Stepping outside the train station at Paris Nord, brightly coloured pedestrians wore eclectic mixtures of textures and styles from business boutique to shabby chic pseudo-lingerie. My cab chauffeur spoke no English. I tried my best with my academic high school and college French. It worked to some degree, along with my preplanned hand written address and map.
We found the Hotel Baby with relative ease. It cost a tenth of the London taxi and offered me my first peek into the other side of the looking glass. My drop-off in Paris was a lot smoother. The cab driver was young and taller than I thought when he stepped out of the car. We arrived and he removed my luggage with finesse and brought it inside. The sidewalk and streets were very narrow and I was surprised when he parked the car long enough to bring my baggage into the hote.l
When I first entered Hotel Baby, it was like stepping from between modern security automatic glass entry doors into the titanic. It was not that ornate but it was very red. The carpet was crimson rouge and the fixtures were roaring twenties. The woodwork of the staircase was polished but dusty. It smelled like the cheap floral chemicals of drugstore perfume and musty old furniture. At first glance I thought it very appealing with nostalgia and charming old world romance. It wasn’t until later I realized the likely pre-occupation of Hotel Baby necessitated this vibrant gaudy design.
The perils of online reservation presented me with a room the size of a walk-in closet, but it had its own toilet and shower, stuffed into a cubby sort of linen closet alcove. I was pleased with the widow that opened to some kind of air duct that I imagined to be an inner court-yard. The luxury of privacy allowed me to blissfully ignore the fact that once my luggage was loaded into the room I barely had room to walk around the tiny twin bed. I immediately dumped most of my clothes on the bed looking for “my first stroll in Paris” outfit.
I stripped and hopped into the shower. I put the built-in hair drier to good use and then slathered myself with my favorite moisturizers and organic perfume. Surveying my choices, I decided it was cold enough to warrant my favorite tall black boots. I picked out a little black dress and decided my Abercrombie white wrinkly oxford dressed it down enough to pass for the afternoon. Regardless of the cold, I figured once inside some nice restaurant or café, I could ditch the cover shirt. I tousled my hair and did dark kohl eyeliner and red lipstick. I couldn’t often dress like this in Ohio, Florida or Vermont. Feeling sexy and happy, I sauntered down all five flights of the winding red- carpeted staircase. I was ready.
As I headed out the glass front door, the handsome young desk clerk called out to me. “Madame, le cle si vous plait.” “Oh,” I remembered reading about leaving the key at the hotel. “Jai oublie.” I fished the key out of my purse and handed it to him. “Voila” Then I tried to think how to phrase my question. “Quand je retourne ce soir…”
“We are open twenty four hours here.” He said when my question trailed off. “Just push the button and we will ring you in.” His accent gave the much practiced phrase a finished polish. He smiled politely but I could see laughter in his eyes.
I smiled back. “Merci.” As I left I couldn’t help wondering why my question would seem so amusing.
My first objective was definitely to find the Seine. Since I was in the city of lights and I had decided to dress up a little. I started to feel that I was being looked at in my tall black boots cause it was cold still in April and cute little mini dress. I was starting to feel that my white Abercrombie sweatshirt was not warm enough even though I thought it looked sunny out. Maybe the dress was a little too short for an afternoon stroll. The stares I was getting seemed downright lewd. As soon as I turned the corner and stepped out on rue St Denise, I realized the district I had booked my hotel was red light!
I was competing for attention with the dames de la rue. I was junior league though. Their long black boots went to the middle of their thighs, not to the knee. They wore fur lined coats and sported a lot more jewelry. I earned some nasty glares and quickly circled the block back to the hotel, where you have to ask for your key.
The desk clerk laughed at me. Obviously the online bookings were a wild card. I came back downstairs in jeans a few minutes later, and he laughed more, confirming the obvious. Te he, very funny monsieur. I glared and he stopped laughing long enough to smile and wish me a bon soir.