CE&C Renovation Experiment: Six – Roll Suitcases I

“Your various pieces of luggage are useful servants, but they are very indiscreet ones, for they reveal your social situation, even more clearly than does your attire.”
• Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

I may be a bit paranoid but I think the Frankfurt Airport has an obsessive, compulsive and irrational crush on me. Although I do understand I am adorable, it should just give up… it will never even get to first base with me. Be that as it may, whenever the building senses that I am there… it just simply won’t let me go. It tries everything it’s got to charm and entrap me… bad weather, late flights, absent desk agents, an hour walk from the domestic to the international terminal when I only have 15 minutes between flights…

My last serious encounter was a couple of years ago. Prior to leaving for a Mediterranean cruise, the Love of My Life (LOML) mocked me for always carrying everything I need for my trip in my Samsonite carry-on bag. Buckling under LOML’s mocking peer pressure, I relented and checked my luggage.

We arrived at Frankfurt without problem, and were suppose to fly to my all time favourite city, Nice, on the Cote d’Azure, to spend a couple of in-between days in my favorite European city, then train it to Savona to catch the cruise.

When we arrived in Frankfurt, we went to the departure board to see which terminal and gate our connecting flight was leaving from. ALL the flights were cancelled. ALL. Stunned, we asked a man standing beside us, who looked so forlorn that it was hard not to pout in sympathy, and asked what was up. He was also trying to get to Nice. He had been trying for five cancelled flights… The long and the short of it: Europe was socked in with a massive snow storm. We were going nowhere… not even slowly. Not by plane… nor train… nor bus… nor car…

Thousands of people were milling around the airport, but I knew this was personal. It was between me and the Frankfurt airport.

For years I had been telling LOML about my many encounters of the Frankfurt kind. He had never had a problem there. He thought I was exaggerating. In an attempt to make LOML jealous, the Airport proved him wrong…

It looked like there was only one wicket for all the stranded passengers in the terminal. The lineup took ten minutes to walk by at a brisk pace. Basic necessities such as toiletries had been stripped from the shops in the airport mall. The uniform look on people’s faces was something between angst, fatigue, exasperation and the “I haven’t bathed in days” je ne sais quoi.

The businesswoman in me saw a great opportunity for an “I am Stranded at the Frankfurt Airport Again” store brimming with non-designer underwear, diapers, wet wipes, basic toiletries, cheap tee shirts, yoga clothes, cheap toys… smack in the middle of the Frankfurt mall… Unfortunately no one else had. The store did not exist.

Luckily LOML had Star Alliance Gold Status, thanks to more business travel than anyone should ever have to do, and we were able to get into the business class lounge. The lounge at least had food, booze, clean bathrooms, comfortable lounge chairs, and two ticket agents. While the long lounge line slowly snaked it’s way to the ticket agent, I bonded with a delightful young Turkish doctoral student who was on his way from Harvard to visit his parents back home in Turkey for the holidays.

After queuing for about an hour the exhausted ticket agent offered us mints, a not so discrete hint perhaps, and told us there were no flights that day, but booked us for a flight to Nice for the next day. In addition she was able to give us complementary rooms and dinner coupons at a high-end airport hotel.

The Turkish gentleman was told there were no outgoing flights the next day, and because he did not have a visa, something Canadians are granted on entry to the EU, he had to spend a third night at the airport. He almost broke out in tears. Even though he was well educated, wealthy and an innocent victim of weather, he was not allowed outside the airport without a visa. Chalk one up for the Airport.

Two days and some interesting stories later… we made it to Nice, still dressed in our Canadian winter clothing. Heavy boots included.

Our luggage however did not catch up with us.

We spent our one evening in Nice shopping for clothes. To keep it simple, we went to the tourist center near the train station, got a hotel around the corner, then ran to the Galleries Lafayette before it closed. We explained our situation to a team of sales assistants who were simply wonderful. One adorable sales assistant in particular thought LOML had the cutest Quebec accent ever and couldn’t stop giggling. She even brought a friend over to giggle in chorus.

LOML and I each bought the standard emergency Lacoste uniform: 2 black bottoms + 3 black and 3 white Polo T shits + 1 black sweater (no need to try anything on as Lacoste always fits the same); then I ran to the lingerie section, headed straight to the Lejaby rack and bought black and nude bras with 3 matching panties for each… and LOML bought a package of no-name tighty blackies. Although shoes were easy for LOML to acquire, for me, as usual, shoes were problematic. I did find a pair that at least were the right size albeit ugly and painful.

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
• Charles Dudley Warner

The next day, before boarding in Savona, we bought a cheap no-name rolling suitcase at the outdoor market to carry all our acquisitions, heretofore still in the Galleries Lafayette plastic shopping bags. Dumb.

By the end of the voyage, the indescribably poorly made suitcase needed to be duct taped closed, even though all we did was roll it on and off the ship, and my feet were a bloody mess from the ugly shoes.

After the cruise, we spent out last evening before a late night flight home in Nice. Exhausted, I wanted to go to a nice dinner. We walked around town, in the raining slush, our duct-taped bag in hand. We went to a large Greek restaurant called Aphrodite. We went in, and the maître de took one look at our bag and told us there was not room in the restaurant for us. Fully booked! So sorry. But… The restaurant was mostly empty. My nose got seriously out of joint. Luggage snobbery! I had never been turned away from any place in my life. No goddess of love in that greasy joint.

We walked the streets of Nice, forlorn. Our luggage making gasping noises as we push-me-pull-you’d it along. We walked by dozens of restaurants. None of them would do.

Finally my eye caught sight of a restaurant, La Baie d’Amalfi. It was brightly lit, emanating friendly golden hues. In tears that I didn’t know were there, I blurted out my woeful tale to the surprised maître de. He looked at my luggage and then at sad, sad me, and welcomed us in with open arms, fed us one of the most exquisite meals in my life (and I am an extreme foodie), and even gave us a shot of limoncello, just because.

And I vowed that never again will I:
• bow to LOML peer pressure… no matter how much he mocks me;
• not carry all I need on board with me;
• break in new shoes on a trip;
• go the the Aphrodite restaurant in Nice; or,
• buy cheap luggage.

We were finally reunited with our luggage in Canada two days after we returned.

“People like to think of a you as a certain person, or a certain type of person, and they do love to give you a label. We like luggage labels, and we like people labels.
• Claire Balding


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