I didn’t mention much about my Paris trip, mainly because it was a bit of a whirlwind visit – arrive, see as many tourist attractions as possible, attend book signing, visit a blogfriend, leave.
Having now had time to catch my breath and reflect, I have to say this: I love Paris.
Extreme temperatures aside, my only complaint is that I just didn’t have enough time there. My first couchsurfing experience was a positive one – I stayed with a couple my age, who have a beautiful apartment with gorgeous city views from their balcony. My hostess doubled up as my tour guide, and I saw a lot of things I wouldn’t have found on my own.
As for the Petite Anglaise event – wow! The realisation that Petite is actually an ordinary girl like me, who, bored in her job, discovered blogging… that was quite an eye-opener for me, with my tendency to get all star-struck and put people up on pedestals far above my head. I sat there, listening to her reading from her first book, and for the first time found myself thinking: maybe I could do it too! Maybe…
The next night, I went for (a truly delicious) dinner at Croque-Camille‘s. Naturally, I left far too early, clutching her step-by-step directions to her apartment in one sweaty hand, my half-litre of water in the other, completely prepared to get lost and dehydrated yet again. To my amazement, it didn’t happen. In fact, I got there with No Trouble Whatsoever. What’s going on? Am I growing a few strands of Common Sense in my head?
Anyway, ludicrously early for dinner, I sat down in a little park area to relax a bit and escape the heat. Three winos on a bench opposite me tried to harrass me and I stood (sat) firm, using my well-practised “I’m sorry, I don’t speak a word of French and have no idea what you’re saying” technique. Then, however, an old dude walking past happened to catch my eye. He smiled at me, and I made the grave mistake of smiling poitely back at him.
Old Dude descended upon me with the joyful grin of a long-lost friend. Ah, my little girlfriend! he exclaimed, to my alarm, doing a dramatic kiss-kiss of my cheeks. He babbled something else as I tried to shrink back in my seat, and I shrugged helplessly. Old French people are much more difficult to understand than the rest. The words are indistinguishable from each other, and to the untrained ear it just sounds like one long, gravelly growl. He finished and looked questioningly at me, and, still being polite, I explained that I didn’t really understand what he was saying. He wanted to know where I was from, and being Irish, it seemed, made me completely irresistable to him. I received more cheek kisses and one on the hand, and was incapable of doing anything about it, since I was sitting and he was standing and looming over me. So full of joy and love was his smile that to stand up and run away would have been downright heartless, leaving me riddled with guilt.
Did I want to go for a drink with him, he wondered. Erm, no. I didn’t. Maybe a coffee? Dinner? Anything of my choosing! Slightly freaked out, now, I dodged another kiss and explained that I was going to a friend’s house for dinner. Actually, I didn’t – the fear that he might decide to join me prevented me from doing this. Instead, I told him that I was waiting for someone. Undeterred, he asked if I might like to meet him later on for said drink. Erm, again, no. I am waiting for my boyfriend, I lied convincingly. Finally, he retreated, and I began to relax amidst a flow of “goodbye, so lovely to see you, take care!” type of remarks.
He caught me completely off-guard with his sudden return and kiss on the lips. I was speechless (other than an involuntary mmmmfff!), and a little embarrassed when he finally walked away and left me pretending not to notice the curious stares of the people on benches around me.
Who says the people of Paris aren’t friendly?