Bonjour Madame

I love to travel. I love talking to people about travel. I love daydreaming about travel. I love reading books about travel, watching travel shows, and hearing about other people’s travel. I love meeting new people when I travel, exploring new places, and soaking in the culture of a new city. Travel really is a great passion that I have, so I am grateful that I am back on the road and/or plane again and have so many stories to share. I want to start with my most recent adventure to my favorite destination, Paris.

Not many people travel to Paris in January, which meant I could explore the city without the distraction of other tourists, the delays of crowds, or the high cost of travel usually associated with Paris. This was also a birthday present I gave myself so I did indulge a little.

Every time I come here; I find more to fall in love with. The excitement begins on my ride from the airport. At first you can’t see the city, at least nothing that stands out that makes it different from any other major city. There are new construction projects along the highway both residential and commercial. The traffic is backed up because it is rush hour and it is a dreary, rainy morning. I lean against the window, tired from the overnight flight in which I did not sleep, hoping that I will get a glimpse of something that will spark that excitement of being in Paris. As we make our way off the freeway, we turn on to streets lined with limestone buildings, cafes, and shops…there it is!

Suddenly I am not so tired, and I can’t wait to get out and start roaming around the 9th arrondissement to find coffee and a buttery warm croissant. I am surprised by how many cafes have outdoor seating in January. It’s not warm, maybe 40 degrees. I am not sure if I am ready to sit outside but will keep the option open. I make a quick stop at the hotel to drop off my luggage and then I start walking.

I am nervous, it is the first time I have been in Paris on my own. My French, or lack of command of the French language is pretty pathetic, I am horrible at reading maps, and I haven’t figured out how to use my phone yet as I start to walk. I glance around trying to remember landmarks so I can find my way back. The jet lag doesn’t help as I have been up for more than 24 hours. I decide to be brave, worst-case scenario, I have to hail a cab to get me back to the hotel.

I travel through the small narrow streets in an upward direction until I stumble upon this little treasure..Le Grenier a Pain Abbessess. “Bonjour Madame!” is the greeting in the very sing songy way the French speak. I can’t hold back the smile and I nervously begin to speak “Bonjour, un crossiant et un cafe americano s’il vous plait”. My cover is blown, and she knows I am an American but smiles nicely and hands me my food and drink. A gentleman next to me strikes up a conversation with me, in English thankfully, and begins to share the store of the bakery. They have recently won the honor of best baguette in Paris, for the second time. This honor comes with the contract to supply the current President of France with baguettes for the next year- up to 300 a day to accommodate all the visitors, dignitaries, and staff that work in the Elysees Palace. The gentlemen says proudly ” we are very particular about our bread, it must meet very high standards, all natural, and not have all the chemicals that American’s put in their food.” This won’t be the first time I will be judged as an American. I am often brought ketchup, which I really don’t like and also asked about guns -most Europeans think every American carries a gun, like it is the wild west. I don’t mind it. We make our assumptions about different cultures, so I just smile and say ” and this is why I come to Paris! To experience the best”. I make sure I thank him and also purchase a baguette. I wish the bakery staff and the gentleman a “bonne journee” and feeling very “French” with a baguette tucked under my arm, I head back out. I laugh a little. Proud that I stumbled into such a prestigious place by chance.

The coffee isn’t really helping. The carbs from the croissant have kicked in and I am feeling lethargic. It isn’t even noon yet and my room won’t be ready until 1pm. I don’t really know where I am so I decide to try and retrace my steps and head back towards Rue Saint-Lazare. It’s all downhill now which is great for my weary body. I perk up when I see a sign that points to the direction of the Palais Garnier which triggers a memory of that being close to Galleries Lafayette. Nothing like a little shopping to get the adrenaline going.

Now don’t judge me. I am a product of the 80’s. We grew up with malls. I worked in the mall, I hung out at the mall, so this is my happy place. Galleries Lafayette is the ultimate place for Gen Xer’s like me. There are 3 separate buildings for me to explore while waiting for my room to be ready. I breeze through most of it but find my attention captivated by the basement level of the Home store. There is a market place/ grocery store that would fulfill any foodie’s fantasy.

I find myself longing for an apartment in Paris instead of a hotel so I can make a gourmet meal and enjoy a bottle of Bordeaux. How very French that would be! I must tuck that thought away and make sure my next visit to Paris includes a stay in an apartment so I can experience life as a Parisian. I have to use every bit of self-control to walk out of the there with just a few things…jam, chocolate, and a torte make it into the bag. A bag that I purchased because it said “Galleries Lafayette”- very much a tourist thing to do but I can’t help it. I make a mental note to come back and pick up a few more things before my trip is over. I glance at my phone and see that it is 1:30, I can go to the hotel now (if I can find it).

I am so proud of myself as I walk up the steps to the Hilton Opera. I found my way there without the help of a cab, map, or phone. I am sure it is pure luck but I will take it. They have upgraded my room to a suite, one of the perks of being in the hospitality business. I have a wonderful view of Rue Saint -Lazare that allows for me to hear the sounds of the city and watch the hustle and bustle of Parisan life. After unpacking, making a few phone calls and sending some texts back to my loved ones at home, I head down to the restaurant in the hotel for un petit diner made up of a wonderful Bordeaux paired with steak & frites. It is only 7:30 but it now has been 36 hours that I have been awake. I collapse into my white Feathertop bed and fall asleep dreaming of my adventures awaiting me tomorrow. Bonne Nuit.

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