Correspondence from France

by Sally Sorte
FRANCE

Last weekend a couple of friends and I headed to Paris for the least traditional Thanksgiving ever. The Mayflower was booked so we went with RyanAir, which was kind of like tuberculosis because it was airborne and inconvenient as hell. Our flight departed at five-something on Thanksgiving morning, so we had the genius plan of taking our bags out with us to the bars of Plaza del Sol on Wednesday night and then going straight to the airport from there.

This plan was good motivation to pack light, and we met one another—and the rest of Madrid—at point zero, under the clock at Sol, with our shoulder bags. The bouncers, with whom we are rather familiar, didn’t even look twice at our excess baggage, which we hung on the back of chairs and forgot about for the next several hours.

After Coronitas with other Americanos, we chatted with a group of English stock brokers who are always up for some “sex on the beach,” and then ran into the same globetrotting Australians that I’d met in Portugal—small world! The clientele at our table continued to diversify until it was time to collect our things, which now reeked of smoky Amstel, and hail a taxi. After prying the life ambitions out of a groggy-eyed young driver, we entered the airport and promptly followed suit by belly flopping on the pristine floor and drooling on our bags during our catnap before security.

In some respects we were better prepared than a boy scout, with our toothpaste and mascara in less than 10-ounce containers and placed in Ziploc bags; in other respects we were those discombobulated people that don’t deserve to board a plane. I tried to go through security without my boarding pass, then almost forgot my belt when I went back to check-in, and my friend left her cell phone in one of those boxes at security (don’t worry, it was waiting for her at lost and found on Sunday).

Another RyanAir oddity: choose your own seat! After overcoming this unheard-of level of autonomy, I put on my headphones and passed out for take-off.

Next thing I knew we were landing in some seriously peripheral suburb of Paris, from which we took a two and a half hour shuttle through the dense morning traffic into the heart of the cloud-covered city. Then we fumbled our way to and through the French metro and to our hostel (confusing because there were two number 48s on the same street), which was located just down the hill from Sacre Coeur and six blocks down from the red-light district and its capitol, the Moulin Rouge.

“The Moulin Rouge. A nightclub, a dance hall and a bordello. Ruled over by Harold Zidler. A kingdom of nighttime pleasures. Where the rich and powerful came to play with the young and beautiful creatures of the underworld….”

We sold ourselves to some crepes, greasy slices of pizza, and foot long hot dogs with cheese, and then set out for the Louvre to say what’s up to Mona and Venus.

Our Thanksgiving may have been turkeyless, but we stuffed ourselves with Paris’ top 10 monumental wonders, and showed good taste by joining some 137 million other Americans in shopping on Black Friday, the day after.

I always hear that French people are snobs who dress for funerals on a daily basis; from my experience, neither is true. Aside from the French chic in our hostel who turned on the light and flung hair mousse around the room at ungodly hours, everyone we talked to was nothing but nice—from the man at the Tourist Information booth who offered to a personal tour on his day off to the lady who gave me her toilet token so that I didn’t have to pay to pee. As for wardrobe, neon is Prada’s new black and there are Longchamp bags in every color to match.

While I didn’t find my “media naranja” (Spanish word for soul mate, or literally, “other half of your orange”), I fell in love with the swanky city of lights and art.

From a broad, in the land of ice cream puffs and warm baguettes.

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