Woke up early. Didn’t feel jetlagged at all, which is nice. I had museum tickets to pick up at the nearby FNAC but it didn’t open till 10, so I decided to walk to Jardin du Luxembourg and get a bite to eat. Lugged the Nikon, which I’m not used to carrying for long periods of time (and soon enough ditched for the rest of the day).
Didn’t arrive in Paris until Monday afternoon, but I thought it best to start with the first day of travel on Sunday. Mom and Dad took me to lunch then dropped me off at LAX.
Checking in was no problem. First plane to London Heathrow on an Air New Zealand flight, then a British Airways flight to Paris. Checked in one large black suitcase with red patterned fabric tied through one of the handles, hoping it would distinguish it somewhat from the others. I brought a large tote with my ipad, camera, and headphones with me on the plane. This tote would be the purse I’d use throughout my stay, though I wished I’d brought a smaller purse later on.
Sat in an aisle seat next to a stubbly Bear Grylls/Bradley Cooper who wore flip flops. After the hilarious in-flight safety video, Bear Bradley turned to me beaming and said (with adorable British accent), “That was brilliant.”
The flight went well, despite my feet swelling. Getting them back into my Frye’s was torture. Slept for most of it and ate nothing but crackers and fruit and gorged on water.
Arrived at Heathrow on schedule Monday afternoon and took a bus to Terminal 1 to catch the next flight. Slept for most of that one too. After picking up my baggage, bought a ticket for the RER B to Paris. Helped a young couple find their next stop and another woman traveling solo with how to read the metro map. It was like I’d never left, no, I was only returning to a place I once called home.
Got off at St. Michel and took the best exit that spat me out onto the wet Boulevard Saint Germain. Found my lodging quite easily, the warm and luxurious Odeon Saint Germain, a 4 star hotel near the Metro Odeon stop. The reception area was a large wooden desk behind which a skinny young man named Thomas checked me in. I greeted him in French but the transaction was mostly in English, I was still a bit nervous about using my French about important matters like hotel reservations.
He showed me the lounge area, the well-stocked honesty bar, all while carrying my large suitcase. He carried it to the first floor (note: in most hotels or buildings there, there’s the ground floor, then first floor, second, etc). From there he put me and the suitcase in an elevator the size of a phone booth and I got off at the fourth floor. My room was cozy and lovely and looked into the courtyard between adjacent buildings. He showed me some of the features of the room and bid me goodnight. I thanked him profusely to which he said in okay English, “It is…my nature.” I forgot to tip him and I still feel badly about it.
Unpacked most of my clothes (I didn’t bring too much), and then went out for a walk. Walked down St. Michel and had a café noisette (espresso with bit of cream) in a café nearby the Notre Dame.
People watched for a while, planned out the next couple days in bullet form in my small notebook. On the way back, bought a sandwich (chicken and veg on a baguette), some chips, and more water and ate that for dinner in the hotel room. Tomorrow: Musée d’Orsay.
Met my good friend Stacy at a local gastropub down the street from my studio. I was annoyingly early and stood awkwardly craning my neck looking for her. The kind, boyish face behind the bar asked if I wanted to take a seat and look at the beer menu. The need to be extroverted came like a defense mechanism: if I wanted to survive in this environment, I had to turn on the kind charm.
I smiled and sat right in front of him and asked him his name.
He asked me mine, we shook hands, and Jeff went over the beer and cocktails menu. I ordered an old fashioned and watched him prepare it in front of me. For the next 10 minutes, I watched the baseball game on tv, periodically looked at my phone for new text messages. Couples took their seats at both sides of me, after they had asked if I was with someone. Jeff offered to them if they needed their names down for a table, both couples had said no, they’ll eat at the bar.
After he had given them beer samples, I asked Jeff if it wouldn’t be much trouble for him to add my name for a table of two. He said not at all and brought over the hostess Jessica, a statuesque Gisele Bundchen look-alike. “Jessica, this is Elaine,” Jeff said over the din of the bar, “Can we please get her a table?” Jessica put her hand on my shoulder and said, “How many, Elaine?”
Stacy arrived wearing a strawberry festival t-shirt which Jeff pointed at and said, “You gotta try the strawberry white ale! Only if you want. You know, ‘cuz of the shirt.” I introduced them both and Stacy was won over. She ordered the fruity ale.
Closed out my tab and thanked Jeff after Jessica told us she got our table. Ordered food and talked about work (she was having trouble finding a job), her boyfriend, and my lack thereof. I’m so shy! I’d tell her. She looked at me incredulously. She didn’t understand how I could be so confident with the bartender and not with other guys. I blamed the old fashioned, the guiding spirit of Don Draper.
“Simple steps, Elaine,” she told me and proceeded with more boy advice. She made it sound so easy. And maybe it was. I was always so jealous of Stacy’s social confidence, her ability to break down everything into small goals attained by “simple steps.”
We talked at our table for over three hours, the kind waiter refilling our carafe with chilled water told us to take our time. God, it was fun. Little did she know, it was a day of next steps.
Our show was well received at Comic-Con. It was vid-dev modeler’s last day (another one of our design team leaves us!). At the end of the work day, I needed to accompany him to the parking garage exit so he could give me his badge. I hopped in his car and we drove around the parking garage towards our back gate.
“You know, there’s always coordinator positions coming up,” he said. “You could come onto a feature after season 2.” My heart raced. A coordinator on a feature? That would ensure at least two years of steady work. We got to the back gate and he gave me his parking badge. “I’ll look out for you, Elaine. Take care.”
Dinner ended with Stacy giving me more boy advice and me encouraging Stacy not to lose hope during the job hunt. “I was unemployed for over a year, Stacy. You just have to keep looking and putting your name out there and exhausting your contacts and keep busy. Work temp jobs if you have to while looking for that dream job. If we want to keep doing this,” I motioned to the drinks and our empty plates of food, “because I know you love eating out and seeing movies and traveling and going to museums, you need money coming in.” I hated being harsh, but she agreed.
We left, and I drove her to her car which was parked in an upscale neighborhood almost a mile away. “Remember how fun it was walking everywhere in San Francisco?” she said. “It’s so different down here.”
We hugged and said bye. I felt old, but in a good way, in the realm of that feeling you get after you’ve learned a lesson or travelled somewhere far or healed from a hurt you never thought would go.
Traffic on the 101 tonight didn’t seem to matter. Someone was setting off fireworks in the distance.