My connecting flight to ATL might have left Nashville late for weather, but there’s little reason to remember that now. Some time was spent on an airplane, and a bad film was played. First they pan-and-scanned it, then they stretched the edges to fit a widescreen television, making things look as if they were filmed through a bottle. I think it was about a hotel. For dogs. Blocked from memory, or so I tell myself.

The real fun for me — and I don’t mean that sarcastically — starts with trying to figure out public transportation. This is fun in a new city, and doubly so when I get to practice a rusty foreign language. In my case I still read French reasonably well, though I can’t listen fast enough to do much good. The train wasn’t too difficult, though, other than realizing that (1) American credit cards lack a “smart chip” that’s required by the ticket machines, and (B) the ticket machines at CDG only take coins. But (iii) there’s a change machine nearby. I took heart that a group of young German tourists was having the same problem as I.

Paris Metro

Many of Paris’ Metro trains run on rubber wheels. The track is actually a narrow strip of pavement or metal, perhaps 9 inches wide, and the wheels seem to have been stolen off a fleet of buses somewhere. They’re quiet, and there’s no click-clacking noise. And unlike the billion-dollar convenience shuttle the U.S. Congress built to get  from their offices to the Capital building, these tires don’t make a hellspawn squealing noise. (In Congress’ defense, I really have no idea what they spent on that rig. But the sound it makes is truly awful.)

Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais

Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais windowI got lost a few times looking for the hotel. First, I went looking for 72, instead of 12, rue Vieille du Temple, and then I turned around and walked right past 12 and ended up on a different street. (Some streets in Paris change names every block, it turns out. Maybe Nashville copied from their rulebook?) An old man saw I was confused, looked at the address displayed on my phone, and pointed back behind me. Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais was quite nice. It was a small room, but the windows (doors, actually, as is common in Paris) opened wide to the street, three stories up. (3rd floor in French terms, 4th floor by the American nomenclature.)

I soon realized I hadn’t had any real food since ATL, so it was time to forage. Remembering my friends’ recommendation for the falafel vendors up the street, I went and found those. There were at least four falafel windows, but I liked one the most because the guy was such a persistent hawker. I later wondered if he was only asking the female passers-by to buy a 5€ lunch. Regardless, it was very tasty, and it hit me immediately that Nashville needs a restaurant or truck that makes them like they do on rue de Rosiers.

Actual dinner came later, with a family friend from Nashville who now spends her weeks in London and her weekends in Paris. We ate extremely early (for Paris), sitting down at 7:30pm. There were literally no other customers for the next 30 minutes. We caught up on the past 19 or so years, noticed we’d gotten a touch older (I believe she said I was “grown up”), and generally had a very nice evening before seeing her off to get some sleep before her early morning commute back to London.

I then attempted to use the Vélib bicycle rental system, only to be denied by the payment machine. Once again, the smart-chip-free American credit cards failed, leaving all those intriguing rental bikes to the European tourists (and perhaps a fair number of actual Parisiens). (I discovered many months later that American Express cards will work for the Vélib system, so keep that in mind if you’re planning a trip.)