Our globe-trotting friend Kelle Z Riley is back today, this time talking about her first visit to the City of Lights. -- AP
In preparation for Valentine’s day let me introduce you to Paris! The city of lights, the city of romance, who could ask for more?
In preparation for my first business trip to Paris, I dusted off my high school French vocabulary, pulled out the French-English dictionary and packed my bags. It was everything I imagined when the taxi pulled up to a gleaming luxury hotel a block from the Eiffel Tower.
Having heard stories of how the French won’t speak to you in English, I was ready to try my hand at French with the desk clerk. After “Bonjour” she stopped me with a warm smile and said “Don’t worry, we speak English.” That hurdle behind me, I started to look forward to my evenings in Paris.
I went to the room, unpacked a bit and ordered room service. After a lovely meal, I walked to the Eiffel Tower, arriving at closing time. It was too late to go up to the observation decks, but even from the ground, it was a marvel. Each “foot” of the tower easily covered an area the size of a city block.
As the sun was setting, I knew I had time that night to do ONE touristy thing. I settled on a boat tour on the Seine—only to discover that my fellow tourists were actually commuters taking the water taxi. I heard such informative things as “next stop, Notre Dame” and “last stop, Eiffel Tower.” Needless to say I was a bit disappointed when I walked back to the hotel. But there was always tomorrow night—I had several days worth of business to attend to in Paris.
At the hotel, my grand plans crumbled into a heap of rubble. A message waited for me from home, telling me that I’d been rebooked into a different hotel for the remainder of my stay. The next day I took a taxi across town. (Hey—isn’t that l’Arc de Triomphe I see through the cab window? Oops, too late to get a photo).
My new hotel was a smallish two story building with a dorm-sized room. (Later I learned this is far more typical of European hotels, but I digress.) Located in an industrial suburb of Paris, it was not at all what one would expect to see as a tourist.
On the positive side, it was an ideal chance to practice my French. The staff at the hotel was very friendly and helpful, but they didn’t speak English. Really. I could tell they weren’t faking it. My dictionary and my rusty French vocabulary had to suffice. To be honest, my French classes had not prepared me for the reality of asking a desk clerk why my key card didn’t work. Or for the difficult negotiations with taxi drivers. But the need to communicate and survive is a great teacher. It was a proud moment when I asked the desk clerk—in French—to please call a taxi for me.
I even managed to order dinner one night in the hotel’s restaurant, although I suspect the server didn’t come by my table often because I was so hard to communicate with. The next nights I purchased cheese, crackers and Perrier from the grocery and ate in my room so I could relax!
On the way home, I picked up a few souvenirs from the airport shops, but I never made it back to the Eiffel Tower, the Seine (at least not the part where people want to visit) or any other sights.
So, sadly, the saga of my first visit to Paris must come to an end. But don’t worry—I visited the city several more times after that. Come back next month when I’ll share the adventures of my second visit to Paris. (I can hear you asking now: Did she ever go up in the Eiffel Tower? Did she try the snails? Did she learn to speak enough French to navigate the taxi system?) Tune in, more will be revealed in March.
Adieu for now!
But Kelle, why did they switch your hotel? Readers, have you ever had a trip that didn’t turn out to be all you expected? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment to be entered into the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP