Monday, June 26, 2017

Lost in Any Language, Part 3: City of Lights (and Late-Night Plights)


Our long day in Paris was about to get longer.

It was August of 2016, and I was traveling with my friends Jodee and Tim (or, as they suggested when I asked if I could use their names on my blog, "The Most Amazing Couple You Have Ever Met").

They also brought their kids.

We were quite a crew.


We'd been warned against visiting France; but so far, everyone's worst fears had proven exaggerated. Despite international tensions, the city was still packed with tourists, and although the very obvious anti-terrorism security did nothing to decrease our travel stress, we'd actually been having a fairly smooth trip.

Our time in Paris was brief, and we were trying to pack a lot in--too much, perhaps. On this particular day, we'd hit Eiffel Tower Park (a truly horrible experience) and canvassed two museums--Musee d'Orsey and Musee Rodin

It had proven too much for the younger members of our group, who were clearly flagging. 

They weren't the only ones.

We'd walked too much, eaten too little, and not had nearly enough water (or coffee). Despite Jodee's daughter E. trying to talk us into staying out late enough to see the Eiffel Tower light show, the rest of us just wanted a quiet evening in.

By the time we dragged back to our lodgings on Île Saint-Louis, we were ready to trudge up the winding stairs, break open the snacks we'd picked up at nearby mini mart, and fall into jet-lag-induced stupors.

When we arrived at our building, however, all was dark--and I mean dark. The entire building had lost power. Which would have been a minor inconvenience, except that the glass door that opened to street was operated by electronic keypad.

"It's fine," Tim said. He'd made the travel arrangements, and he would take care of it. Once he placed a call to the owner of the building, he told us, all would be sorted quickly. Never mind that he'd been using his cell phone for navigation all day and the battery was at 5%.  

Of course, it wasn't just one call, and it wasn't sorted quickly.

As Tim's phone battery rapidly depleted, however, a plan slowly developed. The building manager wasn't in the city for the weekend, but he agreed to send a workman--a workman who was currently off duty and would have to be contacted and dispatched to our location in central Paris. 

Which meant a wait. 

But no worries: we were in Paris. We were encouraged to enjoy the night life. Go, relax at a cafe along the Seine, have dinner and a bottle of wine--or six. Never mind that half our group was underage. Plus, we'd already eaten. 

The children collapsed on the sidewalk.

I joined them. 

While Jodee and Tim conferred in low tones, I let the kids take turns telling me things--who knows what. They were just talking and talking. 

Then I remembered the snacks. I pulled out a bag of fromage-flavored chips, flopped backward with my head resting against my bag, and stared up at the dark Parisian skies, mindlessly snacking. I offered to share my chips with the kids--half out of generosity, and half hoping that they'd talk less with their mouths full.

So there we were, lying on the sidewalk like homeless people, sharing a bag of cheap chips while tourists and sophisticated Europeans in their on-the-town finery quick-stepped around us, heading off toward glamorous evenings while we huddled under the eaves, hard-core jet-lagging and praying for salvation.

It was like something out Dickens, only with snacks. 

At length, E. pointed out that if we walked to the Seine, we could catch the Eiffel Tower light show after all. While Tim stayed behind to wait for the workman, the rest of us ambled down to the river. Along the way, one member of our group was nearly run down by an irate cyclist while another had a shifty-eyed stranger try to sell her beer out of an oversized murse. 

Marveling at these diversions, which seemed all in a night's work for Paris, we lined up along Pont Marie, watching the Eiffel Tower light up the sky.

In a small piece of luck, we arrived back just as a workman showed up. 

He pulled up to the curb and hopped out of his minivan, smiling and chatting in French. After the quickest assessment I've ever seen, he popped open the back of the van, and--with absolutely no warning--pulled out a buzz saw and started sawing directly through the door. 


Photo Courtesy of Tim
And so it was that we witnessed two light shows that night, neither part of the plan.

I have other memories of Paris--the beauty, the grandeur, the history, the food, the lights, the architecture, the stained glass, the café au lait, the church bells, the art--and of course the Eiffel Tower, lighting up the night.

All of that is Paris. 

But that's everybody's Paris.

It's not mine.

My Paris will always be cheese-flavored chips, the sidewalk beneath me, the lights above, and the kids on either side, talking the night away.


4 comments:

  1. Your travel experiences are like mine: off the charts and outrageous. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way. You don't want to come back from a foreign country with dull and boring stories. And you certainly have a plentiful amount of intriguing and entertaining tales to tell.

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    1. I don't know if it's possible to travel in another and *not* have an outrageous experience - that's half the reason I love it! I'd love if you did a similar series on your own blog: I'd read the stuffing out of it.

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  2. I love this! Good and funny prep for my daughter and my trip to the City of Light and other venues a summer or two from now.

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    1. Enjoy! Be sure to take comfortable shoes. Paris is a walking city, and it's best to enjoy it in comfort! :)

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