for wasting Paul's time and left, probably to put us down in some sort of file. 

On the bright side, at least we now know where to dump all of the slugs, spiders and snails from our stroller. Right through that old lady's window!