For our last hotel in Paris we stayed on Rue de Rivoli at the Best Western duc de Bourgogne. It is a cute boutique hotel just off a main street. It is easy to get to, surprisingly quiet, and so so so close to buses and the line one metro. I wanted us to be in the heart of the tourist are for our last day to make it easy to see anything we may have missed during our first stay. Our room was not ready when we arrived so we dashed around the corner for a late lunch.
As we people watched waiting for our food, we saw a few people walking with hiking poles. Patrick encouraged me that maybe I should give that a try walking around the city this time, maybe the extra pole would provide more balance. I was hungry and in a mood so reverted back to my old self-conscious version of myself and was not too thrilled by the suggestion. I don’t think it was really a feeling of being embarrassed to walk around the chicest city in Europe using poles- ok that was definitely are part of what I was feeling! But there was an inkling of “why me? Why do I have to deal with this? Why is my most prominent accessory a freaking walking stick?!” These feelings don’t crop up on me as often as they did when I was seeking a diagnosis and first diagnosed. It is rare that I let those questions enter my thoughts. I know they are waste of my time so I put them out of my head and do not allow them to fester. Admitting to myself that using hiking poles probably would be a better way to get around the city, and knowing I could get P to hold one for me when I went into buildings helped me shove any negative thoughts from my mind so I could enjoy our meal.
When we returned to the hotel we were pleasantly surprised to see that our room was upgraded. I know I booked the cheapest room possible and I believe we got bumped up to the Deluxe Room. It was a treat! We had the cushy King size bed, a huge shower with a bench off to the side. The toilet was in its own separate little room within our room. There was basically a living room area with closets, dressers, a tea and coffee station and a couch! This place was bigger than my apartment when I lived in Paris, which at 140ft is never hard to beat, but I still use it as my marker for the size of a room or apartment. When I stay in a cool city like Paris I am fine with taking a less frilly hotel room as I know I am only going to be sleeping there, but this room made us want to stay in- in Paris! We immediately got under the covers and took a nap- because, oh yeah, the AC was awesome!
We eventually managed to force ourselves to go out. I had an errand that MUST be done. My mom had a request for me to get a couple bottles of her signature perfume Gardenia Passion from Annick Goutal. We headed over the store at St. Sulpice via taxi. I chose to take my hiking poles instead of my cane so we could test our theory of me having better balance outside on city streets. While we were at the shop I searched for a perfume that I had a sample of years ago, but never bought. The sales lady was wonderful. She spritzed a bunch of different samples for me based on what I remembered the perfume smelling like, and finally we found it, Petite Cherie. At first I asked for a small bottle of the eau de toilette, but upgraded myself to the perfume because I remembered how light the EDT sample was. Once I upsold myself the sales person went one step further to bump me up to the larger bottle because 1. it was prettier, and 2. I could get it re-filled for less money than buying a new bottle. It sounded like a good investment so oui, porquois pas? I paid for all my goodies and she threw in a boatload of free samples into my bag, then as we were leaving she asked, “est-ce que je peut vous parfumer?” (may I spritz you with perfume? It sounds so much prettier in French!). My answer was an enthusiastic biensûr! And she spritz, spritz, spritzed away! It was lovely!
As we walked outside onto uneven streets I was reminded of my disability. I had completely forgotten about it in Annick Goutal. As confident as I am I still get anxious about going places walking the way I do. Going somewhere fancy, like this perfume shop, I can get a small feeling that- you don’t belong here. I don’t know why I do, I know it is stupid- as much of a waste of time as the “why me’s,” but the thought pops up every so often. When it happens taking a deep breath and reminding myself that this is who I am and I should not let it stop me from doing the things I want to do, usually helps. If that fails, a hug from Patrick tends to fill in the gap of what I need to boost myself up.
We hung out at Square St. Sulpice to people watch. There is a pretty church and a fountain in the square with plenty of benches so you can sit back, rest, and just enjoy life for a bit.
We had fun watching a group of guys playing soccer, a girl modeling, and spotting a few older cars.
Eventually we got hungry and walked to a restaurant for dinner, then headed over to the Eiffel Tower to hopefully see it lit up. I know not everyone is a fan of the light show, but I love it. The Eiffel Tower is THE symbol of Paris while it shines on its own, I think it’s even better when it sparkles. Every time I have been at the tower when the light show starts someone in the crowd gasps. I like to think that every time the tower lights up is the first time for someone on the street or the Champs de Mars to see it, and feel that same magical feeling I get when I see it.
The experience of the Eiffel Tower has definitely changed since I was last in Paris seven years ago. Before I left everyone was allowed to walk under the tower. Now there is a bullet-proof glass fence surrounding the base. Only those who have purchased tickets to go up the tower are allowed under it. It was disappointing to see, but sadder to hear why the fencing went up: the city built it as a response the terror attacks in 2015.
One of my fondest Paris memories is a night spent out at the Champs de Mars for a picnic. As the night wore on our group got smaller until it was just me and one other friend. Then it started to rain. Not a light rain either. We were getting soaked. Everyone on the grass made a mad dash and ran under the Eiffel Tower for cover. We were all huddled in the dry patches under the base of the tower talking, laughing, and shivering together. The rain would lighten up for a bit and we watched the braver people dash out to grab a taxi or run to the metro, sometimes a new blast of rain and wind would send them back under the tower and we laughed, or let out some collective oh-la’s. Eventually our numbers dwindled and the rain finally stopped, for the most part. So my friend and I wandered out, got a taxi, and headed home. Sadly that memory is a thing of the past in more ways than one. There will be no more late night huddles hiding against the rain under the safety of the Eiffel Tower.
Some other changes on the Champs de Mars included people selling beer, wine, and champagne. I don’t know if these sales were not permitted before, or if no one had the idea to do it yet, but in addition to people hocking trinkets there are now personal bartenders serving up overpriced refreshments. Patrick bought a Heinekin off someone for 4 Euro. When he was almost finished a guy came over pretending to be the man who sold us the beer asking if we needed another. “Hey friends, remember me?” Nope, because we go this beer from someone else. How much did you pay? Too much. How much? 4 Euros. Oh, that is a good price, normally its 6. He tried to offer us the same thing or 3 for 10 deal, but we were done visiting and needed to head home to the hotel to sleep.
On our way to the taxis we were surprised by a young Eastern European guy driving a pedi-cab offering us a ride. I told him we were going too far for him, but he insisted he goes everywhere and pointed to his price offerings- which were crazy expensive and per person! I said it was too much and a taxi was way cheaper. He made up some BS that taxis have night fares and what he is charging is the same as what a taxi would cost. I laughed and said, “no it’s not.” So he lowered the cost of the fare to something a bit more reasonable. Patrick was not really on board, but I thought it would be fun way to get back home, we had some back and forth banter about the high cost, how nice it would be to see Paris this way, how long it will take to get home, what a cute novelty it is. I decided to let him have the final decision though, so when I confirmed with the driver that he only took cash I volleyed to Patrick asking if he even had that much money. He responded that he did not. I told our pedi-cab driver I was so sorry, thanked him for the offer, and went on about how it looked like such a fun thing to do, but we did not have the cash for it. He ended up THANKING ME and telling me, “that’s ok, that’s ok, have good night!” I have never gotten a thank you from anyone trying to sell me something that I turned down. I can only assume he has been shot down in much worse ways and having someone do it nicely softened the blow.
We got a cab as soon as we got to the street corner and just before the Eiffel Tower was out of site, she lit up. Silently, I gasped.