We arrived in Paris at 9 a.m. local time, but it was three in the morning to our bodies. Despite that, I was as excited as I’ve ever been. Paris. I was in Paris. The city of light. The city of love. I waited impatiently for Customs to stamp my passport and process us through so we could be admitted to this place I had long dreamed of seeing.
We checked into the Hotel Jardin de L’Odeon, a charming, postage-stamp hotel on the Rue Casimir-Delavigne within a block of the Odeon Theatre and two blocks from the Luxembourg Gardens. Breakfast was being served, coffee and fresh croissant smells greeted us. The hotel lobby was an odd mix of Egyptian, French, African and Indian artifacts and plexiglass globes. Standing oval lamps on wooden blocks with long vertical shades of white and green topped with black feathers. The music was a mix of American standards and acoustic pop. Low, orange and brown spotted chairs, gold velvet love seats and low wooden tables made the seating almost Japanese inspired. The elevator was so small, it could hold only two people with one bag each at a time. Diana and I had to take turns bringing our luggage to our fourth floor room.
Once inside, we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights and this necessitated a trip back to the concierge’s desk. By now, I had exhausted most of the French I had learned for the trip and had to explain the problem in English. The concierge smiled and told me to leave the room key in the slot next to the door. That assures that the lights are only on when one is in the room. Brilliant!
The bathroom is about the size of a standard airplane toilet. Maybe slightly larger. But the shower stall is a glass box. I felt like a Miss America contestant about to be asked a final question or Clark Kent needing to quick-change.
After recovering from jet lag, we hit the streets of Paris to experience all the shops the Left Bank had to offer. Rue Mouffetard, Boulevard St. Germain, Boulevard St. Michele. I purchased a scarf from two ladies who spoke to me in English, despite my attempt at French. They smiled when I asked how they knew I was American, was it my horrendous accent? No, no, they said kindly. It is your hair. It is styled so nicely and has so many colors in it. In France, they said, we just put it up on our head and go. They wound the scarf around my neck, tied a large, loose knot at the side. There, now you look like a French woman, they said.
And yet … they are so much more stylish. Effortlessly.
Diana and I lunched at Bullion Camille Chartier and enjoyed seeing a lovely family arrive. Mother was a size two and perfectly coiffed and dressed despite having four blond children under the age of ten also perfectly dressed. The wine is about $4 per glass, a diet coke is $7.50.
At Le Deux Magots for dinner we sat on the patio. An octogenarian was nearby. She wore her gray pageboy in a tortoise leather headband and carried a fan. She sported white, large frame sunglasses, a flower print dress with a matching jacket and red high heeled pumps. Her red lipstick was perfectly applied and matched her shoes. Her companion, a man several decades her junior, had fluffy gray hair, and wore a gold necklace beneath his open-necked cotton shirt.
Outside, the streets are clogged with Parisians hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tour de France riders finishing their race tonight. There will be fireworks later but for now the taxis, cars, bicycles, electric bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters all rush past us carrying people to the finish line. Six French planes flew overhead as the leader of the Tour arrived. I saw a man riding a scooter with his dog sitting complacently on the floor board.
On our last day in Paris, sun shone through the window, the ever-present scent of warm croissants filled the air, and I walked through the Luxembourg Gardens one last time. I hope, as everyone who has ever visited Paris must, to return.
Paris, je t’aime.