Eventually we arrived at our only solution, which was to take the flight to Paris leaving just short of an hour. We would fly Air France to Cairo from Charles de Gaulle. Air Algerie would not cover our overnight stay in Paris; it seemed to fall outside their domain of responsibility. We argued over this awhile, and eventually gave up instilling any notion of "customer service" or "consumer rights" in Air Algerie. We retrieved our bags and as we left to board the flight to Paris, the Air Algerie manager said he would send a fax to the counter in Paris and they would help us with a hotel accomodation. I thanked him, wondering Was that so hard?
We started to get excited about the fact that we were Paris-bound, and figured we might as well stay a few extra days. It is Paris, afterall! It seemed ironic that after changing money to french francs (then turning right around to spend it on a french paper covering the Tour), we were actually going to be there. It felt natural to take advantage of our diversion.
Upon arrival in Paris, we headed straight for the Air Algerie ticketing counter. The women behind the service desk were catty with one another, disorganized and odd, but friendly as they helped us. They eventually got us a room voucher for a hotel nearby the airport, booked our seats and issued us a new ticket indicating that we would be flying Air France the next day. We decided to drop our bags off at the hotel and return to the airport to change our flight out of Paris.
The whole time as we made our way from terminal to terminal, from shuttle bus to hotel, we marvelled at how modern things were. I'd been to Charles de ęGaulle before but didn't remember it looking so space-age like: escalators enclosed by glass tunnel chutes, a new terminal that looked more like a World's Fair art piece. Everywhere we looked was lit up, clean and glossy. Where were the touts? Where were the families camped out on the floor? Where was the noise? As the shuttle bus pulled up to our hotel, the sterile voice of a woman came on: "Terminal 2A, Ibis Hotel and Sofitel Hotel. Don't forget your belongings." At Ibis Hotel we noticed a cash-exchange machine that accepted five different currencies and spit back out french francs. Our room had air-conditioner, though it didn't need it, suddenly making the big reed fan we'd bought on our train ride to Bamako doubly obsolete. That night, Gregg enjoyed a complimentary dark stout and I watched a Turkish film on satellite TV.
The next morning we set out for Paris proper after changing our flight reservation and taking a cursory glance at cheap accomodation options from guidebooks at the airport kiosk. On our train ride into town, we laughed at the likelihood that we were the only travellers in Paris by sheer accident.
We ended up at a little place called Hotel Familial, run by a gruff old lady and her rather hyperactive daughter. We scored a room at less than $20/nightnot bad for one of the most glamorous cities in the world! As it turned out, our room with its lumpy beds, unlevel floor, and broken furniture turned out to be the one grounding aspect in our experience of being "displaced". In fact, it didn't even faze us when we were told we couldn't use the shower; the old pipes were cracked and water was leaking into the mother's bedroom (mother and daughter both felt compelled to show me the sagging ceiling). We had our customary bath, standing in a borrowed tub, in our room, pouring cold water over ourselves with a used Evian bottle. Paris, Africa?