Being a Femme Enceinte
When we started thinking about a babymoon earlier this year, I described my cunning plan to Mr Cath. As flying was out of the question, I suggested a 10-day overground European trip, firstly to Amsterdam via the overnight ferry, followed by a few days in Bruges, then down to Luxembourg (we do have friends there – it wasn’t just a random suggestion!) Finally, we would end up in Paris for the last couple of nights.
After a pregnant pause (sorry), Mr Cath presented his alternative agenda: 10 days spent in just Paris. No trekking across Europe with the bump and certainly no ferry. He pointed out in the kindest possible way that by the end of March I would be six months’ pregnant and probably rather unwieldy.
Unusually, I saw the merits of this proposal immediately and capitulated. We booked the Eurostar and an apartment in St Germain and our babymoon commenced!
Shortly after arrival, having stocked up on breakfast supplies in our local Carrefour, we contemplated the chaos of the checkout tills (it’s true that no-one can faire la queue quite as well as the Brits). Idly gazing around the store, I noticed a special aisle at the end reserved for disabled customers… and… yes… femmes enceintes! We immediately joined the end. I tried not to stare at the two women ahead of us who were in their fifties at least and clearly physically mobile (each had a huge trolley full of groceries that they were manoeuvring with skill). It probably would have been quicker to stay in a different queue but I was so excited to be one of the reserved that it didn’t matter. As far as I know we don’t have this equivalent in UK supermarkets.
Our second experience in Carrefour happened later in the week. We filled our basket and joined the special reserved queue, followed behind by a young woman (again, I tried not to look too hard at her tummy – she could have been in her first trimester!) During the wait, she asked if we could save her space as she’d forgotten something. Of course we did, but when she returned, the elderly lady behind her started screaming that she’d jumped the queue (my French isn’t great, but this was obvious!) After placating the angry one with several “je suis desole”s and swapping places to let her go first, peace was restored for about a minute. Then while we were at the till, the store police came over and told the young woman she was in the wrong place. I didn’t quite understand the conversation but it ended with her having to leave the special queue and go to the back of the chaos… I guess she was trying to be cheeky after all!
Thinking I was being very organised, I’d booked tickets for our visit to Versailles in advance, but even though we got there reasonably early we were aghast to find the mother of all queues snaking through the entire courtyard. I should have learned from our Eiffel Tower experience last year (a 2-hour queue even though we were in possession of timed entry tickets!) Fortunately, unlike with the Eiffel Tower, we had access to les toilettes. After taking turns to (queue and) go, we had made little progress. Suddenly, I remembered our experience in Carrefour. Might there be a special access point for femmes enceintes? It was worth a try. I sent Mr Cath to investigate and after speaking to the man at the door he found out that if it was “obvious” I was pregnant, I could skip the queue. The couple behind us kindly agreed to keep our place in the queue if it turned out I just looked fat, and we decided to go for it. Sticking my bump out as far as possible worked – we were in!
Having explored the main palace we wanted to visit the Trianons which were a couple of km away. We decided to take a shuttle train there, then walk back via the gardens – I wasn’t sure I could face the round walking trip as I was already quite tired from the palace. We located the departure point and noticed a sign explaining that several seats on each train are reserved for disabled people and those with mobility difficulties. I have mobility difficulties – would this mean I got a free seat? Hooray! We approached the lady at the ticket office and Mr Cath explained in halting French that I was pregnant, while I tried to look sweet and hopeful. But far from waving us through, she immediately shook her head and said “No, no, no” at me. Apparently, the train is considered too bumpy for pregnant women. Eh? It’s a small shuttle train travelling through the most manicured garden in France, not a rollercoaster! We shouldn’t have said anything in the first place… but there was no chance I would set foot on the train after that so we ambled through the gardens to get there instead and yes, it was worth it, even with the trek back.
Thank goodness for les bancs!