Jet lag can be the cause of many embarrassing situations. This was the first time I’d ever experienced such extreme exhaustion. My brain was fried, eyes felt like they were sewn shut and my limbs completely refused to cooperate. When I heard banging on our door I actually thought the house was on fire. I fell out of bed, ran unsteadily to the door, fumbled with the knob and flung it open. “What’s wrong?!” I asked breathlessly, with shut eyelids. “Oh, pardon Mademoiselle.” The voice said. Pause. “D’accord, quoi?” I asked, finally able to blink and then I realized that I was very much naked. I quickly stood behind the door and the young man began to explain that we agreed to change rooms after one night, and those who reserved our room in advance were waiting in the lobby. Like that, I was awake. After apologizing a few times I told him, “Cinq minutes.” Then I slammed the door, which woke my husband up. He was asleep through my entire transaction with the bellboy, so I never mentioned it (until today).
As we scurried to the first floor with our belongings, and into a room that was rather shabby and three times smaller, we knew our day was to be dedicated to finding another hotel; but first a shower, wait, no shower. This is when I learned what en suite means. Many hotels in Paris have rooms without bathtubs or showers (which were even rarer then). Instead there is a sink with a mirror, a toilet and something that looks very much like a sink for a small person, called a bidet. Now, I can see why Americans think the bidet, pronounced ‘bid-day,’ is strange but really they are quiet practical. In truth, I fell in love with the bidet.
After a quick freshening-up we snuck out of the hotel, then hit the very first cafe we saw, which was a beautiful (open) site and ordered the works: jus d’orange, the (tea), cafe au lait, croissants, pains aux raisins – all in English so it took a while. Our waitress was a lovely, patient girl with a ready smile who must have sensed my excitement, and that I wanted to learn as much French as possible. Or perhaps she enjoyed looking into my husband’s beautiful, green gypsy eyes, his dark hair loosely slicked back, his left ankle resting on his right knee, those tattered leather shoes – a smoldering mystery, as he peacefully smoked his cigarette. In any case, she taught us how to order with perfect pronunciation.
I’ll never forget that first croissant. Back home I was never a fan. The ones I’d encountered were either bland and greasy or stale and tasteless. A croissant from France however, is a thing of beauty. It’s not just the fact that they’re buttery and flaky and airy inside; they taste different there. As I ate my croissant with the tiny dish of berry jam, pulling out the slightly chewy center, savoring the painstaking layers, I finally understood what all the fuss was about. Just as the San Francisco Bay Area can rightly boast having the best sourdough bread in the world (it’s has something to do with the salt air), France has got dibs on the croissant.
Of course we all know this, as much as the fact that Parisians are famous for their confidence and great sense of style. Our waitress for instance could have been a Vogue model, but she seemed to care little about her appearance, since her hair was quite messy. I was in awe of this phenomenon all over Paris. It didn’t matter how a woman was dressed or how old they were. They could be plain or beautiful, thin or curvy, dark or light, with or without make-up (mostly without), dressed up or down. Parisians have an alluring confidence that struck me. As a shy woman in her twenties, I was taking mental note.
While I enjoyed my breakfast and our surroundings, Tony poured over a map of the city and decided we would take the Metro, Paris’ rapid transit to the Trocadéro. This is the site of the Palais de Chaillot, in the 16th arrondissement, across the River Seine and the best way to approach the Eiffel Tower.
I thought that since my husband had been to Paris before, he knew the ins-and-outs of the Metro; I was wrong. So began our next adventure.