Before I even get round to describing our little cultural trip in the gayest of Paree I firstly have to wax lyrical about the flight company who ferried us to and fro. I thought that by booking cheap-as-you-like Jet2 would be unsightly, rickety and the feeling of being treated like cattle. Generally with christmas cracker prize airlines (ie Ryan air and Easy jet) you get treated like cack.
Not with Jet 2 you don't. Ooooooooh nooooooooooo!
OMG, Ellie was treated like royalty and myself as her lady in waiting. They couldn't do enough for us and really, I asked for no assistance whatsoever. Although when I booked our tickets online I ticked a box explaining that I had a disabled passenger. The reason why I did this (as opposed to previous bookings) was that I was travelling on my own with Belle. Mark generally does all the carrying and lifting of bags so that I can see to Ellie and make sure she doesn't get ushered out of her comfort zone. People tend to tut and moan when she takes 3 days to embark or disembark a plane. She is slow but she is not, like, completely incapacitated. So ticking the disabled box meant that I only wanted to wheel her to the boarding gate and leave the buggy with the loading staff to have it chucked on last minute in the hold.
When we had checked in the girl picked up her phone and dialled for wheelchair assistance and ensured we had front row seats (well actch it was row 2 because in row 1 you have to pay an extra 20 squids for leg room and believe me, Ellie and I are bereft of leg length so we dont need it!). I said that belle could manage with her buggy but she insisted. She said we would have to wait 15 minutes and so we waited.
And they never turned up and besides the waft of Burger Kings rich heart attack inducing aromas were tantalising Belles tummy. So we head off to buy her a boyger (Belle calls them this in her fake new yoyk accent and it does make me laugh). She tucked in like a good un and then we had to clear security. We entered the line trying to look less terrorist-ish as possible. I swear to god, since the advent of major screening at airports you suddenly feel guilty of carrying anything remotely wet or bombish even though you would never dream of carrying such items for fear of being frogmarched to the nearest female for an internal inspection. That ain't ever going to happen, she would take a week just to remove the 28 layers of clothing I put on just to avoid excess baggage charges.
Do you ever notice how guilty you feel when you are in the presence of the law even though you are going about your daily biz, being guilt free as normal and then a bobby comes along and you suddenly freeze and think "Where did I put my imaginery stash of crack coacine and hope that you left it at home?". And you have probaly never even set eyes on the stuff. Its crazy how they make you feel criminal.
So anyway, I unloaded my bags onto the trays and belle had to take her coat off and I had to take my jacket off and then I had to take my shoes off and belle the same. It was about 300 degrees and with the panic of getting through on time was about finishing me off. Ellie walked through the metal detector and then me.
I had set it off.
And Ive never ever set it off and Ive flown kajillions of times and been through countless security checks in my short 37 years of life. And instantly I thought "OMG, what if somebody had slipped something in my sleep and its in my body and now they have to give me a stomach operation to get it out?". Y ou then delve further into your own scrutiny and wonder if you had had a nipple piercing years ago and forgotten about it (the sight of those things went after I had ellie, how would I even know?) and that the gold was now wearing away and the metal had become more attractive and that you had to "get them out" to all the staff so they could laugh at you.
Beads of sweat were dripping off my forehead and I knew I was going to be stung for a crime I did not commit and that there would be no alibi on my behalf cos all I do is craft in a room and nobody ever see's me so therefore I have no witnesses. It turned out it was just a bracelet that I was wearing had hidden metal content and with that I almost collapsed. You could see the eyebrows furrow on all of the security staff who clearly knew I was up to no good and were mentally cataloguing my face for future reference. Bugger.
We put all of our clothes back on and head out into the dangerous world of the perfumery. Belle and I love to pong any aircraft out on all of our trips abroad. It's what free squirts are about. I divide each fore arm into four, the back of my hands into two and above my elbows into three giving a veritable 18 different pongs to mist my very aurora. Given the fact Belle does the same, we have 36 varying top notes providing a sensual aromatic experience for us and a nauseous journey to France for others.
We were in stink heaven.
Our pride went into debating whos scent we loved the most and Im torn between Hillary Duff and Gucci by Gucci (hmm, original names there) and Belle loves the new Ghost in the peachy/Orangey looking bottle. Have to say that Anna Sui smells like Jif whereas Britney Spears Curiosity smells like it really did kill the cat.
We joined the boarding line to hearing over the tannoy "Could Mrs Wiseman please come to the boarding desk?". "Crap, they are going to dock me and belle to the wing as we stink too much" I thought and then to find out that we needed to be escorted on the plane by ground crew (you could see the ground crew fella flinching at the over kill of perfume but to be fair he did stank of Aviation fuel and we know that smells 50 times worse). Oooooh, we did feel tres swish and posh and Ellie's little face lit up at the thought of being given a wee stab of royalty.
We had no idea that we would be treated so kindly which reminds me, Im not sure if I told my blog this but when we went to Las Vegas in April, Belles ticket was very kindly paid by sponsorship through her fund raising. We flew Delta Airlines which in my opinion is not your average passenger carrier. The tickets were not cheap and we thought that we were fortunate to get the chance to go when we did under the circumstance surrounding the whole affair. So 2 days before the flight I rang Delta in the US and wondered if they would consider upgrading Belles seat because she was incredibly anxious about the impending pokery of Doctors out there. We know airlines do upgrades and Belle would have been no trouble as she can toilet herself and like I say, she isn't totally incapacitated - she would have slept the whole way there because - as she says - that's what chair beds are for!.
The guy at the other end was so positive and said he would ring the main HQ of Delta Airlines and I was on hold for like, 6 or 7 minutes. then he came back to be and said "Ma'am, you may not like the answer but I have just been told that Delta Airlines dont DO upgrades on the disabled". Gasp! Well, I didnt know whether to laugh or bust my rage in an array of vocal expletives. Ok, we were not expecting a yes but a simple no would have been better. You just don't go around saying things as direct as that. I was verbally punished by that and really a simple no would have been very kind and absolute. On this occasion I feel I am allowed to say "Hmmm, bastards". Hope none of their kids are physically challenged, can you imagine what type of parents they would make?
So anyway we got on the plane and settle in and then take off and we just laugh and giggle and bet a tenner on who would see the Eiffel Tower first. That would be me then, asI was sat at the window seat and Belles head is the same height as the bottom of the window. And rightfully I do win and I take it out of her spending money. Ok, I dont but I could have. We land in Paris with a crack and a thump as it felt we had literally landed on the back to wheels. You know how it goes, you gently glide with the back wheels skirting the runway and experience a gentle descent of the nose wheel. Good grief no, Belle and I looked at each other with the whites of our eyes shocking the cabin but fortunately we were well. We cleared customs even though ze french customs man could smell us before he saw us and was scanning me with his laser eyes at my guilty looking face. We collected our bags, met with our pre-booked rip off taxi to whip us to our hotel. It was 1030 at night by the time we arrived and the staff at our hotel (Hotel Prelude) were very kind and spoke excellent english even thoughIi was speaking broken french ... I was really trying, you know!). We happened to be on the top floor and the lifts were up a flight if stairs to start with.
Fabulous, I thought.
One suitcase, One pushchair, one hand bag, one hand luggage and one tired child.
Still, we managed even though I was sweating like a pig which only infuriated all 18 scents on my arms and made my eyes bleed. We did laugh about it though. We got to our room which was tres compact and bijou but you know, we were only sleeping there and it was exceptionally clean. We were quite chuffed we had a terrace that was 12 inches from the edge of the building but still - a terrace in Gay Paree! We freshened up and went back down to find a shop or cafe to get a little drinkee. I asked the staff where we might something and he said "How much of ze money you have with you?".
"Bloody hell, youre a bit preumptious - do I look poor or something?" I thought.
I told him I didnt have much just incase he tried to frisk me and even then I wouldnt have minded because he was tres delish. He said there was not much open but that I ought to be careful as there are people who take money from you and zey are called ze chavs.
So chav has hit international status then?
I made sure I was to look out for guys dressed in burberry scraves with Argos jewellery on every knuckle and literally took 30 steps to the nearest shop.
Hmm, the choice was not amazing.
We plummed for the most massivest pack of pringles and some fruit juices and head 30 steps back to our fairly priced yet decent hotel. We scoffed our picnic watching something in french (obv) and then I decided to take a shower. Bloody hell, it was tiny, I just about got my hips in and in no way would I have been able to bend down to get my shampoo because I would have been permanently wedged. There was no shelf to put my toiletries on so I had to balance the bottles on my shoulder and literally wriggle my arms to reach for the bottles. It was fun, if Im being honest. I mean, who wants a bathroom the size of a hotels foyer anywway (or even one you can play baseball in a la Nickleback). The hairdryer was funny. It was attached to the wall and you had to hold the bakerlite looking/smelling nozzle without burning them to a crisp in the process. But I have to say, the water in Gay Pareeeeeee is lovely on your hair. It made it swishy and feather light. I cant tell youwhat it did to Ellies hair other than making it look magnificent.
Before bed I measured out 12 pringles and slid them in my mouth without breaking the skin of the corners of my lips, crunched 3 times, swallowed them with some apple juice and felt sure Id be 10 stones heavier in the morning. A perfect ending to an adventurous day.
We woke the next morning and I had broken my back on the rickety bed. A gentle rub from belle mended it instantly and we dressed for Brekko. Belle was delighted they served Cocopops and citron yoghurt. I shoved a croissant in sideways and made room for 2 pan au chocolats (Im not kidding, there were portuguese, german and swiss tourists and they piled their plates higher with 5 or 6 of the little sugary bleeders). Do european kids not realise how lucky they are having the ability to scofff as much choc as they want for breakfast? When I was a lass, we had cornflakes or cornflakes and even then it was sometimes warm milk (vom!). If we were lucky we could have toast and even then it was done under t'grill and if mum had time we sometimes had it toasted on both sides. We generally had it toasted on one side and then we lathered it in marg that tasted worse than Stork cooking marg. Not my parents fault entirely I may add, this was the late 70's early 80's where money and choice and even time was like - non existent. I would have KILLED to have eaten continental breakkies. Those lovely fruit compotes, yogs, croissants, crackers. Deeelish.
Belle had a coffee and yakked furiously- man, it was strong and the chances of finding instant coffee in the gayest of Pareeeeee was virtually non existent. the poor kid opted for water and with that we trekked out for a full day of the sights. Luckily for me and my brilliant research we were not far from the nearest Metro nor bus route. Our hotel was literally at the foot of Sacre Couer (sigh!) but I wanted to save that until our last day. So we caught an "open bus" which meant getting on and off when we wanted plus the use of the Ferry boats when and where we wanted. They were fabulous in value and Belle was so excited about the boat ride. We sat on the top deck and enjoyed the sunshine. We got talking to some Ozzies who had never been to Paris before (and me, like the expert cos Ive been here only ONCE before - gave them some help about what to see). They were fantatsic fun and were on the last leg of a world tour. They loved belles hair which was the talking point of the whole day! We got off to change busses which we missed because the dumbo driver wouldn't have ze patience for Belle to alight the stairs. I had to "OY!" a few times and wonder if ze French have any patience whatstoever. Between buses and stops, belle and I would talk about the scenery - we really did enjoy the minutes rather than the hours. By lunch time belle was practically desperate to try a french Mcdonalds which as you know - they all taste ze same. She ordered her usual Boyger combo and insisted that their chicken nuggets were crunchier. After lunch we head off to catch a ferry boat. I can't tell you how excited my girl was. It was the best little facial expression that she has ever pulled. The delight was her face alone, for me. We were told to get off at Pont Neuf and get off, we did. We trekked across the treachery that is a french high street and went down 500 bajillion steps to the boat dock. Now, The Seine is speckled with ferry boats of all sizes and status and each stop is littered with 16,000,000 steps to go up and down. Not good for a child with muscle issues. But she tried and she managed and I loved her for it. Ze french clearly do not give ze shit about that although if elevators are such a bind, perhaps they should offer abseiling to get down these difficulties.
So we go down Pont Neuf steps and we approach the boat only to be told that we need the next bridge down. Only when we went down to the next one we realise she meant up. Poor Belle was knackered (This is a child who can only do one session of PE and then when she does, she falls asleep). She managed to keep her little eyes open between pushchair rides because there was so much to see! We ventured on up to the next bridge which happened to be at Notre Damn and this is where Belle came alive. She was soooooooo excited about it. She talked to me about Gargoyles and how eeery the building looked. She was so happy! The boat came alongside and we hopped on. Apparently there is no "ze stoarge" for pushchairs which was a nightmare as the boat was packed. We managed to stow it under some benches and head off to the rear of the boat so that belle could enjoy the breeze. She was just so happy about this part of the trip. Many people on the boat stared at her but equally many of them came to ruffle her hair and stroke her cheek. She blushed so many times and knew that kindness was being thrown at her. It made such a nice change, I can tell you. I think people think that because she is in a chair that she must me mentally ill or about to pass on a disturbingly hideous disease should she look at any of them. I really do wish I could convince people that she is such a sweet and charming girl who is physically ill and that you can talk to her and that she may pass on that charm to them too. But as you well know, people think what they like based on appearance or assumption. You have to really KNOW someone before you can judge them and you also know what else I am trying to say - I hope :)
So anyway, our boat ride did a circuit of the Seine which ended up at the Eiffel tower. You couldn't see Ellie for dust going up those stairs and when she got to the top she lit the whole world up with her enormous smile.
If only you could bottle that - IF ONLY!
She walked around underneath the tower like she owned it, she looked up and across and talked and loved it. We watched street entertainers, we watched people and we sat there taking it all in.
Me and my girl in the gayest of Paree.
Happy and enjoying ourselves.
**will write more and share pictures when I have taken a break from this monster of a blog entry. The letters A, T and E are practically worn from my keyboard as it is!**