Friday, November 30, 2012
Dear Paris, part 1
24 October 2012
I do believe we are off to a rather bumpy start...
It all started on a train. A very fast train and a last minute decision, as it does. I say last minute, but there was no choice really, to be so close and not go to Paris? That would have been a travesty.
So, I'm on this train excited and exhausted and overwhelmed just a little. I am reading this book I brought, it's a very sad book. As the train speeds through the French countryside the sun streams through the window. I have to put on my sunglasses because of the sun, and also so that the two pompous businessmen sitting across from me wont see me cry. Here I am - a plump, slightly quirky, middle-aged woman on a train crying because it has dawned on me that my much younger self's long time dream of going to Paris is finally coming true.
Now some of you may be saying to yourselves (much as a friend of mine said to me upon hearing my story) "tut tut, oh dear thing crying on a train in front of strangers behind sunglasses, must've been so embarrassing and awful."
Well friends, there is no need for that, yet. I assure you, just as it did in the very sad book I was reading, it got much worse. Unlike the book, we will all laugh about it later.
I arrived at the Gare Du Nord station in the afternoon, as I stepped off the train I found myself a little dizzy. I have a plan, vague and dodgy as it may be and I head towards the street. Alright, what I have is not so much a plan, but rather more a rumor of a place to stay. I've been told of an eccentric woman who speaks five languages, tells wild stories and lets rooms in a large old building. I have her name and telephone number written in my notebook. "Just call her when you arrive in Paris, tell her you are the cousin of so-and-so from Kansas, she'll remember. She always has a room, don't worry." What could go wrong?
Alright, Plan B. At least I had the foresight to research a couple of hotels near the station. Out comes the map of Paris, a vain search for street signs and no clue about direction. Suddenly I am not so confident about the few words of French in my repertoire and I find myself practicing them in a whisper to myself. I end up walking back and forth along streets until I spy one of the hotels in my notebook. With a sigh of relief I walk to the reception desk and ask for a room. The clerk shouts "All full!"
On the street again and my bags are getting much too heavy, I catch a glimpse of myself in a window - all wild haired, overburdened, glassy eyed and lost. How many blocks to the next hotel? I begin walking again in what I hope is the right direction, giving myself a wee pep talk, trying to keep my chin up... at this very moment the elastic on my knickers gives one last retiring moan and gives up the ghost entirely. So now I am trudging along the streets of Paris trying to keep my bags from tumbling to the ground whilst also attempting to keep my knickers from sliding down to my ankles and landing me face down on the sidewalk. As I shuffle along in humiliating convolution, I suddenly think of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and laugh. Which actually comes out more like a barking sob. I know that this is all going to be very funny later, but for now...
It is late afternoon. I sit down at the nearest cafe, having forgotten every word of French I know and simply point to the menu for coffee. It doesn't occur to me that I have eaten nothing all day. My impromptu Plan C is to sit here and watch the world go by until it is late enough for me to call the Engineer back home. I am tired, a bit homesick, I miss my family and my knickers wont stay up for nothin'. Why I did not think to discreetly remove the offending garment and slip them in my purse (it is Paris after all) rather than continue to wrestle with them, I can not tell you.
I finally get The Engineer on the phone and blubber my predicament. Bless him, he is on the internet looking for a hotel for me when the line goes dead. My pre-paid phone has just run out of minutes! Mad scramble to find a pay phone that takes credit cards in the noisy train station. Finally, I get details and directions - only just over a kilometer away, I can walk that. Ok, it's all going to be ok.
24 October 2012
You are crazy.
It is at this point that things begin to improve considerably. I promise that Part 2 is all about the love!