It’s back to France for me, this coming week. I’ll be staying and working just outside of Paris, meeting with team members who are based in the home office, thousands of miles from my Massachusetts home base. I leave tomorrow night, and I’ll be back on Thursday the 13th… in time for Valentine’s Day, and preparation for some weekend events.
It’s rare that we all get together as a one trans-Atlantic team. We’re usually so busy with our own activities, our physical paths don’t cross that often. That will be changing this year, as I’m making a couple of trips over in the next month.
Who knows if they will do the same? You never can tell. Company policy around travel tends to change, with access being open for a few months, then closed later on.
That includes hotel accommodations. Usually we’re consigned to the Novotel or Mercure or Ibis in Vélizy-Villacoublay. They’re not awful. But they’re also not great. And unless you have a thriving yoga or za-zen practice that gives you something to do in your room after hours, hanging out there after a long day of work can get a little grim. Some of the rooms are nicer than others. Some of them are akin to staying in a college dorm room, complete with funky carpets and carved-up furniture and blinds that don’t hang exactly right on the windows — if you are fortunate enough to have blinds.
I got lucky this time and will be staying in Boulogne-Billancourt, which is about 15 minutes outside of Paris, and another 15 minutes from the office. It’s going to be super-easy to get to the hotel by train and Metro, as it’s only a few blocks from the Metro stop. It’s also in the middle of a bustling town, near restaurants and shops, so I can actually live my life as a normal person — a real human being — when I’m there, instead of some cog-in-the-corporate-wheel grunt dumped at a hotel that’s sandwiched between the road to the local Ikea warehouse and the highway…. with a stunning view of the loading docks of the local mega-shopping center… with no decent restaurants or other signs of regular life in sight, only vending machine odds and ends to stave off hunger, and cable television and wifi to connect me to the outside world.
The one saving grace to the Novotel is that they offer cable t.v. with German shows, as well as French, so I get to catch up on other European events — and brush up on my German.
I’m really looking forward to staying in Boulogne this time. It’s a whole lot simpler to get to than the other hotels in Vélizy-Villacoublay, where the home office is located. And I expect it to be much more pleasant. The cab ride from the airport to Vélizy will cost you dearly, and taxi drivers don’t always take credit cards. Plus, they sometimes like to jack up the meter right out of the gate, so your bill is sky-high by the time they find their way to Vélizy. Sometimes they circle the town for an additional half hour, because of construction routes blocking direct access.
If you just sit back and let them charge whatever, you can burn through your “emergency” stash of Euros in short order… And end up at a hotel that doesn’t have quick access to an ATM, unless you’re willing to walk 10 minutes to the nearest shopping center. It’s not terribly far, but it is a hike. And if it’s raining… well, you get the picture.
To avoid this, I’ve been practicing protesting vehemently in French — Monsieur — Arretez vous ! C’est tres tres chere ! Basically protesting that they’re charging me too much, and they need to stop the cab immediately, so I can get out and find another. I’d probably be in for a fight, though, because I’ve seldom crossed paths with a Paris taxi driver who wasn’t at least a little bit cranky. The pleasant ones I don’t quite trust, because it seems like they always turn. It doesn’t take much, apparently. But with access to the train/metro and bus, I get to bypass the unique joy of cabbing it in the Paris area.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to taking a cab to Vélizy, if you’re willing to take the time and you’re not in a huge rush. You can take the train and the bus, like I did the first time I was there, three years ago. True, it took me quite a while to figure it out, and I was completely turned around, and the person I was traveling with was not at all comfortable outside the USA (making things a little strained for everyone involved), but now I know how it’s done.
I’m certainly hoping my stay in Boulogne-Billancourt will turn out well. Here’s hoping. No, there’s not as much hoping as there is planning.
Preparation is everything.
I’ve got my list of What Needs To Get Done today, including returning library books that are due, confirming flight and international phone plan details, making sure the bank knows I’ll be in Europe for the next days (so they don’t cut me off if I try to use my debit card to pay for food and lodging), and moving files around from my various devices to make room for more photos and files I’ll pick up on my trip.
Oh, and there’s also the ever-popular dump run. The trash in the bins in the garage needs to get gone, before I am.
So far, I’m on schedule. I’ve got several items crossed off, already, and it looks like I’m going to have time to take care of other items in a systematic and logical manner. The worst thing, when getting ready for a trip — especially one that takes you into a different time zone where people speak a language you don’t know very well — is being rushed and frazzled and hassled.
Once upon a time, I found it invigorating to live on the edge. After having walked that fine line for many a year, now I really appreciate the utter luxury of a well-prepared trip.
And that’s what I’m focusing on now. I don’t have a lot of time in France. I’ll be landing on Monday morning, taking the train/metro to the hotel, checking in and putting everything in order at my room, then cabbing it to the office where I have meetings on Monday afternoon. I had considered flying out Saturday night and having Sunday to rest, because I absolutely detest (je deteste !) being jet-lagged and operating at anything less than 100%.
But this is going to be a short trip, and it may be generally unpleasant, since the weather isn’t looking promising (40′s and rainy), so I’m going to suck it up and do my best under less-than-ideal circumstances and keep focused on what really matters.
Anyway, I’ll be home on Thursday evening, and then I’ll have four days to rest and recoup. I’m taking the day off on Friday, and I have Monday off as well. So it should work out okay, I reckon.
For today, though, it’s all preparation and taking care of business, while banks and libraries are open, and the weather is clear. They’re calling for snow tomorrow (of course), which will delay things a bit if I’m out and about, so today I’ll do all my running-around, while tomorrow will be an “in” day.
If all goes according to plan — and I don’t decide to improvise out of boredom or some strange idea that it would be more fun if I veered off-course — I should have a reasonably luxurious start to my trip tomorrow, with all of my own ducks in a row… leaving me some space to let others around me do their thing.
If I have my bags packed properly with the right supplies, and I have all my own various and sundry pieces in place, everyone else can do as they please, and I’ll be able to adjust.
Because you never do know what will happen, when others start to riff on their own theme.
Oh, look at the time – time to fly.