Monday, December 20, 2004
My First Time in Paris ...
I was finishing up a week of business in Frankfurt in mid-July 1977 when I got word that there was a meeting I needed to attend in Zurich the following Tuesday. It really didn't pay to fly back home just to turn around again, so I set my mind to thinking where to spend the next few days.
Well, I had never been to Paris, and there were those five years of well-taught French in the Baltimore County School system behind me... so Paris it was!
I had the concierge at the Frankfurt Intercontinental book me a room at the Paris Intercontinental, just for one night, and then bought a Michelin Green Guide and a Frommer's Budget Guide for Paris, and. I was ready!
The short flight to Orly Airport Friday evening arrived about 8PM, and by the time I got to the Interconti, it was dark. I ascended to my room along with a gaggle of senior citizens from Iowa ... bienvenu à Paris!
The next morning, Frommer's Budget Guide in hand, the first order of business was to find a pension on the Left Bank. After all, I wanted to feel as if I really were in Paris for the weekend. I left my luggage with the concierge to be retrieved later and set out to cross the Seine.
I picked a nice two-story place in the Sixth Arrondissement - the St. Germain district. At age 27, single and adventurous, I was more than happy with my comfortable little bedroom, even if I did have to walk down the hall to use the bathroom.
The little Michelin booklet turned out to be my most useful accessory on this short visit. I was able to pick out the sights I wanted to cram into the next two days, and I easily whisked myself around the city via the Paris Metro.
In those two days, I spent several hours at the Louvre, visited Notre Dame Cathedral, rode the elevator up the Eiffel Tower, dodged traffic at Arc de Triomphe, ascended the twisting, ancient streets of Montrmatre, and hobnobbed with the famous dead at its cemetery.
Paris was everything I had imagined and more - I loved it all. But there is one place, one magical quarter-acre, that stands out in my memory. I can't quite explain it, but that little cobblestoned tip of Isle de la Cité, the downstream end that sticks out into the Seine like the prow of a small boat, had a special attraction for me.
Perhaps it's because of its simplicity and tranquility. There's just you, the river on three sides, and a willow spreading protectively above. The city, with all its bustle and excitement, is held a bay for just a little while, to give you time to be with your own thoughts.
When I saw this place, it was July 21, 1977, and it was love at first sight. And wouldn't you know ... exactly one year later to the day, I met my wife.