Friday, November 30, 2012

Dear Paris, part 1

24 October 2012

Dear Paris,
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.

And just so you don't begin to fret too much, it also got better. Much, much better.

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?

In front of the station I call the woman. Yes, she remembers and she demands, "When do you want to come?" "Tonight? Oh no, no! I am full completely! I am so sorry."

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...

The second hotel is also full.

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.

As I sit, I make the poor decision to continue reading my sad book. I don't think that helped. I reach in my pocket for The Lumberjack to keep me company, but he isn't there. I rifle through my bag, nothing! Oh woe is me, The Lumberjack is missing! This makes me feel quite tragic and even more dejected. I entertain the thought that perhaps he has gone off to Boulevard de Clichy and the Moulin Rouge in search of the thrill of a little can-can. I hope this is the case.

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.

Armed with my notebook, map and a new determination, I begin the trek to the hotel. As the sky grows dark I am walking and walking for what seems a very long time indeed, getting lost a few times, doubling back on myself, looking again for the elusive street signs, struggling with my bags and those damn slippery knickers! I notice my environs turning a bit iffy and wonder where it is I've ended up. Finally, an hour and a half later I see my hotel, a discreet little building with a sweet red door. I walk in breathless, sweating and utterly exhausted. I sigh deeply with relief that the woman at reception speaks English because my brain can barely form a sentence in my native tongue let alone manage one in French. I am given the key to my room and take the tiny lift to the 3rd floor. I open my door and collapse onto the bed.

24 October 2012

Dear Paris,
You are crazy.

It is at this point that things begin to improve considerably. I promise that Part 2 is all about the love!


Sabrina said...

Many a potentially great day have been curbed by the annoyance of slippery knickers!

Flaming Nora said...

This story is still making me laugh.

Rainbow Vintage Home said...

Oh the curse of weak knicker elastic!! Thanks so much for the laughs - I'm so glad it all gets better! Rachel :)

Annie Cholewa said...

I've only been mugged once in my life, in Paris, and I still love that city!

So glad better was to come after the knicker thing and the lost lumberjack and no room at the inn ... can't wait to hear about the good bits :)

Mom L said...

Oh, my poor LN!!! My heart aches for your Paris plight, but I can't help laughing at the thought of you walking all that distance, carrying bags and trying to keep your knickers up! Bad Nancy. I shouldn't laugh - I've almost been there. Nearly lost my pantyhose years ago in a department store - luckily I was with my mother and Diane so they could shield me until we reached a restroom. On the other hand, the rascals never let me forget it!

Do you now know the secret of how so many boys manage to keep their droopy jeans from completely falling?

Nancy in Iowa

generationSue said...

What an adventure! Thank you for sharing :)

generationSue said...

What an adventure! Thank you for sharing :)

generationSue said...

What an adventure! Thank you for sharing :)

Naturally Carol said...

How dare the Lumberjack desert you in your time of need..and after you gave him such a good time in London! I must admit my thoughts of you in Paris with loose elastic and no place to lay your weary head were alternately heart stopping and hilariously funny.

Itchin' Stitchin' said...

Can't wait for part 2. I think I would venture the trip to Paris even with unruly knickers!

vintage grey said...

Oh my, such an adventure. Glad it all turned out well for you!Thanks for sharing such sweet photos! xo Heather

harmony and rosie said...

Ooh la-la, I do hope you have since ditched the knickers! Looking forward to hearing the rest of Paris xx

Heather said...

oh my goodness! Glad you found somewhere in the end! sounds like my plans of pointing myself in the right direction and hoping I will eventually get there, ususally in the car though, not on the streets of Paris! Heather x

Ashley cramp said...

I have said it before and I will say it again!
You are just sooo brave to even attempt it all by yourself.
Much respect and tons of admiration to you girl!!!!
Wish I had your courage,
much love
Daisy x

Penny said...

Oh I really felt for you reading through this post and it did make me giggle a little too, poor you! As for the knickers my goodness you definitely should have discarded those indeed :o) I am so happy your stay became considerable better after you reached your hotel bed. I loved that you cried on the train, something I would do and have no shame or embarrassment about at all xox

Colette said...

Heehee, this tale is begining wonderfully, dodgy knickers in Paris is quite a starting point!

ted and bunny said...

homeless in a foreign city is bad enough, but knickers that let you down, oh my, that's tragic!
Can't wait for part 2

june at noon said...

Oh, wow. What an adventure! I've just finished reading several books by Hemingway, who spent a lot of his time in Paris, so this is especially interesting to me at the moment!