Today is the last full day for us before the granddarling goes home tomorrow. She has a few last-minute gifts to buy and she wants to go to the Eiffel Tower tonight...pretty easy wishes to fulfil, I think!
We leave the apartment, walk along our neighbourhood and window-shop, looking for those special pieces that she knows will make those special people in her life delighted with her choices. Before long, I'm ready for a break and she's raring to keep on going, so we look for a cafe for me to sit and sip awhile.
There it is...a corner cafe with an outdoor seating area and a menu that interests me! I promise I'll be still be here when she's ready to leave and she's off to look for treats for her family.
A very serious and unsmiling server stops at my table, asks me what I'd like and I tell him, "Un menu, s'il vous plait."
He hands me one with no smile and walks away to another group of people. After a few seconds of browsing the menu, I decide to have a country salad...the description lists everything I'm craving...hardboiled eggs, potatoes, Emmental cheese, tomatoes, country ham, greens and a mustard dressing. That, plus a cafe creme sounds just about perfect to me!
The server comes by, takes my order without smiling, then steps to the next table and takes their order, without smiling. I'm beginning to wonder if he's pissed off about something, and I'm hoping he doesn't get too crabby with me today. As he walks away from them, he passes my table again and I catch him staring at me as he mutters something to himself about my order. I realize that he has no idea what beverage I ordered, so I whisper, "Cafe creme, m'sieur, cafe creme!"
Then, he whispers back, "Merci, Madame, merci beaucoup!"
That's a gentle reminder for me that when someone is looking less than happy, sometimes a little kindness changes their mood and makes their day a little brighter. It's easy to get grumpy and complain, "My waiter was so serious! He never smiled once. He was really unpleasant..." and so on. I'm happy that I caught his eye and was able to help him with my order, rather than being cranky back at him...that's a much kinder response with much better end results for everyone.
My salad is delivered within minutes, along with a basket of baguette, a cafe creme....and with a huge and brilliant smile!
It is as delicious as it looks...simple food, just the kind I love, with good bread on the side and a great cafe creme to enjoy. The sun shines on me and my lunch and the food is delicious. My salad is loaded with chunks of Emmental cheese, slightly tangy and very creamy. There are wedges of freshly sliced hardboiled eggs, a large slice of excellent smoked ham and chilled boiled potatoes cut in chunks and sprinkled lightly with some hot mustard. This is as good as it gets, I think! The cafe creme is perfect.
Soon, Taryn is back, sitting at my table and I can tell by her downcast face that her shopping has been unproductive. Having the perfect gift for her family and friends matters so much to her and I can tell that she's frustrated and getting more upset about it, so I suggest going back to the rue Rivoli shops across from the Louvre. This seems to be a good idea for her, so I finish my cafe creme quickly and we leave the cafe for another strike in the Rivoli shops.
The street in front of the shops is packed with people again and I only last a few minutes. My tolerance for this heat, humidity and the crush of people is bordering on zero, so I find the granddarling and let her know that I'm heading back to the tried and true Starbuck's down the street, because it has air conditioning and cold beverages and bathrooms!
Starbuck's...I oughta get royalties for all of this promotion! But, the truth is, I know that they will have the 3 things I need to be comfortable when taking a break...A/C, cold drinks and great bathrooms with no line-ups.
I order my favorite, Orange Pressée Grande, and the counter guy turns to the prep counter, makes my pressée, lids it and hands it to me. As I'm giving him the cash to pay for it, the woman standing beside him, obviously a supervisor who is training him, takes my container of pressée back from me very gently, hands it to the young guy who made it and shows him how to give the customer full value by filling the container to the brim, before capping it with a snap-on lid.
Client care...a great idea that is sadly lacking in so many places in the world today.
Finding a table and chairs right under the A/C vent, I slowly sink down into the depths of an armchair, take a long swig of my ice cold pressée, and begin to relax, comfortable again! It's a good spot to people watch and that's what I do.
Just about the time I think of going and getting a pressée refill, Taryn stops in and tells me that she's done! Gifts for everyone are in the bag, so to speak. I'm so happy for her, as this has been a struggle, finding the right gift for each and every one of her family and for everyone at her workplace..what a thoughtful and caring child she is.
Time for one more bathroom break for me, though.
As I open the door to the shared male/female bathroom on the second floor, I hear retching noises, very loud retching noises.
Accompanied by much moaning and groaning.
I have the weakest stomach in the Universe for this!
My kids will tell you that they learned from very early on in their lives that if they woke up in the night and felt like they were going to be sick to their stomachs, they'd better get to the bathroom, close the door, get it over with and THEN call me for the clean-up. Otherwise, I'd be hurling right along with them! There's something about that sound...
I quickly back out of the washroom area, take a seat by the window and wait...and wait...and wait...
Finally, a very strange-looking man staggers out of the bathroom area, wiping his face on ragged streams of toilet paper that are dangling from his hands. He's also dragging a sopping-wet length of that stuff behind him, because it is stuck on the heel of one shoe. He stumbles to a table by the exit and sits down, moaning...
Gingerly, I open the door to the bathroom area and just as gingerly, I let it close again, as I turn and head for the counter downstairs.
I am not, in any way, going into that bathroom!
The smell is overpowering.
I meet a Starbuck's staff member on the stairs as I go down and I tell her that the bathroom needs attention. I also let her know that this guy needs attention, although I'm not sure what kind will be best for him. It's easy to make a snap decision that he's high or drunk and be really critical about his behaviour. My earlier experience with the unsmiling server pops into my mind and that gives me pause when considering this man and his possible problems. I tell the staff person that he might be ill...maybe with diabetes, hypoglycemia, stroke, heart attack...who knows? She thanks me for alerting her, and I walk quickly outside of the cafe to meet Taryn on the sidewalk, and we walk home together...in this heat.
The heat from the vehicles, the reflected heat from the asphalt and concrete plus the high humidity and high temperature of the day are now too much for me. I get heatstroke very easily and I can feel it starting already. No cabs are evident in the area and so we walk and we walk and we walk. I get hotter and hotter. The scary thing about heatstroke for me is the after-effects of having it. I've been close to passing out from it on several occasions and I've also been unable to function for a day or more after recovering from it, so I am quite worried this time.
Finally we make it to the apartment, and I turn on the A/C full blast, change into my light cotton housecoat and sit smack-dab in front of the icy jet stream from the vent on the A/C unit. Darling Taryn brings me cold wet washcloths for my face and neck. She tells me that I'm such a trouper and that helps so much. She's a thoughtful and caring person and it's such a good thing for me. I so much appreciate her taking care of me!
A quick lie-down on the sofa and then I'm dressed and ready to go to the Eiffel Tower. We've decided to take the bus and my online research tells me that #82 will get us there. Walking through Luxembourg Jardin again, passing the hexagonal pond and the hundreds of Parisiens and tourists sailing little boats in the water, feeding the ducks, taking millions of photos and enjoying the beauty of the garden area...I feel like the most blessed person in the world right now.
The bus gets us to the tower in a short time. As we follow the crowd, my camera is ready for my first sight of this famous landmark that was a brainchild of Gustave Eiffel, a very gifted engineer who also designed and built the Bon Marche department store, among many other achievements. He was also responsible for the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty.
We round the street corner and right in front of us is......
To be continued below!