So last weekend … [part one]

I was in Paris with the lovely Lotte thanks to the wonders of the Eurostar.

It started well enough, I was late, Lotte was sitting outside the ticket desk looking like a vision of summer and we tried to check in … sadly, the automatic check machines had died and it was one long queue waiting to manually check in … behind a couple … who seemed to be having issues with their ticket … eventually the check in women (for there were at least 3, who were looking very officious, calling into their RTs “No, it’s all of the gates, all of them are not working”) got one automated check in going for about 2 minutes – Lotte was swept in, and then it broke down again. Eventually I got through, took my jacket off and put my luggage through the xray machines and got on the train.

The train journey pretty much went like this – wall, wall, wall, land, land, land, black, black, black, wall, wall, land, rain, land, land , are we there yet, land, land, land, Paris.

Lotte and I jumped off the train and headed for the metro – Lotte showing her savvy skill at getting us tickets and sending us in the right direction – Monmartre.

So we get to Monmartre, we find our hotel fine, we walk through the door.

Bon Soir

Bon Soir Monsieur

And that’s about as far as my French went. The Concierge’s English went an even shorter distance than my French, but with a bit of sign language and a printed out copy of my booking, we managed to get the keys to the room and then proceeded up 6 flights of stairs to get there. In general, the place was covered in plastic, they were in mid renovation, but that was cool, we just wanted a cheap place to stay. So we put the key in the door and … well, to start, the room hadn’t been cleaned since the last occupants. How did we know? I think the empty champagne bottle in the middle of the room, the crumbs all over the floor, the bedding not on the bed and the wet towels peeking out of the open bathroom door may have been a give away.

Did I mention the Concierge didn’t speak a shred of English? Did I mention he was the only staff member in the building? So I run down to the reception armed with Lotte’s guidebook and stumbled through what I could … with absolutely no success whatsoever.

Vous parlez Anglais?


Er … Chambre … er …

So the Concierge and I grab a 15 year old kid who is in the foyer with his family. He speaks as much English as I speak French but together we manage to convey my woe to the Concierge and convince him to come and see the room with me. The Concierge then tries to convince the kid (who had a passing resemblance to Jack O’Donnell – no really, glasses, height, everything) to cover the front desk while he’s sorting out my issues … Once upstairs, the Concierge starts vacuuming the room around Lotte, chasing her and our luggage into the hallway. He finishes with a wee flourish and seems to think he’s solved the problem.

Monsieur! Draps!

He shrugs and then I turn him to the bathroom door. His whole demeanour changes and we go back down the stairs (Noveau chambre? Non Madam) to the deserted reception (where Jack’s French twin has gone out with his folks), a phone conversation ensues, I heave heavy sighs and finally, I get the key to a new room.

I go back up the 6 flights of stairs, get Lotte, climb up to the seventh floor to our new room. Which has one bed. At this point Lotte and I give in to defeat, hell it’s a queen sized bed, it’s on the other side of the hotel so we have this view:

I head back down to reception, drop off the old key and head back up the stairs to freshen up. A change of tee shirt, and it’s back down the stairs and out the door to explore Monmartre. So we had heard that we were staying in a very touristy area … yup we sure were, but the only tourists around us were from other areas around France, I’m pretty sure we were the only people who weren’t French in the whole neighbourhood. A little daunted (and completely exhausted from the room adventure) we walked around streets a little dazed and very much lost in translation. It didn’t take long for Lotte and I to give up on trying to be good tourists so we went to a nearby supermarket, grabbed a bag of crossiants, camenbert, ham and Orangina went home and had the best damn meal in Paris ever! [Ah, dammit! I had the best picture of Lotte and our in room picnic, but I have no idea where it’s gone!]

Exhausted as anything, we watch a bit of French TV and then go to sleep. Well kind of. During the night our fellow hotel residents slam doors and yell to each other in the stairwell, then in the early hours of the morning, a fire alarm goes off for about a minute, then stops, then beeps intermittently for a while before stopping entirely.

The next morning, after a fitful night of sleep for me and a sleepless night for Lotte, we get up, head downstairs to learn that we have missed breakfast – it turns out that in our room saga we missed the one sign in English declaring that breakfast is finished at 9.30. So back up the stairs we go, have another crossiant a can of Orangina and then down the stairs to the tourist information centre.

Of course, the guys manning the tourist information centre ignore us completely, so we grab the handy (and free) guide to Paris, jump on the Metro and head to Monpamasse determined that we will overcome the first wobbles that Paris has thrown at us.

We get there and try to purchase tickets to Chatre on the machine … to no avail.

We should just ask for tickets.

Who wants to do the French?

Well I sorted the room out last night, so it’s your turn.

Ugh, ok.

Lotte is in luck though, the queue is fast and the guy speaks English. She even gets a discount for being young!

So we’re set to Chartre, on a double decker train, that is full, so we sit on fold down seats near the door.

Chartre is beautiful. It’s a gorgeous summer’s day, the tourists are still all French and the cathedral is gorgeous.

Notice the lovely Lotte, notice the blue summery sky, notice that the post ends about here … it’s late and I need to sleep even though I’m watching qualifying for the Canadian GP … more tomorrow!


One Response to “So last weekend … [part one]”

  1. Hee hee, deepest sympathies on the room saga but the french issue gives me a giggle. It is the one language I do speak vaguely – or can at least do good-enough pronunciation when reading from a phrase book. Will remember to avoid that area – I mean, generally isn’t it said that pretty much everyone in France speaks English? I know it’s an exaggerration, but in Paris and in the hospitality industry you’d think there’d be at least a few sentences worth going on…

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