Kate’s leg was in a half plaster cast after a spiral fracture, on a spiral staircase on our adventure that had taken a sudden downward spiral. We had driven two days across the French Alps to Paris. Both exhausted we were desperately trying to make our flight back to Sydney, the only flight we had been able to book on short notice.
Each day Kate had to inject herself in the stomach to prevent blood clots and she was in constant pain. I had previously not driven so there was a tendency to drift to the opposite side of the road. Our map was not detailed enough so instead of driving straight to Charles De Gaulle airport we had driven into the heart of Paris in peak hour.
As we drove through the streets of Paris occasionally glimpsing the Eiffel Tower in the distance, Parisians ran across the street in front of us, cars tooted their horns and the whole world seemed to slow down. A buddy holy song started to play on the radio and it was perhaps the most surreal moment I have ever experienced. It was beautiful. There was a slight rain that gave everything a shade of soft grey. The road disappeared into the reflections of the city around it and the wipers played along to the rhythm of the music. Then the traffic began to flow like a great river and we were about to be greeted by our first rapids. “What the hell is that?” I squeaked. “I think it’s a roundabout.” Said Kate. We were entering a swirling whirlpool of cars; The Arc De Triumph. We held our breath and gently drove into a sea of cars. There were no discernible lanes as vehicles of all types maneuvered both left and right. But the traffic seamed to flow effortlessly like one single organism. We were carried gently around with the current and then floated out at what we thought to be the right exit.
Guessing at signs that were written in French we somehow found the airport, there are three, with only minutes to spare before our car hire company closed for the weekend. I drove through a dense traffic jam to the front doors where hundreds of vehicles came and went, dropping their passengers off and moving on. I parked on the footpath with airport security not game to to question the man with wild eyes. I charged into the airport and my heart sank. It was huge and I had to find a small car hire place. I asked but nobody seemed to speak English or wanted to speak to the wild eyed man who clearly needed to shower.
I ran in circles, I ran up and down and just as I had given up hope I saw the small Eurocar sign. The woman was in the process of closing the steel shutters as I ran in waving my arms. She didn’t speak English but she knew from my pleading that “Sorry we’re closed” in any language wasn’t going to work. A young man arrived who was ready to leave and I could tell by his body language that he was saying something like “It’s the weekend and I’m not going to spoil it because of this cretin.” After several times being told that I was too late by both the woman and the young man they realized that I wasn’t going anywhere. Reluctantly the young man came with me. I was lost but eventually found the car with a security guard trying to tell Kate that she had to move on.
It was then that I realized we hadn’t packed up. There was stuff scattered everywhere in the car. The young man said something to the security guard and they both shook their heads at the stupid tourist. When the young man saw the state the car was in his jaw dropped open, but then just as quickly he saw Kate’s broken leg and perhaps the torment of the last few days etched into our faces and he became our champion.
I stuffed all of our stuff into our bags and he gestured that he would clean up the rest of the mess. We both gave him a hug and while I carried four overflowing bags Kate’s crutches carried the burden of her and her broken leg. But our adventure wasn’t over yet.