The day we left Paris for San Francisco (four days ago), was the day of the “#UberProtests” aka “#UberRiots.” (Read journalistic accounts of it here.) Below is my personal account of what we experienced (good and bad). I thought I’d share as it was a unique experience, and one that provided much food for thought.
First, context: We didn’t take a taxi the day we arrived or left because we required a car seat for the baby. So we had made arrangements for a private driver (non-Uber) months in advance. The night before we were to leave Paris we received an email from Air France:
“We would like to personally inform you that Paris access airports will be very difficult tomorrow Thursday June 25 as from 05h00 in the morning due to taxis drivers protests.
Please take your precautions for anticipate your arrival at the airport and privilege public transportation. We recommend you to check-in on line as well as your luggage on our website
If you have a valid Air France ticket for a flight scheduled on June 25 departing from Paris Charles de Gaulle, Paris Orly, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Lyon, Biarritz, Marseille, Nice, Nantes, Toulouse and Strasbourg, we offer you the following possibilities:
– To postpone your flight from June 25 to 30 included, with no extra cost, subject to availabilities.”
I took some precautions. I wrote our driver, Hakim, whom I nicknamed The Transporter, which he really loved, that night, and asked if the protests would impact our arrival to CDG airport, he said, “I will let you know tomorrow morning. I have to check the traffic.”
1-1/2 hours before our scheduled pick up, Hakim emailed me saying he was in front of our building, and it would be best to go, now. So we hustled. As we drove he was following the news and the chatter of other drivers (non-taxi drivers) about the blockades, the window-smashing and minor fires. He said he would only be able to get us to a nearby train station (one stop from the airport). We were close enough to the airport to see planes land on their wheels, but far enough away to make it seem like miles. Hakim pulled up next to some young police officers sitting in a car on the side of the road. He asked if it was safe, what was the deal. They shrugged. Blockades at all the terminals. Nothing to do about it. It felt a little eerie, actually, as we pulled up to the Roissypole station. Taxi drivers were there waiting, and Hakim said he had to drop us off there because there was no way to get to the airport, and he felt we could likely catch a shuttle to the airport, but really he wasn’t even sure if it would be okay to drop off at the station. As we got out at this station, a big older man in his late fifties got in Hakim’s face, as he tried to explain we had a baby and to calm down. When the guy saw this, he eased up and tried to help us with our bags. Then another taxi driver, young, came striding over and looked like he wanted to pummel Hakim. Mike was getting our luggage out of the trunk, looking like he was ready to help. I had the baby in my arms and was rushing, when the older guy looked at me, and said not to worry, don’t rush, don’t be afraid, (ahem, yeah… anyway). He seemed annoyed that I continued to rush to get away from the situation. Hakim managed to jet out with his car in tact, no damage done. Meanwhile, I saw that many travelers were stranded on the curb, and that there were 2 shuttle buses going no where. They were empty except for the drivers. I asked the bus drivers if the trains were running. “Non.” So I asked if they’d please take us to the airport — there was no way we were going to be stuck here, dammit.
“Who? Just you?” one bus driver said pointing at me and the baby. And I gestured to Mike, and said, also my husband. These two drivers consulted each other and said, “Okay, but that’s it. Hurry.”
We leapt onto the bus, and the bus drove out, driving by the taxi blockade, and we could see the young angry taxi driver fuming in the back of a car being cooled down by fellow drivers. As we drove, we could see the bus driver was very anxious himself. We told him terminal 2E, but he said he couldn’t stop. There was a blockade. He continued to 2F, another blockade. He was able drop off us off on the on ramp before getting onto the highway again, where luckily there was a luggage cart abandoned on the shoulder. We tried to pay the bus driver, but he wouldn’t take our money. I jogged down the shoulder with the baby on my side, while Mike handled our bags, trying to retrieve a luggage cart. A guy was jogging toward me in what looked like a fluorescent green vest for an air traffic controller. He had awful teeth, ill-fitting clothes, and wild eyes, and I wasn’t sure if he was a hustler or what. He said he was going to help us get to the terminal. Then I saw on the back of his vest he was part of the protest, a taxi driver. He said, “Stay directly behind me, please.” and we quickly skirted past the 2F terminal blockade to our 2E terminal. I didn’t want to make eye contact with any of the drivers, for fear one of them would be even more angry than the other guy we saw at the train station. As our escort left us he apologized (in English), and Mike responded, “We understand.”
Finally, we arrived at the gate. We caught our flight in time with enough time to spare that ended up being spent at the ticket counter for 45-minutes for some reason or another due to Delta/Air France mix-up. But we made it. The Air France crew was delightful coming and going.
I was asked by family members and friends would this experience deter us from coming back. Answer: NOPE. We love Paris. Below is a picture of the lovely cup of coffee “emporter” from Coutume that fueled us that morning through that afternoon adventure, and the little bib Air France gave our babe, who hates bibs, but politely played with on the plane. Zut, Alors!