See my photo post here.
After the epic struggle that was getting out of Fontainebleau, Boss #1 and I, exhausted from our hectic, international work week, finally arrived in Paris at around 8:00 at night.
We asked the concierge at Boss’ hotel, the Paris Hilton (yep, I’ve been in Paris Hilton. Sorry, had to – okay so it’s actually called the Hilton Arc de Triomphe), for a good place for dinner.
“What kind of place?” he asked, eyeing us. We shrugged, said anything French would do. He made a reservation for us, but first Boss took me to his favourite site in Paris: the top of the Arc du Triomphe.
While I’ve enjoyed all my travels so far, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle against the night sky made me more excited than I’ve felt since first landing in London. I could barely believe it was my first time in Paris: it’s a place I’ve dreamed about – so many people dream about – read about, seen movies about, listened to songs about. I have seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle like that so many times before – but knowing that it’s real, not behind a TV screen and all in your head, is another sort of feeling altogether.
It was a moment I’d thought about basically forever, and here I was – living in it. I can’t wait to go back.
After oo-ing and aa-ing, we arrived at the recommended dinner place. It turned out to be fairly swanky and filled with couples that gave off a vibe that they weren’t officially couples – or at least their spouses didn’t know they were. The question the concierge had posed to us when we asked for a restaurant reservation suddenly made more sense. Awkward.
Upon perusing the menu, I was curious to know what a “filet au sander” was and so asked politely and in my best French if it was a type of fish. As a response, the waiter sneered at me.
“I will bring you an English menu!” he practically yelled, literally grabbing the menu from my hands. Turns out it was a Zander filet. Still confused? Yeah, me too. Finally the waiter answered my question in the affirmative – it is fish. He poised to take my order.
“Je voudrai le filet au sander, s’il vous plait,” I said.
“Oh, the filet au sander? I’m afraid we are all out.” I really don’t think it was my imagination that he got a certain thrilled satisfaction out of telling me this. Thus began a battle of wills between me and the waiter: me, refusing to speak English, him, refusing to speak French, and Boss in the middle trying to mediate with a command of French somewhere in between.
The next head-to-head was over wine. The waiter returned, again poised to take our wine order. I should have known that asking for a wine menu would be a show of weakness. The menu was barely in my hands when the waiter determined we were too incompetent to order on our own.
“Well!” the waiter puffed out his chest, “Madame – you are eating fish, so you have white. Sir, you will have red.” He removed the menus from our hands in a manner I wouldn’t exactly describe as gentle, and Boss and I confessed to each other we hoped the wine was horrible so we could spit it out with disgust and demand a real chance to look at the menu.
Alas, it was delicious. And so was the meal. Ah well, you can’t win ‘em all.
As we left the restaurant, I realised – or rather, thought – I had left mes lunettes in the restaurant. Boss refused to subject himself to the waiter’s humiliations again, and so I was left to sulkily shuffle into the restaurant asking if they had spotted them in slightly more shaky but still determined French. At a negative response, I begun to search the table with, to his credit, the help of the waiter. Then I discovered they were in my bag.
But in the hunt, little Christoph had been pulled from the safety of my purse. The waiter stared at him in silence for a moment, before snatching the terrified Christoph from my hands.
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” he exclaimed in joyous/vindictive laughter. “Un petit elephant? Sans oreilles? Tres mignon!” He then paraded Christoph around the restaurant (now only occupied by an extraordinarily drunk middle-aged Australian women in a skin tight red dress being coaxed into standing by her older American male friend) while all the staff cried “Très mignon!” I trailed after, grimacing and humiliated.
Finally Christoph escaped from the horrifying ordeal, and I bolted from the restaurant as quickly as possible.
Boss and I walked down Champs-Élysées back to the Hilton, where I picked up my bag and cabbed to my own hostel, more than ready for sleep.
When I made it to my raucus hostel I shoved past the drinking Canadian (or fakers wearing maple leafs to reap the benefits of our awesome international reputation) travellers attempting to befriend me in a desperate quest for sleep. I wish I hadn’t been so exhausted, because even for someone admittedly not terribly talented at making friends, I could have made about five before I had even checked in yet if I had had enough sleep to form coherent sentences. Instead, I collapsed into bed, my ego a little wounded and Christoph a little rattled, but excited to explore Paris in the morning.
Read about my next day in Paris here.