My third day in Paris can best be described in two distinct sections: the part where I could have passed for a real Parisienne, and the part where I wandered around like a dumbstruck tourist. This morning, when I woke up after seven hours of fitful sleep — "pillow-top" must not in the French vocabulary, though "board-like mattress" appears to be — I got ready, handed my key to the woman at the front desk and bounded out in the late-morning sunshine to find breakfast at the Café de la Madeleine. Did I mention how much I love that hot chocolate, bread and more bread passes for le petit déjeuner here? I needed to get some postcards in the mail — and I had it figured out where to put stamped things but not where to acheter des timbres — so I asked lovely man man in his sidewalk kiosk, spreading batter on the griddle to make his first batch of crepes for the lunch rush. He pointed me in the direction of the post office, where I asked for 15 stamps. All by myself. And felt petrified for only a few seconds. Progress, oui? Then I started walking. In the opposite direction I'd planned to go. I saw a sign that said "Grands Magasins." Which, to the uninitiated, definitely means "huge stores where Paige can spend all her money." Because after buying my own stamps, I deserved to do un peu de shopping. Without question. First, I went to the supermarket. Like an idiot, I'd packed half-empty travel-size toiletries, so most of what I brought is already gone. I wandered around the massive store trying not to look completely gobsmacked by the 2 € cheese and 6 € wine or knock any displays over, and I wound up with the following:
- A bottle of Beaujolais Brouilly
- Four bananas
- The same shave gel I use at home, only the label was in German
- The most adorable size of shampoo and conditioner — not quite travel, not quite American economy. Juuuuuust right!
- Lip balm that feels like heaven
- Body lotion that smells like angel food cake tastes
My favorite part of this excursion: I got to the register marked for reusable bags only, and I whipped out my nylon shopping bag. Christ, I'm eco. For some reason, the price came up in francs as well, and I nearly had a heart attack. Because 25 € comes to about 163 francs. But this story is about me passing for a French person. Actually, I probably didn't. I wandered around at Printemps, the department store that Fodor's raves about, for a while, nearly crying about all the designer clothing I'll a) never fit into and 2) couldn't afford even if I were Twiggy. Then I found the fifth floor, which is all. shoes. And I asked for a size 42 when I was trying on shoes , and the woman all but laughed in my face. Whatever, jerk; I still bought shoes from you, even if they were the biggest they came at 41. The shoes say "Paris" on the inside, and no one else I know will have them. It is my one "big" purchase, at 79 €. So I say.
Et puis, we come to the part of my day where I stumble around Paris aimlessly. Today's idiocy includes my total inability to find the bathrooms or fifth floor at the Musée d'Orsay — no map was going to get me there), misplacing my words when a very nice man on the street in St. Germain tried to talk to me about music, dogging on my server at Chez Marianne for bringing me the wrong items until I realized the fa[l]lafel in Paris are just bogus, running into various cement blocks and nearly getting hit by a few moving vehicles. I couldn't find the ex-pat bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., and I was desperate to be around some English speakers. (All I got today was a little girl in red shoes with buckles and some chain smoker in a bedazzled Harley-Davidson tank top from Virginia, and it was not enough.) The American rage also came back in full force today. I nearly elbowed an old Asian lady who kept trying to cut in front of me in the ticket line at the Musée d'Orsay and wanted to yell at a little boy who was throwing dirt and rocks into the reflecting pool at the Jardin du Luxembourg and, indirectly, into my face. But I don't…really know how to be angry in French. I can be only sweet and polite. And bumbling, apparently.
So besides my great new shoes, an even greater V-neck tan and these burgeoning NYC-caliber calf muscles, Paris feels kind of like a fail today. But tomorrow will be better. Going to bed before 3:30 should help things along, and renting a bike might help even more. We shall see.