• Follow real france on WordPress.com
  • Archives

  • Auvers sur Oise

  • antibes

  • Paris

  • chantilly

i’ve always depended on the kindness of cab drivers

IMG_6526

Where we left off: God just pushed me down the final step of the Strasbourg Cathedral stairwell and did something mauvais to my foot.  I’m in the lobby of the Hotel Gutenberg waiting for the doctor.

The doctor arrives.   He only speaks French so we communicate in the language of pain.   He taps my foot, moves it around and I yelp when it hurts.   He tells me he thinks it’s broken (casse) and I’ll need to go for “radio”.    He gives me a couple of pills, makes a few calls and escorts me (okay, drags me), downstairs to get a cab.

After a brief conference with the doctor, receptionist and cab driver, the doctor passes me off to the driver who pretty much holds me upright as I hop to the cab muttering “merde, merde, merde.”  He compliments me on my French.

Somewhere along the way, the pills kick in and I start to enjoy the chauffeured tour of the outer reaches of Strasbourg.   Woah, full moon.  We arrive at the Clinique St. Anne Urgences entrance and the driver gets me a wheelchair.

In the back of my mind, I believe that once I sit in the wheelchair, all is lost.   So it’s either that, dumb pride or that all-powerful feeling you get when floating on a schedule 3 narcotic that makes me refuse the chair.

I hop bravely up the ramp to the door…well, half way to the door.  Fortunately, the cab driver has the foresight to follow me with the wheelchair, providing a comfortable place to collapse.   He wheels me the rest of the way in.

off to get an X-ray

being chauffeured to my X-ray

I sign in, give them my insurance card, fill in a form and somebody pushes me to the waiting room.  I’m not sure, mais je pense I’ve been parle-ing fluent Francais and understanding tout ce qu ils disent.   Yaaaay!

There are a few people already ahead of me, so I fear a long wait.  Five minutes later, my name is called and I’m wheeled into x-ray.   An intern takes a picture of my foot and tells me to wait for the doctor.   Gotta love French healthcare.

In another few minutes, the doctor comes in and introduces himself as David.   Not Doctor David, just David.   Maybe he’s a night janitor.  I don’t care.  He’s cute.  He confirms that oui, my foot is broken and I will be getting a cast up to my knee.  Honey, you can put that cast as high as you want.

Then a horrible realization hits me.   I’m wearing skinny jeans.  There’s no way I can fit a cast under them.  I’ll have to take them off (well, at least one leg).   I haven’t shaved my legs.   I need a pedicure.   Dear God, what underwear am I wearing?   What will I wear back to the hotel?   What will I wear home?

After the cast is put on, the intern devises a lovely outfit by jauntily throwing the empty pant-leg over my shoulder.   She cuts some gauze as a belt and fashions a skirt out of a paper scrub top.   I feel like I’m on Project Runway. Fortunately, I have no photographic evidence of my one-of-a-kind look.   I’m pretty sure Tim Gunn would be mortified.

My cab is waiting, and I’m faced with a new dilemma.   In France, the hospitals don’t give out crutches, they’re prescribed.   It’s 8pm and god knows how I’ll deal with it.  It’s times like this I wish I was married.   Not that my husband would be of any use to me.   He’s probably back at the hotel watching football. Bastard!

bad

evil crutches

The cab driver, lady at the registration/incoming wounded desk and I discuss the problem and the next thing you know, the taxi driver makes a few calls, finds an open pharmacy and we’re on our way.

The pharmacy is in a huge complex set back about 30 meters from the sidewalk.   Both the driver and I know there’s no way I’ll be able to hop up there without taking several naps along the way, so he goes in and gets my crutches.

I had envisioned myself swinging breezily from the kind of crutches that rest under your arms, but in France these forearm wrapped ones are de rigueur.   I hate them.   The design forces users to rely on balance and core strength, neither of which I seem to have.   I’m more of a leaner.

I attempt a graceful exit from the cab.   The driver’s arms are out, ready to catch me as I stand up shakily and freeze like a dog on an escalator, trying to figure out what goes first, the crutch or the foot.

The trip to the hospital and pharmacy took an hour and a half.   It takes another hour and a half to get to my room.

I immediately start to pack (well, after a short rest).   My plane leaves at 7:30 AM and I have a lot to figure out before then. I’m happy to discover that I did pack pajamas.   I can wear the bottoms to the airport.   A thrill rushes through me knowing that for the first time ever, I will have worn everything I packed.  I’m also pleased to discover that I’ll save a lot of time in the morning because I can’t take a shower.

The next morning, I get to the airport (by cab) without a hitch.   The driver passes me off to the wheelchair and attendant he wrangled for me inside the airport.   I feel like a rolling baton being passed from person to person.

IMG_6531

At first, I’m a little embarrassed.   Yes, I’m that unkempt person in pajama pants being wheeled through the airport.   But as they whisk me through security, keeping close track of my passport, purse, coat and even wheel me over to the cash machine on the way to the gate.  I even get a whole row to myself on a packed plane (could this be because I can’t take a shower?).  They even fasten my seat belt. I could get used to this.  Maybe I’ll save the cast and crutches for all future travel.

Another wheelchair and attendant await me in Nice as well as my checked bag.  Once I’m comfortably in the cab, I realize a new set of obstacles await me.   Have I mentioned that I live in a third floor walk-up?

I’m pretty sure  I can get the driver to carry up my bag, which despite being small is way too much for me to handle with these godforsaken crutches.   But what about me?   I just fell down a stair.   The thought of three flights fills me with terror..   Maybe I can crawl?   Slither up on my belly like a snake?

In the foyer of my apartment building, the cab driver assesses the situation and has an idea.  First he carries my bag up the three flights.   Then he carries me,  piggy back.   He sets me down and holds me upright, while I open the door.   He carries my baggage in and helps me inside.   I pay him (HUUUUUGE tip).

I close the door and lean against the wall feeling an enormous sense of triumph and relief.   I made it!   I’m home!

A half hour later, once I’ve rested from the exertion of being carried up the stairs, I make the ½ hour trek to my couch   I begin to realize that getting home was the easy part.   How the hell am I going to get out of here?  How will I bathe?   How will I cook?  How will I get groceries?  How will I clean the apartment? How will I hang up my goddamn coat?   I’m alone now.  I have nobody to love and care for me. I’ll probably starve to death and my cat will have to eat me until someone discovers my remains.

Or, I can call a cab.

 ***

Postscript:   Don’t feel too sorry for me.   My niece, Alex came down from Switzerland and waited on me.   I’m so glad my sister had the foresight to breed!

notre damned

notre dam strasbourg

Look at this thing.   It cannot be ignored.   When you’re in Strasbourg, or even 100 miles away, it’s there.   Either a pale ghost in the background, or an ornate, breathtaking, slightly ominous presence that leaps out at you between streets and alleys.

It’s Cathedral Strasbourg de Notre Dame.  Or as Goethe described it, “a sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God.”

The first time I saw it was from the airplane.  Flying over the Vosges Mountains, then the Alsace plains from which this gothic beast rises, ringed by the city and the Ill river like a huge moat.

Visiting the Cathedral certainly wasn’t on my list of things to do (not that I had a list).   My objective was to see Strasbourg and fill my annual quota of one top IMG_6441European Christmas market city every December (last year was Vienna and the year before was Berlin).   Strasbourg is the self-proclaimed Capital of Christmas, and home of the best Christmas market in France.

I generally try to avoid churches or God forbid, enter them for fear that He will sense my agnosticism and smite me.   But everywhere I go, every Christmas market, every sight, every stroll, every place I visit, it’s there watching me.  And yes, I’m intrigued.  It seems to have a gravitational force all its own.

IMG_6228

I resist for a couple of days.   Distracting myself with all forms of wursts, choucroutes, flammkuchens, pastries, mulled beverages, the full moon and Christmas displays that would be tacky almost anywhere else in the world, but somehow, are cute and picturesque here.

I’m mildly interested in the fact that the first printing press (the forerunner to the internet for those of you unfamiliar with books) was invented.  But my main preoccupation in Gutenberg Square, where this year’s Croatian Christmas Market resides, is to wonder what the view must be from that 466 foot spire looming overhead.

IMG_6479

By the third day, the lure of the church is too much to resist.    I hesitantly approach the door and enter, waiting for either a person or powerful Godly force to stop me.   No such luck.   I take a quick look around at the statues, astrological clock, soaring buttresses and stain glass windows.   It’s beautiful and it’s impressive and I’m kind of itching to get out before something falls on me.

I emerge from the church, and take a few gulps of pagan air in relief.   I take one last lap through the Christmas market in front of the cathedral to fortify myself for the more daring task ahead. I’m going to climb that 330 step spire and have Strasbourg at my feet!

I’m hoping that I’ll be less exposed to the wrath of God in a dark, narrow, cobbly stairwell than the chapel.    I buy the five Euro ticket from a women who wishes me “bon courage.”   I wonder if she knows something.

There’s a 20-something-ish couple also making the climb and I strategize whether to go first and have the luxury of falling back on them, or letting them go first and not have to worry about slowing them down when I collapse in heap of exhaustion on the 207th step.

I opt for the latter, but we quickly change places when it turns out they’re slowing ME down with their incessant photo taking. Fortunately, the stairwell isn’t completely dark, and little glimpses of  outside pop up along the way.   It makes the climb a lot less tedious.  It also allows me to stop and pretend to look at the view while nonchalantly gasping for breath.

I don’t know if the endorphins are kicking in, but I make it to the top without becoming a doubled up, sweat-drenched, cramping, pile of protoplasm.   On the other hand, it’s also possible I am all that, but too delirious to notice.

IMG_6487

The view?   Eh.

I kid, it’s great.   But as with most things arduously won, a wee bit of a disappointment follows the win.   When you climb 330 stairs, you kind of feel like you deserve to see God and Truth and blinding beauty.   My real reward was to see the two young photo-taking whippersnappers emerge from the stairwell 15 minutes later wheezing and doubled over.   Score one for the older woman!

But this is no time to get cocky.   Sure, going down as opposed to up has it’s advantages, particularly from a gravity point of view.   But it certainly has its perils.  Those stone steps can be slippery.  And they’re freaking narrow and it’s dark.  For a moment, I freeze in terror and consider calling for a helicopter rescue.    Must. Not. Dwell. On. It.

Every step I get closer to the bottom, the lighter I feel.   Wow.   I climbed up and down all those steps and I’m not all that tired.   But maybe that’s how you feel right before you die… Then I see the light coming from the door leading from the street to the entrance.  Well, it’s either the exit or the white light of death.

My heart leaps as I take the 559th step.   The only problem is, it turns out to be the 558th th step and while my heart is leaping, I fall.   I come down hard on my left foot and fall into a belly dive across the floor.   Yes, I have been felled by the “tree of God” and damn, does my foot hurt!

Somehow, I make it back to the hotel (cursing everything from God to Gothic architecture to Germans who I’m sure have some part in all this), which is fortunately only about 100 hops away.   I tell the receptionist that “je pense ma pied est casse”   She gets me some ice, calls a Doctor and asks me how I did it.   I tell her I was smote in the Cathedral and that I think God must be punishing me for something.

She exclaims, “No, it is a miracle!   You could have fallen at the top!”

***

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: