The Paris and Normandy Diaries: Day Five (Falaise, Paris)
Day Five (Falaise, Paris)
On Thursday we walk into the hotel dining room for breakfast, a room only big enough for five tables. There are about eight people in the room, mostly American, some English. Everyone is mid-conversation, enthusiastically trading stories about vintage airplanes, guns, tanker trucks. These people are the WWII era-aficionado's that are typically seen among memorial crowds.
It is the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
I fill a buffet plate with yogurt, bread, and a croissant and ask for a coffee. I desperately want to record them, the conversation is so highly technical I'll never remember what was said, but I refrain.
"They were supposed to parachute in last night," one of the men says, referring to the memorial parachute jump. "But they couldn't because of weather conditions."
"Isn't that ironic?" a man in a U.S. Navy shirt pipes up from across the room. I look at him and smirk. It is ironic isn't it?
Alistair and I are having breakfast in silence. One of the women in the room looks over at me and whispers a "hello" as if she feels bad that her husband is running the conversation. We wrap up eating quickly and slip into the lounge room next door. The ceremony is on TV. Alistair and I failed to plan well for the day and most of the streets were shut down since the night before. The hotel proprietor suggests we go to the Falaise to see William the Conquerer's castle. We pack up the car and see the highways of Normandy again, with their trees and white cows. The sun is out.
We land in Falaise before lunch. The Falaise Castle is at the top of a grassy hill and you can see the city from the top. We tour the castle for an hour, then set toward the town square for crepes. We realize that we never checked the newspapers to see if the journalist we met in Caen included us in his article. Alistair slips his phone out of his pocket. I tell him to search our names.
"Oh!" he says. "They quoted us."
There's a whole paragraph, with both our names as the "Franco-American couple." We laugh over lunch and text the article to our families, but we don't have time to linger. It's a four hour drive back to Paris, we have to drop off the car, check into our new hotel and meet Felix for dinner near the Palais Royale.
We get closer to Paris around 5 pm. The driving now is erratic, there aren't lines in the road, bikers and scooters are shooting by us. It takes 20 minutes just to go through Place de la Concorde, which we achieve from nosing our car through a pile of other cars and honking something awful.
I love our new hotel, the Hotel Eiffel Blomet in the 15th. We check in, change clothes and rush back out to the Palais Royale. Coincidentally, Felix has picked a place we've been to before, Les Fine Gueules. (Whenever Alistair and I talk about Paris we tell the story about that place, we misunderstood the chalkboard menu and ended up ordering two entrees for both of us.)
We walk from the metro to the restaurant and Paris looks especially beautiful. The sun won't set for hours, but it's like a prolonged magic hour. The way the streets are angled allows the sun to warm the buildings and sidewalks with an amber glow. We approach the fork in the road where the restaurant sits. Felix is outside, on the telephone. I haven't seen him since the wintertime.
We have a good dinner, I get tipsy far too fast but laugh often. Alistair tells the story of the reporter at the Caen museum.
"I wonder if it's even made it to Le Monde," says Alistair. He looks at his phone again and smiles. "Babe, we're in Le Monde!"
We all start cheering and toasting.
The woman at the next table, who had been eating alone and smoking a pack of cigarettes, suddenly enters our conversation. She tells us she works in food, and rattles off recipes: miso-this, miso-that, ghost pepper, ice cream.
"Where are you from?"
"New York," I say. She's confused and thinks I'm moving to Paris.
"I love New York," she says. "I have a friend who went there, he was Arab, and he said all the women there asked to suck his dick because he was so exotic."
(I wish you could have seen my face.)
"Have you ever been to Brazil?" she says.
"No," I say.
"You are ready," she says. "because..." she took her hand and motioned as if she was washing her face. "your color."
She points at Alistair. "He is not ready for Brazil."
I see her again in the bathroom line. She looks either coked-out or over-served. She takes my arm with both her hands, it is so strangely intimate.
"I am with you now," she pleads. "Here are two bars you should go to." She lists a ton of bars and then smiled. "Enjoy Paris, enjoy Paris..."
The sun was down but I don't remember it happening. I am ready to go to the hotel yet, so we decide to have a drink. Alistair remembers a bar we could stop in. Through a revolving door of the Hotel du Lourve and down a brightly lit hall, we end up in an elegant bar that has only just opened for the first time hours ago. There are only two patrons: a woman in white from Dinner en Blanc (which took place right down the street) and a man on a laptop. I order a drink. Alistair runs an errand.
I lean back on the hotel couch cushion with a glass of Moet in one hand and feel remorseful.
I am a person with a placid look but an interior that is like a black sea in motion. I had a boss who told me that I was the calmest person she knew.
"But there is a storm inside of me," I said.
The point of writing, is to write about the black sea without second-guessing it. Every event has its layers: there is the first layer, the deepest one, the event as I filter it through past experiences and the way I see the world, including the little things I don't want to admit to myself. Then there is the second layer, the conscious thoughts and the easy things: where we are, what we are doing, the topical facts. There are many moments in my life where so much has happened but I'm only blogging about the fluffed-up second layer. Essentially, the veneer.
I was sliding into sobriety, the room now very bright. I knew then that this post would only be the second layer. I watched the woman in all white, wearing a white fascinator, open her clutch repeatedly as if she was looking for something. The man on the laptop never breaks his eyes from the screen.
But what is it I can say? I can say is that some my wild, ridiculous, uninhibited day dreams were now just the world I lived in. I was in a spot I hadn't been in since 2011, where fantasy and reality intersect. It feels like curtains parting on a specific type of spring.
We took a cab to the hotel. The driver takes us on a pont just as the Eiffel Tower is glittering, and he even rolls the window down so we can get a good photo, then later, as we pass it again he pulls over for us.
"The best view in Paris!" he laughs.