April 17, 2005

Mon semblable, mon frére

Filed under: Romance, Travels — tomemos @ 1:11 am

I had a great time in France and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you so until now. A couple vignettes (that’s French for “little vignes”) about the trip, which ended two weeks ago today if you can believe it:

–I was lucky enough to be on the same flight with my friend Brandon, who was going on from Prague to visit his girlfriend. Brandon’s roommate took us to the airport, and on the way Brandon was talking to his girlfriend on the phone. “No,” we heard him say, “no, I’ll just get one at the airport.” “A passport,” his roommate said, and I laughed. Then I said, “Oh shit, turn around, I forgot my passport.”

I made it to the airport on time and everything, but still pretty dumb. It reminded me of when, flying home from England, I assumed that I had an electronic ticket; they informed me that, no, I had a paper ticket, which as it happened I did have with me. When I say I have bad travel luck, a lot of that is due to crap like this.

–Julie and I pulled off an admittedly risky maneuver, which was that rather than meeting at the airport we had our rendezvous (French for “liaison”) in the city. Luckily we picked an easy landmark, the Eiffel Tower. We found each other among the crowd, we started down the road towards the apartment…and thirty yards later, there we were. Our apartment (lent to us by a kind, out-of-town friend) was a loft right next door to the Eiffel Tower and almost on a level with it, or so it felt after climbing the eight or so flights of stairs. It was no bigger than a dorm room, but it had a great view and was extremely charming and Parisian.

–One less-than-charming aspect was the shared toilet, which was one of those squat-and-pray deals. Luckily, none of the predictable disasters took place, but I did, at one point, have trouble getting the pull chain to work, and not knowing my own strength I managed to pull the damn thing off. We figured that it was best to tell the super about this, rather than leave Julie’s friend to bear the brunt when she got back.

Of course, when you’re living somewhere without paying rent, you run the risk of awakening someone’s ire about it. And that person might not speak English. Julie probably has a clearer idea about what the 5’6″ supervisor was haranguing her shrilly about than I do, but it was clear that he wasn’t happy about us being there. As Julie took him up, up, up to the bathroom to look at the damage, and then came back down, down, down while I was pacing around outside, I couldn’t shake the fear that we had gotten her friend evicted. Luckily it turned out that he was a tinpan apartment dictator–she had already cleared our stay there, he was just personally unhappy with it. Still, whenever we entered or exited the building from then on, our conversation stopped and we walked swiftly and uneasily past the supervisor’s door.

–We had dinner with a member of Julie’s extended family who was in town with his wife and kids. They’re pretty well off–he’s in real estate–and the proof was in the soufflé we had for dessert that night. In the Eiffel Tower. I’m not kidding, he took us to dinner at the Jules Verne, which is the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, I grabbed a box of matches to prove it. The food was quite good, but mostly I was kind of dumbstruck. The funniest part of the evening was after dinner, when we left the restaurant, descended the tower, went back to the Four Seasons to say goodbye (and so I could return the jacket and tie I borrowed from him), and got back in the hotel’s van, which took us to our building’s service entrance so we could go up to our garret. I tried to tip the driver, but I think he took pity on me, because he turned it down; he probably realized that he makes more money than I do.

–It was a great time. Great to be back in a city, great to be spending lots of time in cafés, great to meet Julie’s friends. It rained all week, and even that was Parisian. Now we’re back in Southern California, nearly living together, and things are going fine. I’ll keep you posted–honest–in the coming days.


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