The far more accurate title for this post is “A Trip with Two Tales.”
Over a long Thanksgiving holiday, a friend and I went to Paris. It was the first time either of us had been to the City of Lights. We may have been on the same American Airlines flight, staying in the same hotel room, but that ended any semblance of being together.
Queue: Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier.
We managed on that jet-lagged first day to start checking off places and experiences that were tops on the list. Eiffel Tower. Very easy check because it filled the window view from our hotel room. Get a lay of the land from the Seine. Check that off with Bateaux Mouches river cruise. Dinner of ham and cheese crepes with Beaujolais Nouveau. Qui! We strolled along quaint Parisian streets during the early evening, with one of us (okay, that was me) messing up on the quickest route back to the hotel, resulting in seeing the entire perimeter of L’Hôtel National des Invalides. With only a thin sense of the city that first night, we plotted a robust day of more sightseeing.
Morning shows up shrouded in all of its late November Parisian gloominess and my friend isn’t easily awakened. Showered and dressed, I’m keen for a cafe au lait to fuel an early start. Still, my friend is sleeping and not the least bit eager to get up. It seems as if there was a mix up in medicines — one normally used in the daytime was taken at bedtime the night before, thus making it impossible to sleep. Only when the error was realized, the right pill taken, did sleep come, but the pill wanted to do its job for a lot longer than an hour or two.
Drowsy good wishes of “Go on!” I did. Reluctantly. I headed out for a long walk along the Seine, meandering around Place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, Rue de Rivoli, Place Vendome, past the Opera Garnier and a stop at Galeries Lafayette to see how Paris shops. Heading further on with help from the Paris Metro, I ended up in Montmartre in time for tea and a tour of the Basilique du Sacre-Couer. By the time these two feet found their way back to the hotel on the other side of the city, late afternoon darkness was settling in.
My friend had a day of a different sort, I learned over dinner. It was a day of trying to sleep off the effects of medication worsened by jet lag, but with some exploration of our 7th arrondissement neighborhood and its tourist-worthy sites and locals-only shops. We were optimistic that the next day would be better and we’d actually have the chance to see the city together.
It started out just as promising as we’d hoped. After breakfast, our first stop was the Louvre. For hours we gaped and gawked at Mona Lisa, Aphrodite, The Slave, Italian Renaissance works by Fra Angelico and Botticelli, and just about every other painting and sculpture in the amazing collection. It was only when we gave into tired feet, sore backs and the need for something to drink did we learn the dreaded: my friend’s wallet was gone.
With what was now a familiar refrain of “Go on!” I reluctantly left for the Musee D’Orsay for a quick tour of its Impressionists while my friend went back to the hotel to make phone calls and, eventually, to file a report with the police, an adventure unto itself. We walked along festive Rue Cler, stopping for dinner at a tiny, crowded Italian restaurant where the waiter deftly restored our disheartened souls.
On the last full day in Paris we saw some of the city together. We walked to the Eiffel Tower with plans to ride to the observation deck. The lines were very long; our time was quite short. We moved on, brushed off a few crumbs from the banquet table that is Paris. We hit the shops along Rue Cler for one last time. The last scene in Paris centers in the airport gift shop, tatty souvenirs paid for with last remaining Euros. Our choices were telling: we may have been in Paris together, but our trips were worlds apart.