Flashback: Le Paris in August

So far, Andrew and I have had pretty good luck when it comes to the actual traveling (transportation) part of our trip. Until Paris. Andrew and I had just arrived in the city of lights after a delayed 8+ hour bus ride from Strasbourg (note: the actual driving distance from Strasbourg to Paris is only 5 hours, but after riding with Eurolines France, I now understand that the extra three hours is tacked on for inevitable delays). So after rising before dawn, waiting in a confused and chaotic mass of people for the next long while, and then almost accidentally boarding a bus heading to the Balkans, Andrew and I were just a bit irritable after getting dumped at the Paris bus station. With our eyes half closed, we struggled with the metro ticketing machine, and then we were finally on our way. Our Paris host was not able to check us into our apartment until the evening, so we had many hours to kill before we could shower, eat dinner, pass out, in that order.

In the more residential neighborhoods, Paris, in August on the weekend, is effectively dead. So we dragged our exhausted selves along, periodically squabbling with each other to go faster, stop running over my toes with your suitcase, etc. etc. After finding an open cafe, we parked ourselves and our luggage at a table for four and sipped espressos in the most dignified way one can with hair sticking up in all directions after sleeping awkwardly against the bus headrest. Finally it was time for check-in. We were effectively caffeinated and ready to enjoy our first night in Paris. We navigated through the narrow streets and found our maison du Francais. I called our host and was greeted by a heavily accented female voice recording, speaking in rapid fire French, followed almost instantaneously by a click and a hang up. I tried calling back two more times to no avail. The apartment didn’t have a buzzer of any kind, so Andrew and I stood side by side on the street, looking up at the building in a dazed wonderment. After a few minutes, a girl opened the front door and told us that she was actually the host’s sister- our host had fled the country to Canada without giving us any heads up. The sister- bearer of good news- also told us in broken English that unfortunately, we would have to wait on the street because the toilet was broken, there was a man upstairs fixing it, and there was simply not enough room in the apartment for all four of us to stand.Andrew and I waited with bated breath for the check-in that would not seem to come, and finally we were ushered upstairs by the host-sister to our beautiful apartment (box), which made me feel sentimental for our New York apartment (box). After a 30-second explanation of the apartment, the host-sister fled (I think she was scared of my increasingly narrowed eyes) and we were left alone to finally enjoy the city.

Andrew went into the bathroom and tested out the “newly fixed” toilet with a cautious flush. The toilet promptly responded by overflowing onto the floor. My first feeling was of overwhelming annoyance. My second feeling was the overwhelming need to pee. So began our hour expedition into the city-where-no-one-lets-you-use-a bathroom-unless-you’re-a-paying-customer. After finding a McDonalds (jackpot), one particular issue was resolved and we were able to focus on the real issue at hand. No working toilet, on a weekend, in August, in the evening, in Paris, with our host out of the country. We called the emergency number listed- our host’s mother- to inform her of our problem. First, she gave us a 10-minute tutorial on the proper way to flush the toilet.  Andrew carefully followed these complicated instructions, resulting in yet another overflow. Nothing says city of romance like chatting on the phone with a semi-angry Parisian woman while mopping up a soaking bathroom floor. When the host-mother finally believed us, that yes the toilet was in fact broken, she empathized with our situation, but told us there was absolutely no way she could come into Paris that evening, as she lived two hours outside the city. ‘But maybe tomorrow. Maybe.’ So we were stuck in an apartment with no working plumbing indefinitely, and the thought of running the 20 minutes back and forth to McDonalds seemed less than ideal. To make what’s already a long story short, Andrew and I finally checked into a nearby hotel and I used my keen negotiating skills with AirBnb- the apartment booking website- to get a refund on our reservation. By the time we settled down for a delicious French dinner of turkey sandwiches and pre-packaged salad from the grocery store, spread out on the blanket of our hotel room bed, I’m pretty sure it was the next day and the whole ordeal was already a blurry memory in our overly exhausted minds. The next morning we headed straight to the boulangerie for deux pain au chocolat and all was forgiven.

– From B

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4 thoughts on “Flashback: Le Paris in August

  1. “Nothing says city of romance like chatting on the phone with a semi-angry Parisian woman while mopping up a soaking bathroom floor.”

    That’s amazing 🙂 maybe not so romantic, but certainly a good story to tell!

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