When one thinks of Paris, France, one thinks of all the famous places to visit, like the Le Louvre, the Eifel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, and other things like French wine and romance. I looked forward to my vacation in Paris with my sister and my uncle. While this was our first trip to this celebrated city, my uncle had been in Paris during World War II and again years later and was eager to return.
I booked reservations online choosing the hotel based on the quaint photos of the newly renovated hotel posted on the Internet – inexpensive, gorgeous looking interior, rich colors, off the beaten path, lovely spiral staircase. My uncle, on the other hand, was booked into a well-known hotel not far from the Eifel Tower- located on the other side of town. Our hotel was three-star, his five-star. We met up at the airport and engaged a taxi. The driver was none too thrilled as he jammed our luggage into the boot of his small cab. My sister and I were dropped off first at our hotel; the driver took Uncle to his. I paid little attention to the area as we hauled our luggage out of the car and into the small lobby. The woman behind the desk spoke little English. As I had when I went to Spain, I had learned a few French words and phrases before coming, enough to make our check-in a bit easier.
We rode the elevator up to our room and were surprised at how small it was. We could barely get our suitcases inside. A couple of steps from the door were twin beds with little room in between. A couple of steps from the beds was a tiny bathroom. The largest thing in the room was the floor to ceiling window that looked out onto the narrow street below. From the window we could just barely see Place Pigalle, an infamous area known for its sex shops and prostitutes. When I chose the hotel, I didn’t know this. About the only thing I recognized from the photos posted on the Internet was the spiral staircase with its rod iron decorated scrolled railings. However, suffering from jetlag, we retired early.
The next day after the complimentary breakfast, which consisted of a fresh baguette, strong coffee or tea and orange juice served in their quaint dining room, we decided to visit Uncle at his hotel located on the other side of town. At the desk we asked the concierge for directions. The Metro station was just up the block from our hotel. We purchased ten tickets for 61 French francs or ff (the Euro was not widely popular) to last at least a week. While most passengers use tickets, others jump over, crawl under, or pair up to avoid the charge, a freebee on the city, I guess. Paris has an efficient train system that carries riders all over the city. Trains run from 5:30 AM until 1AM when the ground beneath the city streets cease to rumble like earthquake tremors. It is the heartbeat of the city.
About 35 minutes later, my sister and I arrived at Unk’s luxurious hotel. The huge lobby contained a piano bar, a café, gift shop, and a seating area with plush couches and chairs. Businessmen and tourists filled the lobby. As soon as we entered Unk’s room, we marveled at its size and all the amenities he had access to. From his window we saw the Eifel Tower and much of the city. The weather was fantastic; we were in good spirits and looked forward this new adventure. During the next two weeks, we would take in a few tourist attractions, meet a distant cousin who had become a popular singer, spend an evening at the Follies Beg ere, and have a unique experience at the home of a woman who made her living hosting parties or soirees for artists, tourists and newcomers to Paris.