Tuesday, November 21, 2006

SURVIVOR a la Parisienne

I have invented a new "game" ...its called SURVIVOR! the location? Paris!!!

So...the clue above would suggest that I am NOT in Hong Kong now as I should have been....instead, I am stranded penniless and identityless but at least not humourless in the world's most beautiful and expensive city...also home to the most sophisticated pickpockets! In this case, they work the Paris 5 star hotels...everything from the George V to the Meridien Etoile where I am at (much lower on the food chain at 195 Euros a night vs George V at 865 Euros a night!)

Yes, if I was in the little Jean Paul Gaultier boutique hotel that I wanted to book into for its superior charm and style instead of this characterless chain that the corporate travel agency insisted was company policy, I would not have been a target!

c'est la vie! Suffice to say....after I packed all my gear, left my luggage with concierge, bought a ticket for the airport transfer bus, I went to have breakfast. It happened between the concierge desk and the breakfast room- for which access is controlled by a maitre'd- or in the 15 mins while I was having breakfast. My wallet and passport wallet was lifted out of my handbag! I discovered it as I exited the breakfast room to retrieve my just-purchased ticket to head for Charles de Gaulle airport to fly to Hong Kong for my speaking engagement at the university!

Well....you know that sinking feeling..................?

I instinctively KNEW I had been robbed. Funny thing is...the same thing happened to me 25 years ago in the American Bar in Paris....luckily that time my passport was not taken and I was a poor backpacker so a string of credit cards was not a headache.

I wont bore you with the tedium of what ensued....but I still have a throbbing headache almost 24 hours later as a consequence of the stress!

Luckily my company has insured me but dealing with global organisations like Visa and AMEX aint as global or 24x7 as the advertisements say. There is NO EXPRESS in American Express!I would love to place their Marketing Manager in this position and strip him of all his contact numbers and see how he or she manages! It has been a diabolical experience, but Visa is way ahead of Amex in the efficiency stakes I am hoping that by tomorrow I can get emergency cash and a replacement credit card, and then I will be camped out at Australian Embassy who says they no longer provide temporary travel documents, I have to wait for a full passport replacement- 48-72 hours.

So...what is a hungry and penniless nameless vagrant to do today but enjoy the free fresh air and scenic beauty of the nearby Bois de Bologne Park and indulge in my favourite past-time....a picnic on the grass among the lillies and swans, dressed in a fur coat, feasting on the exquisite handcrafted Belgian chocolates I had purchased as gifts in Ghent and a bottle of vintage Bollinger that I bought as a gift for my host-to-be in Hong Kong! Ah...the torture!

Yes, some music would be nice...maybe I will hear some if I am open to it...maybe even enjoy a slow waltz?

Last night, wandering a bit aimlessly trying to find a taxi in the non-tourist part of the city after going to the Police Station which is MILES from my hotel, I stumbled upon a tiny pedestrian lane in a non-descript residential area of Paris teeming with locals shopping at delicatessens, Boucheries full of local delicacies like dressed and feathered pheasants, ducks, and other feathery flesh, rabbits (lapin) in various stages of "undress", and even wild boar hams still covered in the hairy black skin, and...to top it all, the release of the 2006 Beaujolais with wine tastings everywhere, a fromagerie or 6, several exquisite patisseries and boulangeries selling pastries and bread too picture perfect to eat....and a juggler and Little Sparrow-like waif playing the accordion and singing the melancholy Jacques Brel songs made so famous by Edith Piaf.

Yes, I fell into a picture, plonked myself down by a little table, splashed out 6 Euros on a glass of new season Beaujolais, a baguette, some fromage and foie gras (with some emergency cash the hotel manager advanced me to pay the taxi fare to go to the police station!)....and then walked the 4 kms back to the hotel instead!

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