Perdu in Fontainebleau

Last Thursday we had a Chevillon-residents outing to the Jazz au Theatre festival in Fontainebleau. We got all gussied up, swung by the theatre to grab tickets, went out for some charming French food (er, wandered around town and finally settled on mediocre pizza since it was the only place open at 6.30 pm – the French don’t eat till 7.00 at the earliest) and had a little pichet de vin to get us in the mood. We then moseyed back over to the Théâtre Municipal and sort-of finally managed to get seats (two on the ground floor, two on the third balcony) just as the show started.

Les doigts de l’homme kicked off the evening, a five-man operation specialising in hectic but charming jazz. As they played I found myself tensing my muscles tighter and tighter in seemingly never-ending crescendos. The two lead guitarists left me seriously wondering about their combined ability to not only have their five fingers in twelve places at the same time, but also to remember what note was to be played at exactly which moment. My fuzzy vino-brain was mesmerised.

After a short intermission, complete with a 2€ glass of mulled wine, we all headed up to the third balcony where there were four seats more-or-less together.

Cyrille Aimee walked out onto the stage in a show-stopping gold sparkel dress and had the audience captivated from that moment onwards. Along with her band, the performance was a major contrast to the first act, but still engaging in a totally different style. Their set list included old classics,  original songs and even a jazzed up cover of The Door’s ‘People are Strange’. During the band-introductions I was entertained to learn that two of the band members didn’t speak a word of French – her Aussie bassist even butchered the phrase ‘Je ne parle pas francaise‘.

After the show we hurried out to the street. While buying our tickets we had enquired after post-show taxi possibilities, since in all likelihood we would miss the last bus back to Grez. The woman had told us to hop over to the taxi stand on the main drag ASAP after the show was over.

As expected, we missed the last bus by half an hour… and as it turned out, she was sort of playing down the taxi situation.

At the taxi stand my compatriots lit up their cigarettes and we lightheartedly waited for an on-duty taxi to fly by, while sort of playing with the idea of going for a beer instead of heading home immediately. Since I was flying up to Norway the next morning I suggested perhaps we could have a beer at home instead.

After twenty minutes or so the cigarettes were finished and not a single taxi – on duty or otherwise – had made an appearance. There was a phone number on the taxi sign, so we gave it a call.  After about three attempts we (maybe) got the French number to work from a Finnish cell phone, but it seemed no one was answering.

We wandered up & down the main drag, but still no luck. Perhaps a beer after all? Nope – it was just before midnight and all the cafes were shutting their doors.

We slipped into a swanky looking hotel on the Rue Grande and asked the man on duty for some help with a taxi. He didn’t look optimistic. He called the number on a post-it hanging on his desk, as I noted the tattoos he was trying to cover up with his long sleeve white shirt.

He sighed and hung up the phone. “I’m sorry. Zee taxi, it is busy.”

Stuart and I looked at each other. We blurted out almost in unison: “It? It, as in, the taxi? Or it as in, the number?”

“Zee taxi, it is busy.”

“There is only ONE taxi?”

“Well this is not New York you know, zis is Fontainebleau” he informed us in a voice that was not nearly as condescending as the words seemed to indicate.

He called a few more numbers, trying to enlist a taxi from one of the neighbouring towns, but of course all the taxi drivers had gone to bed. After a few words of sympathy he sent us on our way, encouraging us to come back in 30 minutes so we could try to call again.

We wandered some more, went back to the hotel – no luck again. The boys worked on the playlist for their own jazz band, hashing out the lyrics to ‘Perdu in Fontainebleau‘.

The collective decision was that it was too far to walk home (~20 km), paying for a hotel was just silly and that Oh. Yeah. It would be really nice to get home before the first bus showed up in five hours.

At this point we had already been doing a very lackadaisical version of what might be considered hitch-hiking. Between cigarettes one or another of us would stick our thumb out when a car went by. I suspect most drivers just thought we were drunk and being a little obnoxious. I wished we were drunk, but we weren’t intentionally being obnoxious. That came later.

The situation was dire. I had a bag full of smelly cheese that needed refrigeration, I wanted sleep before my flight and I had NO intention of being hit by a car while trying to walk home on the unlit highway.

Luckily Rebekka, the Finn, took some real initiative. She marched down to the giant parking lot that winds along the side of Napoleon’s house: Chateau de Fontainebleau. Here she ran up to anyone and everyone (which was actually no more than about one person every 15 minutes scurrying to or from their vehicle in the poorly lit night).

Stuart and I went up to check at the hotel again, and when we came down she had just made friends with a Canadian living in Fontainebleau who had driven back from his hockey match in Paris and was too exhausted to drive us home. She didn’t answer when I asked if he was cute.

Finally we got our break: a man was walking towards his reasonably large (by French standards) vehicle and Rebekka launched into her full spiel about our dire situation, sad misdirection and offer of monetary compensation for a ride back to Sticksville.

I don’t think he understood a word of what she said, but was so intimidated by the four of us practically running at him that he had no choice but to agree.

On the drive home we learned that he works at an Italian restaurant in town and lives about 50 km in the opposite direction to where he was driving us. It was past 1 am at this point, but after two hours we had made it home. We gave him a handful of bills, thanked him profusely and wandered back towards Chevillon – suddenly feeling that perhaps we are now little village mice that are no longer able to cut it in the big town.

The others saw the light on in the pub and we parted ways. I got some much needed sleep and woke up just half an hour after they had gone to bed – it seems there was adventure to be had that evening, even in our own quiet corner of the world!

In this century there are no longer one-horse towns – but the one-cab villages are alive and kickin’.

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