Monday, February 23, 2009

The Lodging Question

We stayed at the Hôtel Palma Paris, on the Rue de Gambetta near the Edith Piaf museum. It was a great location, clean, and for what it was, the price was relatively fair. Don't be surprised when the rooms look nothing like the pictures on the website. In fact, if you are on a budget, go to Paris with the lowest expectations possible and the disappointment won't be so shattering. I think it had the worst hostel selection from all the cities in Europe.

Later, I wish I had stayed with friends who were staying a stop away near Place de Bastille, at a “cozy” (aka cheap) hostel called the Hôtel Saint Sebastien off the Richard Lenoir metro. I stayed here every other time I was in Paris thereafter, after two failed attempts of tracking down anything better. The San Sebastien is a great central location to wherever you may want to go around Paris and is cleaner than some of the other places at the same price. However, if you would rather stay up all night mingling with fellow jolly travellers in a downstairs bar, then Three Ducks Hostel is the place for you. I must warn you that you will have it be at the price of sharing a room and shower with twelve people and a bathroom with two floors of gnarly, unwashed vagabonds. Therefore, a decent shower or good night's sleep are not guaranteed here. You may not party it up at the San Sebastien, but you do get a "free" breakfast of croissants, confiture, and chocolate chaud that is included in the room charge. I guess it just depends on what you are looking for.

Wandering through the streets the first night, after going to the Tour d'Eiffel, we went through the famous Bastille district,which is the trendy place to be for the youth of Paris. I was, frankly, emotionally drained out. I just wanted to sleep. This was because I had talked non-stop through dinner, rambled on straight through the crowds and up and around the signature phallic representation of France, and still persisted all the way back to our hotel. And then he wanted to talk MORE. "It's impossible!" I thought to myself, surely he had to be just as tired of listening as I was of rambling. I had nothing left to say.

Strategically, I led the way toward the Rue de Lappe, where I knew that if the conversation was lacking at some point, there was that some diversion was guaranteed here with its discotheques, bars, and cafés galore. Although I don’t remember the name of where we ended up, he chose the most quiet bar he could think of, you know, to talk, get to know me better (ha!) but I would have recommended the classic La Bastide. Not only is it reputed to have the most inexpensive beer in Paris, but it has an ambiance reminiscent of Old France.

On an evening later in the year and in a much different context, I would end up here with a ravishing half-Frenchie and half-Spaniard (my weakness) and it would tear the person who was so happily walking next to me apart. But we didn't know that now. I was nervously talking non-stop as my tongue felt dry and my throat was getting scratchy. He wasn't saying anything. Not like he had a chance...

He must have really liked me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Salut á Paris!


Since it is the week of Valentine’s Day, I thought I could begin only by talking about city of love, Paris (make sure you mentally pronounce this as PAR-eey for full emphasis). Not only have I had a tragic love affair with the city itself, but also a heartbreak that will forever associate Paris with a bittersweet taste. This seems only natural if you think of the abundance of inexpensive and delicious red wine at your disposal in this city!

I would wander through this city at least once a month since I lived only an hour away with the fast train--the TGV. In fact, it was exactly one year ago that I was making one of these monthly excursions.

Although each time was momentous and electrifying in its own way, this particular weekend was going to be unparalleled; I just knew it. A "special friend" from Ireland was coming to visit and I was ready for a dash of romance in my life, though I was not looking for what it would eventually become. Namely, I wanted a foreign fling during my fleeting time there, and hopefully with someone who was not going to pronounce his love for me on the first date (Oh Tomas, if only you didn’t have to be so French!) Don't get me wrong, the gesture was appreciated, just a tad bit strange for my American tastes. So, hopefully, Irish here would pick up on the alliteration and take a hint. Where better to have a rendez-vous since our first meeting in NYC?