The Pacific Ocean is still really cold. There has been very little surf all Winter. So, while the Spring winds warm the water, I am off on holiday in search of Friends, Fromage, and A Moveable Feast.
Day One: They Arrive
Paris — At Passport Control in Charles de Gaulle airport, I feel groggy from the 9-hour+ flight from Dallas and forget to say Bonjour to the police officer and say Hello instead and am met with a frown as the woman officer reluctantly stamps my passport and moves me on and out (as there are hundreds eagerly waiting to enter France behind me).
Customs doesn’t give me a second look as I make my way to outside Baggage Claim where I am met by many gypsy cab drivers offering rides to the City. I brush by them and head outside to join the line of people (no one) hailing official taxis in the taxi line where there are many cars waiting for passengers.
I choose Taxi over Train because today is a designated Strike Day by the railways who are protesting the government, Macron, etc. Whenever I have been in France, the trains always go on strike. The strikes are set to continue through June.
I hop in Taxi #1. My driver is Manuel. He is Portuguese and speaks fluent French but no English. Merde. Having anticipated this exact situation, I hand him my hand-written address for my Paris apartment written on a buckslip (with my name on it). He is unimpressed and also not exactly sure of where my street, Rue au Maire, is located in the 3rd Arrondissement, known as the Marais – I exhaust all of my high school and college French in the first minute.
Thankfully, the quick 35-minute drive into the City Center is pleasant: All the trees are a verdant green and fully leafed out. Ah, Springtime in Paris.
Manuel locates Rue au Maire after a misdirection or two, and scoffs at me when I offer my credit card to pay the 50 Euro flat rate. He points to a poorly handwritten sign (in French) that should clearly explain that he doesn’t accept credit cards because of no machine. Whatever, Manuel. I pay in cash just to get out of the cab.
(Note: I brought Euros with me before leaving the US.)
I walk along the medieval narrow cobbled street to my apartment found on VRBO (emailed to me as a suggestion from a friend in Kansas City): 15 Rue au Maire. The door code does not work, so I look up and yell my friend’s name who pokes her head out of the 4th floor window, waves hello and promptly comes down and lets me in our building, my home for the next month.
The apartment looks a lot like the photos posted on the website but A LOT SMALLER. The photographer must be brilliant at manipulating perspective, I determine. It’s clean, though: a small, yet deceptively spacious loft-style home that has been recently renovated with new hardwood floors, a new sofabed, a wall console, a very nice and compact kitchen, and very well designed bathroom with a sliding door. The table and chairs look a little like their photo from the website but also a lot SMALLER as if hit by a shrinking ray gun. I feel three times too big to sit on them.
Welcome to the Land of Cheese, Bread and Wine
My first night, I learn that one hits the cafes from 5 -7 in the afternoon and drinks only wine (as the cafes are tourist traps and not known for great food unless it’s a great café). Dinner is at 9 pm. I beat my jetlag by adhering to this schedule: Drinks first and a late meal somewhere else. I am exhausted and yawning, but I am now on Paris time.
Among the first meals I enjoy in Paris is a shared evening with friends visiting the City from the South. It’s Ascension Day – one of five holidays in May in France, so many restaurants are closed, but not our destination: Pain Vin Fromage
Since we are Americans, we are seated downstairs as far away from the regular customers as possible so as not to disturb them with our unusually loud voices and dreadful accents.
The service is slow to start, but once begun, the meal is indeed a pleasure: Cheese Boards consist of selections of cheeses based on the region of France where it is produced. Lots of crusty bread (seeded with poppy and sesame) and fine Bordeaux which is perfect on a rainy evening. A 3-4 hour meal elapses, and we are the last to leave.
It’s a rainy night. The ancient streets are wet and deserted but safe. Walking. I will be doing a lot of walking.
Ah Paris, I could get used to you.
N E X T U P:
An American (Surfer) in Paris – Continues!