Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1316: European Travel Back When - 1964
By Marian from New Jersey, Summer 1995
Page 4 of 20: Finally, Paris!
My stay in Paris does not start out very auspiciously. I meet two girls on the boat, but they are not so sympathetique. And at any rate, I find that there is no more room at their hotel. At this point, I am so physically exhausted that I simply walk into a likely looking one on the same street, rue du Sommerard. The room available is up on the fifth floor, and the concierge seems a bit nasty, but I take it. I spend the evening writing a long letter to my parents about how wonderful London was.
(Can we just take a minute to realize here that I am 23 years old, I have been away a full week, and I am just now communicating with my parents. Well, I may have sent them a postcard when I arrived in London. And no one thinks this is strange! Transatlantic phone calls are prohibitively expensive, and calling does not even occur to me. Nor to them.) I go out to get something to eat, and I have another unpleasant experience: A man follows me and bothers me for about three blocks, so I just pop into the Cluny Self-Service restaurant nearby. Scary. So of course I could not really eat, but I return to the hotel and fall asleep immediately.
It’s the next morning, and I shower, have breakfast, check out and leave my luggage downstairs. I don’t really want to stay at this hotel any longer. I head for the American Express, where I had some very tentative plans to meet someone who had been on my flight. She does not show up, but I meet a nice young man from South Africa. We have some lunch (I am still too anxious to get much down), then head for the Memorial to the Unknown Jewish Martyr. The memorial is impressive, but I find myself unable to walk through the museum.
We walk along the Left Bank, and finally I feel “I am in Paris!” Notre Dame is lovely and spidery; we stop at all the bookstalls and have a beer at a sidewalk café. Now I feel well enough to go off on my own and look for a hotel. Finding one is not so easy, but I finally take a room in one that seems somewhat shabby, but whose proprietors seem nice. It’s also on the rue du Sommerard, right near last night’s hotel. So I take a room, for 12 francs a night (this is about $2.50, a bit more than I had planned).
I know that my friend D from South Africa has left Paris by now, and I go out for a walk and meet yet another friendly English-speaking young man. Seemed safe enough to stop and have a Coca-Cola with (un Coca), so I do. But not really all that interesting.
By now, it is Monday, June 8. I have been in Paris two full days and have begun to feel at home. My French is standing up pretty well. So I decide to try and call Buddy, a close first cousin who is in the US Army, stationed somewhere in Germany near Heidelberg. To do this, I go to the PTT and finally ask an attendant for some help, saying (in French) "Can you please help me; I don't speak French very well." To which she responds (in French) "Yes, I can hear that!" Despite this, I reach Buddy, eventually, although it's about three hours after I first started.
Now I am no longer quite so confident about my French, and I really hate Paris. I manage to eat some lunch, and head for the Bateaux Mouches. On the boat, I meet a couple of American college girls, from Indiana. I arrange to spend the evening with them, and as we are finishing our dinner at a café, some young Frenchmen strike up a conversation with us. They seem nice, and polite (having lived on my own in NY for a couple of years, I am not exactly the gullible young thing), and we walk for a bit with them.
I have made various friends today, have gotten over the humiliation of the PTT, and am beginning to love Paris again.
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