What goes off in your head when you hear Paris?
The lights, the eiffel tower, the Louvre, the arc de triomphe….
The sex shops, the sirens, the questionable “items” on the ground…
Oh. So, where on earth am I pulling this from? Let me tell you a story…
So I found out I was going to London in the fall with my drama club, and my brother had gone a few years past. Not only did he go to the famous monuments and buildings (alongside screaming kids, clueless parents, and violent vendors), but he also took an escapade to the city of love and lights.
He came home with nothing to say but good things about his trip, and it only got me more and more excited to take this same journey myself.
Before I knew it, I arrived in London and spent my first day.
London: Day 2. I wake up at the crack of dawn, shove a croissant down my throat, (That sounds much more snobby than it actually was I promise) and head to the Eurostar. I sit at the station, and take in an exotic sip from my four pound (pound as in monetary unit, it was rather light) Starbucks coffee, and look around at this so-called cafe. The walls are covered in posters depicting French “culture” such as the famous Tournee du Chat Noir, and are cluttered with Parisian bric-a-brac; this, in my head, was the vision of Paris that I had always had.
I sit on the train, and slept. Not important.
I arrive in the Gare du Nord station at like 11, that’s important.
I look up at the high ceilings and windows and I sink into my shoes a bit. It’s gorgeous. It’s as if I had just stepped into Hugo. We immediately walk to the currency exchange station, and we leave the exchanging part to friends who had come with us.
After about a half hour of the usual torture of arriving in any new place, (let alone a new country), we leave the station and are confronted as soon as we hit the pavement by this huge “melting house” sculpture (don’t be fooled, it literally is a melting house) and the smell of urine. Uh...where’s the cute eateries with the petite furniture and little forks and spoons and scones? Non-existent, in my sight at least.
We begin walking toward our hotel and we’re confronted by painted faces on the bricks, the hustle and bustle of the Parisians, quite an abundance of “adult-only” shops (which really didn’t catch my eye until I take a few more steps and am confronted by a headless mannequin wearing really...let’s say skimpy...clothing?), and a stench. Is this Paris?
As I’m looking all around, confused as anything, I now hear that my mother, our friends mother, and her two kids all either
a.) have no clue where the hotel is
b.) think they do and lead us in the wrong direction.
Well, it was a search. There just happened to be about three other hotels of the same name, As we spun in (extremely unnecessary) circles around sketch-town, the fear of being mugged was racing through my brain. We eventually asked for directions from a woman seemingly on her way to work...it worked! She told us what obscurely named French street to go on, and there we were. We arrive at a rickety old bridge that we were pretty sure was a troll’s estate. Not good.
After crossing the bridge leading to the depths of hell, we are confronted by a nice, grey-looking building with a sign that clearly reads; Hotel. Now the only thing between us and sanctuary is the crosswalk.
Mind you, about four large traffic cones were blocking us from entering, as well as cars roaring past every six seconds.
After our third taste of death for the day while crossing the wicked crosswalk, we were at the door. We open it, and see a nice-looking arrangement of faux potted plants, soft arm chairs (with only a few rips and tears), and a vending machine.
The guy behind the reception desk (The only person in sight in that entire building) looks at us in a quite peculiar way, and my mother proceeds to ask the age-old question of delightful, and safe family vacationing without my knowledge of her doing it….
“Uh...you have security 24 hours a day, right?”
After the basic check-in stuff, we are about to head up to our room with key in hand. But, wait. On the reception desk sits a small, light gray, paper sign that reads Free Wi-Fi. I nearly cried. Now please understand, trying to find wireless internet service in Europe is like playing a game of Where’s Waldo at six. Frustrating, and the goal is seemingly non-existent. Now this sign - it was not in crazy french, not anything a dumb American can’t understand like me, just Wi-Fi. Right there.
I proceed to inquire about the passcode for this free wi-fi, and as we receive it, my mom, my friend’s mom, and her two kids sign on perfectly. All is well.
Except...mine. It was the only phone that rejected the code the first time around.
I mean whatever, just a glitch, right?
In this frantic state I was in, I ask the man to do something.
He makes a valid attempt, but also, fails. From the back of my ear I listen in on the other family, and my own mother chuckling at my dispense.
Whilst putting up a bit of a fuss in my Wi-Fi-less state, I walk to their sad excuse for an elevator. Now I am out of Hugo, and out of Porno land, and step into the Twilight Zone.
After stepping out of the Wonka-vator, (Not nearly as spectacular as the esteemed “Wonka-vator”, but I’ll call it that due to the high probability of its crashing through the ceiling), I walk over to my room, through a dimly lit, and narrow hall with an oaky color and the stench of festering cigarettes.
There she is. A bed. A television, (small of course). A window curtain that looks straight out of a doctor’s clinic, and, of course, we can’t forget the true star of the day..that big, beautiful reddish-brown stain on the left side of the bed sheet. Welcome my friends, to the city of love, lights, and beauty.
My mom eagerly flipped the blanket down over the sheet when I uncovered my surprise. Now “let’s see what’s on this balcony”. “This balcony” went about a foot out, had a lovely view of the hell bridge, the people on it, a dumpster and incoming cars. And we can’t forget, the clear plastic cup of festering cigarette butts smoking along with the wind. Lovely, divine, luxourious. Wi-Fi less.