I had a choice the summer of my junior year of college, take a trip to Europe with my fellow art majors, or have a car for senior year.
Amsterdam? London? Paris? Are you guys serious? I'm there already. The first time was perfect. I was literally awestruck standing in front of Monet's, and Chagall's and Lautrec's... It was insane. My brain overloaded. I. Am. Standing. Inches. From. The Canvas That. Was Brushed BY MONET...
Trocadero, Montmartre, Pigalle, and the food...Jesus H. Macy it's nearly impossible to get a bad meal there. I love anyplace you can get a bowlful of coffee for breakfast.
Second trip, with my ex. Budget plan. We stayed at the Hotel Picard. Fellow geeks will snicker. It was in the old Jewish quarter, many of the doors had Star of David's on the jambs. The owner was very patient with my fractured Franglish. His wife was Polish. Long married, they were, and I have no actual idea of their true story, but in my head I concocted a very romantic, dramatic tale of him spiriting her out of Poland with the Resistance. Sat at their kitchen table and attempted to communicate over coffee. So like my Mom, she was. Cooking me breakfast, and coaxing stories out of me.
Proprietor Picard had a sense of humor as well. When Patrick and I checked in, again, budget plan, cheapest room please...
It had bunk beds. He was like "You are married? No, you need big bed". I said, ermmm, "We'll make do". Gallic shrug, sigh, pointed stare..."Big. Bed"...*wink*". In my head, "I'm versatile, I got it, no sweat..." In reality, I just met his stare, and raised an eyebrow. He reluctantly acquiesced.
We walked, we wandered, we wondered, we slummed. Some of the best stuff that happened was so random. One day after a rigorous museum tour, planned to a Martha Stewart degree by me, we schlepped back to the hotel. We stopped at the local grocery for the necessities. I'm walking through, and BLAM, there is a wall, a WALL of Camembert. The clouds parted and the angels sang. I was already in possession of the national food, a baguette, tucked in my pocket unvarnished, as I had gone native, happy camper. I look around, and Patrick was absent, obsessively looking for peanut butter. We did find some, with about an inch of dust on it. Breakfast the next morning was epic. "I am NOT eating that stinky crap..." "Really? You are surrounded by some of the most exquisite cuisine and pastry in the world, and you are turning up your nose?"...
This is why we are divorced.
There was also the extremely intimidating night concierge. Young guy, Grumpy McScowly. There was a pet parrot in the lobby. One night, delirious from art, the Seine, and the carb rush of the ubiquitous baguette, feeling saucy, said, "HEY? Does the bird have a name?" "Oui. THE bird's name is name is Johnny". Smirk from me. "Seriously? Johnny"???, again with the Gallic shrug.
The next night, we again stumbled back to the hotel dead tired. Scary concierge man was sitting with a friend watching "West Side Story". At that moment, "America" was playing for all it was worth. He looked at me, winked, and did a slight shoulder shimmy. I wasn't afraid of him after that.
Parisians have the sense to shop every day, cook fresh. Consequently, if you hit the stores, as per budget plan, around 6pm, it's madness. That is where the peanut butter-Camembert debate occurred. This was the mid 90's. Already, the green grocer, charcuterie, Boulangerie, Patisserie were disappearing. I hate that.
So, me and PB man were in line, and a middle aged, and obviously stressed woman elbows me, and goes off, in French. If I am being mistaken for a local, I take that as a compliment. Patrick caught on very quickly. "Oui, Moi aussi"...Me-"Oui, D'accord".
I told him later that I imagine she was railing about stupid Americans holding up the line with their credit cards. When he whipped said card out, I was like, GAHHHH, hide it!!!
When we got to the cashier, he apologized for the wait. He made us right away. I said, laughing, "No problem, I always pick the wrong line, Murphy's Law". He says, "Oooh is Murphy?" Eh, "The first guy that discovered merde happens".
Merde does indeed happen, and sometimes it's serendipitous.