I woke up to laughter and loud talking coming up from the streets through the window. 4:19 a.m. Normally, waking up before sunrise would not be so lovely but when you are waking up in Paris it feels like adventure. I slipped out of bed and tiptoed downstairs to the open window in our sitting room. Hidden by the draperies I peered out into the street and saw three ladies loading luggage into a car. Two frenchman were with them. They all loudly laughed, kissed one anothers cheeks and bid adieu. I smiled at the happy scene and ran on tip toe back up to my room.
I slipped back into bed, the soft but firm matress still warm, and pulled the down comforter back up to my shoulders. The contrast between the comfort of the bed and the long cramped flight was not missed.
It was SO worth it! I laughed to myself.
On the flight I tried various positions of up-right sleep. I know I dozed off a few times but a restful sleep was never achieved. I would look enviously at Caren, propped up against the window, slumbering. I wanted to spoon her, wrap my arms around her waist, rest my head on her shoulder and join her in dream land. Somehow I knew that would be crossing some lines of propriety. Robby struggled for zzz’s as I did. Periodically she would get up and pace the aisle in defeat. The ever-charmed Caren slept on until a flight attendant woke her as we were making our decent into Iceland.
Iceland. Who knew? There is a mystical allure over that country. The landscape looking more like the surface of a moon. The spirit of it is fresh and new. It is the newest land on the planet and is still developing, volcanoes and geysers boasting in growing pains. The airport echoed the landscape: new, minimal, fresh and clean. There was something very enchanting about it and in our one hour there I was spellbound. We are all looking forward to our one night stay there upon our return from Paris. But on to Paris we did go!
The last leg of our trip was an uneventful 3 hours. Caren and Robby sat on the empty row behind me, mapping our flight on the monitors behind the seats. I read a book to pass the time until I could watch our decent into France out the window.
“I’m so excited to get to be with you on your Dream Trip!” Caren said excitedly over the seat after we had landed. “How do you feel?”
In typical Michal Fashion, I had just been trying to asses that very thing. Part of me felt a little resentful. I know how awful that makes me sound but there is a bitterness in the fact that this trip would not have happened if Grandma were still alive. I also felt scared. Not sure why. Maybe nervous to test the French I’d been learning? My emotions were all jumbled and shifted, like the luggage in the overhead bins. Open carefully. I’m chalking it all up to jet lag.
“Weepy,” I answered her.
“That’s how I felt when I went to Patagonia.” Caren is a world traveller. She had it on her Bucket List to visit every continent. A few years ago she completed that dream when she visited Antarctica.
After getting off the plane, we found our driver and headed out into the city and for the Ile St. Louis. As the city flew by, the weariness of travel and the anxiety of it all was lifted. I was happy to see the diversity of the city and the motor bikes zooming in and out and around like angry bees. Funny then that in the middle of this buzz is an adorable apartment on an island in the Seinne. Her name is Juliette.
The driver stopped and handed us over to David, a young American who was there to greet us and open Juliette for us. We passed through a large heavy wooden door, were lead down a narrow stone hall and through an iron gate that was positively medievl. Our apartment is in a 400 year old building. It’s small and cozy. Chandeliers hang from large wooden beams. The walls have been reinforced with plaster but renevators were sure to keep the wooden beams of the walls exposed as well. The decor is French Country. Posh but welcoming. There is a small bed tucked under the stairs and a queen across from it. Upstairs is a lofted room. I followed David and the ladies up to the loft where there is another queen bed, antique furnishings and a bathroom suited with a gold claw footed bath tub. The others were all hunched over due to the low ceiling. I hunched down as well until I realized…
“Hey! I can stand up in here!” I laughed as I straightened to my full height.
“Yep. Guess who gets this room?” Robby asked.
“The Hobbit Hole is all yours, Michal!”
I was thrilled to take it!
After getting settled in we freshened up and set out to explore the Ile. The island is just a few blocks away from Notre Dame. We crossed a bridge to go and see the cathedral. It’s gargoyles glowered over our heads. Trees were blooming with pink and white flowers and tulips were curtsying in the wind as we passed. There were plenty of tourists and locals. The weather the last few weeks had been cold and rainy. The day of our arrival being the first nice day they’ve had in awhile. Everyone was out to enjoy it. Lovers were unabashedly embracing on the sidewalk, the benches, in doorways. I loved it!
After our short walking tour around Notre Dame, the ladies and I crossed the bridge again to return to St. Louis. We went to dinner at St. Regis. Our table was near an open window where we could enjoy fabulous People Watching and hear the accordion player in the street. Our waiter was patient with us as we practiced our French to order our meal. He was helpful with suggestions to eat and with our French.
In France the waiters are paid full salaries. They don’t work for tips. This removes any need to hurry you and turn over a table. Exhausted from travel, we pretty much did not move from St. Regis the rest of the night. We grazed on food and sipped wine and beer for hours. The waitstaff became more engaging as we lingered.
“I look like Keanu Reeves, oui?” asked our waiters. His coworkers leaned in to hear our answer.
“Oui! Now that you mention it. You really do!”
We decided Keanu would be ours for the rest of our stay.
Finally we called it a night and laughed our way through the streets and back to Juliette.
We tried to be quiet. We didn’t want to be the noisy Americans bothering our neighbors and so I giggled, while peering out from behind the curtain at 4 a.m., that it was the noisy French neighbors who woke me up! Back in the Hobbit Hole, I replayed the last days events.
You are in Paris, I reminded myself. Unable to decide if I wanted to squeal with glee or cry at my grossly undeserved blessings, my heart clenched.
Thank you Lord Jesus! Once again I am overwhelmed with your graciousness. I’ve been hurt and angry and ignored you all year and yet here I am enjoying granted wishes. Thank you Grandma! Can you believe this?! You would love it. Notre Dame is a short walk away! The flowers! This apartment! Thank Jesus for me. Give him a big hug and kiss his cheeks for me! Oh…you would never do that. Annabelle would though! Aunt Annabelle, please hug and kiss our Lord for me.
I laughed at my blessings and my imaginations. I fell in and out of sleep while I waited for the other ladies to wake up. It was so quiet outside, a sleepy Sunday morning until the church bells of Notre Dame began to ring and the Ile St. Louis sprang to life and our adventures in Paris began.