date: Sat, Jan 9, 2009
subject: Je suis arrivée!!!!
Bon soir mon bon amis, mes bon amis? What do I know? I just a beginner who’s only studied at home with a book and cassettes! Yes, cassettes, not even CD’s,
So, let’s start over. Hello everyone. I’m here in gay paree. And wow, am I having fun. Where to begin? Well, first of all, I’m fortunate enough to have found an internet cafe with an American keyboard. For those of you who haven’t ever used a European keyboard, just imagine typing on a board that just for fun throws out some of the oddest configurations. Welcome in France!
Okay, again, where to begin? The flights (and I do mean FLIGHTS) went smoothly. Thank goodness and I went to sleep almost immediately upon sitting down in JFK. It was 10 p.m. EST, 4 a.m. ala France. I woke up 5.5 hours later for a semi-warm croissant and some pleasantly warm water (yes, I brought a tea bag, can’t remember the kind, just that it was exactly what I wanted). I had just enough time on that final flight to enjoy a bit of the rat movie, oh shoots, the name escapes me. Oh yes, ratatouille. It’s even funnier in French, whatever that means. Seemed like the appropriate way to say bienvenue!
It was easy to find the train station. Along the way I passed many good eateries. Yes Mom, I’ll get there plenty early on the day I’m to meet you and dine at whichever one piques my fancy. A very nice young lady asked if I needed help with the ticket, I figured it out on my own but appreciated her help anyway. Always nice to have a sweet young face smile at you encouragingly (don’t ask how I looked after 3 flights, each over 5.5 hours long!).
Thanks to my dear husband, I had my route laid out already for arrival at the hotel. B train to Gard de Nord, # 4 line to the one with poison in the name and then only 2 stops on # 12. Easy! Only thing was, the friendly Lamark stop had a spiral staircase to the top of the eiffel tower, okay, maybe not that high, but pretty darn high. Thank goodness my triceps and biceps are still working for me. Once I was out in the fresh air of paree (cough) I had to look about to find the hotel. After a short pass down the flat roadway I realized, yes, I’ve got to tote my suitcase up another flight of steps. But they weren’t that far and guess what? The hotel which my darling husband had booked for me was right at the top of those stairs, Hotel Roma Sacre Coeur, or something like that.
It’s a 2 star that’s really more like a 3 star. I suppose the only difference with a 3 star is that breakfast is extra. But the room is really nice. Okay, really nice to someone like me who’s a born optimist. But I think it’d even be nice to someone like say . . . I won’t say her name, but many of you know who I mean. I have a private bath WITH a nice bathtub. And two windows which look over THOSE stairs I trapsed up! Pretty cool. And 2 neat art deco yellow chairs.
Okay, so to the first day. After finding the hotel and being told I couldn’t check in for all of 40 minutes (half French, half English . . . I seem to have a way of shaming them into still speaking French to me even though my skills are quite pitiful . . .) I set-off to find the Sacre Coeur (after leaving my suitcase behind OF COURSE!). I found it easily enough after having a nice chat (en Francais!) with a lovely lady with an even more lovely dog. Yes, beautiful dogs are everywhere in the world.
I soaked in the gorgeous church (though somewhere I read that it doesn’t exactly fit a real prototype of a “perfect” church, but who cares! I think it’s magnifique!)
Then back to the hotel to find my room (#205, a very audacious number don’t you think?) check out the toilet, slightly unpack (very slightly, I’m only here for 2 nights after all) and then head of to Gare de Nord (again!) to buy my ticket to Lyon. It was a very pleasant walk via the Sacre Coeur (of course! plus it was on the way). I made it in good time and managed to buy my ticket 10 minutes before they were closing for the day. I managed to hack my way through completely in French until the lady rattled off in Olympic record spead, 1:54 or 2:54 p.m.???? Okay, I broke down and asked her to please write it down. No writing! she replied, and just as quickly she switched to English (this lady has surely medaled in SOME Olympic sport of some kind!). Okay, 1:54 p.m. s’il vous plait. Free with my one chore of the day done, I meandered down the main boulevards switching to a smaller one when it got really interesting (lots of shops and things . . ) until I found myself at Les Halles. It was really cool looking since the afternoon light had hit that wonderful martini hour. Wow, what’s that church over there?! It was lit up so beautifully.
I boldly asked a man which church it was, he replied in French, well Notre Dame, of course! Notre Dame? I took lots of pictures . . . . and wandered on over wondering why I hadn’t crossed a bridge yet to the Cite.
I happened upon a cool sculpture of a HUGE dome like rock of a face with an appropriately large hand on the side. Snap, snap. Too good to pass up. But is this Notre Dame? doesn’t look like the one I remember?
I hele’d on down the road, found myself by the Louvre Place whatchamacallit. Decided to cross Pont Neuf and voila, there was Notre Dame!
Was the man conning me or a tourist too?? Doesn’t matter. I sure enjoyed that first church and the magical light around it. I proceeded to then find the street and address where Mom and I are going to stay in February (the original plan of my husband joining me after 4 weeks was nixed; I added 2 more weeks to my stay in Lyon and will be in France for the 8 weeks booked so long ago . . . ). My oh my, how did I find such a cool place???
By now it was 6 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten since the warm airplane croissant around 9:30 a.m. I went for the cheapie 10 Euro dinner with french onion soup, pasta and an apple torte completed with a 13 euro half bottle of wine. Sounded perfect to me! The waiter was very friendly. So friendly that he offered to show me around later in the evening. I very politely but non-ambiguously said, “Merci, mais NON!” He caught my drift but continued to be a decent waiter. Then I found the metro and voila, I was home to chez Roma Sacre Coeur whatchamallit room 205.
The next morning I woke raring to go at 4 a.m. Yep, 4 a.m. I decided to linger in bed a bit and watched some telly. Found a bit of this and that (including Dallas ala 1980s, they still watch that???) and even a German promo show on how to buy something wonderful to make you look beautiful. I figured that was cheating, so I switched back to some symphony. Then that seemed like the perfect time to doze yet again. So, from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. I slept beautifully until the phone rang! Yes, the phone rang! Who could that be? Had to be Tony. Who else has my number, unless they wanted to wake me up for the 8 euro breakfast (the way they’re all hurting these days for business, I wouldn’t put it pass them). But there was NOTHING on the line. Darn.
Again, the phone rang. Again, nothing. Okay, must be time to get up and take a soak. Please realize that I left home LONG ago and hadn’t bathed. It WAS time. I took a soak in tepid water thinking that tomorrow I must bathe much earlier before all the hot water is used up. Slowly I got ready, walked to the cafe next door and had a loverly breakfast of bread, butter, jelly AND a croissant and TWO wonderful decaf coffees avec creme.
Then, the highlight of the day. I took the metro to Hôtel de Ville to iceskate! Remember Nancy telling us about this last June? Well, they still do it. I paid my 5 euros for the use of some very well-made patin and glissed for over 2 hours! Yep, for over 2 hours. It was just too darn much fun to stop, especially after the sun came out and lit up the entire rink.
I took lots of photos and a nice lady from the Philippines (yes! the Philippines) took my picture. Her cute little boy grabbed my hand, so I grabbed it back. He’s in the photo.
Hey, who’s not to want a cute little boy in your photo or in your life if only for a few minutes? He skated by me many times and waved. He was my pal for the next few hours . . . And then, to the marche to buy a towel for Lyon. Seems that the French have something about using other people’s towels. Something about sanitation. And we lend our towels to people all the time???? Anyway, seems ALL of Paris was at THE grand shopping center by Hotel de Ville shopping. SOLDES signs were everywhere. I got my pretty blue towel and washcloth, a calendar for 2009 and even a little clinique for removing my makeup (now that was the ONLY conversation completely in French, either the lady didn’t know any French or was being polite, but I sure had fun getting her to understand what I wanted. And yes, that WAS fun!). Then it was time to head home, back on the metro to my cool pad for a bit of a repose. Fortunately for me (and Tony) this is when Tony chose to try and call again. Yep, it was him the first time. But this time I was dressed and ran downstairs to the reception desk. Earlier I had told him, “Ma telephone ne marche pas.” I don’t think he believed me, but he did indulge me and forward the call to the hallway phone. 45 minutes later my lover and I had caught up on all the pressing news (Rocket Girl loves sleeping on the lazy boy!).
And now, it’s late at night 11:15 p.m. and hopefully I’ve done my bit to pacify the jetlag gods so that I’ll sleep till a decent hour.
Oh, but wait, I must tell you about my WONDERFUL dinner! I splurged and had St. Jacques (scallops ala magnifique!) l’agneau (lamb) and rose wine and then the kicker. I asked for something chocolat. What’s your favorite I asked (in French even). But this one, of course! It comes warm. That’s what I want, I replied. And oh my, was it ever delicious!
So now my friends, bon nuit and wish me well as I venture tomorrow to Lyon and my hostess who lives on the river and had a chat très adorable and plus calin (who loves to be petted, I believe!)
And lastly, thank the typewriter gods that I was actually given a keyboard like those in the USA, otherwise my mistakes would have been MANY< many more.
Oh, and get this, a poor lady was lost and asked me “Bitte” for help. I thought she was German and asked if she spoke German, “A little,” she replied. I then gave her directions in German to the closest metro! What is the world coming to when an American tells a French woman (for I think she was French after all) how to get to a metro station in her native country in her worst enemy’s language!!
Bon nuit mes bonnes amis! (p.s. I’ll correct the grammar after I have some REAL classes)
p.s. happy late birthday Melissa, how cool to see you enroute to the airport!