Often my posts are serious. I might write about something that I’ve been pondering for quite some time before I put it into words. Occasionally however, they are humorous, like my post on finding a Diet Coke in France. This one is a little more on the light side and it’s just a memory that I was thinking about recently.
I was serving in Angers, France which is a little southwest from Paris in the Loire valley. It is a beautiful area with magical castles and a breathtaking countryside. I had been asked to accompany another missionary to Bordeaux because his companion was not able to go. I was excited about the trip. You don’t travel around much usually as a missionary, so this was exceptional. After spending some time in Bordeaux, we took the train back to Angers. I was writing in my journal, reading, and was not paying attention to the announcements as we stopped at several towns along the way. The missionary I was travelling with, Patrick Caplan, was a native French-speaking missionary, so I figured that he would let me know when we needed to get off. A bit of a mistake. He wasn’t paying attention either.
All of a sudden the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) started moving really fast. Too fast for where we were going. The TGV is a high-speed train. The TGV actually set the record for the fastest train in the world in 2007, going an impressive 357 mph. (574 km/h) As a side note, I really wish we had TGV trains in the USA. I would love to take one back and forth from Seattle to Salt Lake City instead of flying.
Now I don’t think this train was going quite that fast, but it really started moving. I asked a conductor what the next stop was. He said, “Nonstop to Paris.” It sunk in…. We had missed our stop. Missing our stop was one thing, but as a missionary, you are not supposed to leave the mission boundaries. Ever! We were travelling outside of our mission, the Bordeaux Mission, into the Paris mission. This was completely “interdit” or not allowed.
So we pulled out our cell phones… (young readers I’m sure are thinking that this is what we should do at this point), BUT! Alas, they had not been invented yet. At least, we surely didn’t have one. So in no time we made it to the Paris train station.
It was exciting. It was huge! It was early evening. The air felt good. It was vibrant and bustling. There were business men all dressed in sharp French suits and business women in their fancy French clothing. This is the fashion capital of the world! Everyone looks amazing with their stylish scarves and shiny sleek shoes. I was honestly really excited to be in Paris. I had only briefly stopped at the Paris airport catching my connecting flight with our group as we headed on to Bordeaux, France. Now, here I was, on the streets, so to speak, of Paris. I wanted to get souvenirs, see the sites, take pictures, etc. etc. But of course we weren’t going to do any of that. We went straight to a pay phone… (Young readers, this is how we communicated pre-mobile phones.) We sheepishly called the mission president, President Andersen, and he advised that we get on the next train back to Angers as soon as possible, which we did with haste.
I remember after calling the mission president, seeing two young men in white shirts and ties ride up to the train station on bikes. I said hello to them, thinking that they must be missionaries also, but from the Paris mission. It turned out they were just unknowingly dressed like missionaries, and quickly walked by trying to avoid my eyes.
So that was fun to write home and tell my family that we accidentally ended up in Paris. It was even more fun to tell my companion that we had gone to Paris! I can’t say that we did anything fun or saw a single tourist site, but I breathed in deeply the air of the city of light and continued on my way as a missionary. Seeing Paris would have to wait.
It would be years before I finally made it back to Paris to actually tour around and see everything. I have been very fortunate to go back many times. I was able to go multiple times when my wife and I lived in Holland and England for my work. I conducted business in French with a couple of our largest customers which were based in Paris while I was working in Holland. I would go and visit them from time to time. I also went back to Paris in 2017 with my wife Jen and my daughter Maggie, for the Paris Temple open house. I love Paris and have an itch to go back every spring, especially now that Facebook pops up these memories of us touring around Paris two years ago today. Ahhh Paris, tu me manques. I’ve got to figure out a way to accidentally end up in Paris again.