Happy New Year!

Everyone can quit worrying!  All is well.

When we last left Bob Mulkey he was loaded down with luggage in a Parisian neighborhood, chugging espresso, feverishly trying to get hold of the host for his Paris stay. Well, it’s worked out.

Let me bring you up to speed.

After awhile, I needed to leave the pub.  Even though it was only 6:00 p.m., people were starting to arrive in droves.  I was taking up the equivalent of six seats what with my luggage, laptop and all.  I decided it was best to be considerate and pack up my life and try to find my host, Vincent.

I had called perhaps three times and sent an equal number of emails and text messages.  I even notified the booking company, all to no avail.  I found myself on a Parisian side street on New Year’s Eve with a light rain starting to fall, loaded down with a heavy satchel and a large suitcase, with no place to go, blowing my nose constantly.

After about only five minutes I opted to wait in the doorway of his apartment building.  It’s one of those big, old oak doorways with a buzzer to ring in.  I had completely forgotten that Vincent had given me his code (actually, I didn’t really notice).  So I waited.  As people came out and went in, I would stop them and ask “Vincent”?  Eventually, two ladies let me in and they, along with another woman determined where Vincent lived.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Within about five minutes he showed up!

Turned out that my phone, while capable of sending calls and text messages within Europe, does not have international capacity to receive them.  Vincent had been attempting to contact me but had been unable to do so.  Fortunately, I was able to find his place and, through my own brain and devices, at least be at his apartment.  This has always seemed to be my modus operandi: I mess something up, but I’m smart enough to figure things out and it all comes out in the wash.

Anyway, Vincent had a nice room for me, complete with maps, candies and the internet access code.  Fresh towels were on the table.  He had information and a little “welcome Robert” sign for me.  I immediately felt at home.

Vincent’s English is quite good.  He is an actor/singer and performs in French TV commercials and sitcoms.  He also sings for private parties.  Today he is singing at a retirement center–his specialty is jazz and big band-type music which goes over well with the seniors.

Because he is a singer, he was reluctant to join me at the Eiffel Tower–it was very cold and somewhat rainy and windy and he was concerned it would affect his throat.  So, I hailed a cab and went straight there.  No way was I going to attempt the Paris Metro on New Year’s Eve–not a time to teach yourself French and the Metro.  Besides, a cab ride was only fifteen dollars.  Not bad, I thought, for Paris.

The cabbie dropped me off on the Champs Elysees.  Now, I know that Paris is called the City of Light, but I was unprepared for the magic unleashed upon me.  Every tree was decked out in splendor up and down the entire boulevard.  At the end was the Arc d’Triomphe, resplendent in light.  Everyone was snapping photo and videos.  This time I used my camera, NOT my iPhone.

The cabbie could only take me that far.  Due to the tens of thousands of people heading to the Eiffel Tower, traffic is limited.  I ended up walking about one to two miles to get to the Tower.

The Eiffel Tower was completely decked out in lights.  At every hour on the hour, the lights would twinkle rapidly.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  I had arrived an hour and a half before midnight so I had plenty of time.  I took a bunch of photos, grabbed a Moroccan chicken shish kebab sandwich and began the wait.  I had to steel myself against the wind by standing in doorways, against large trees or against bus stops.  I was concerned that I would become deathly ill.  Prior to Vincent’s arrival, I had found myself weak and lightheaded.  I thought I was getting pneumonia from my cold bug.  I was not about to get sicker.  But I was not about to miss this opportunity that I had wanted for fifteen years.

As midnight neared, I reasoned I could stand a decent distance and still get a good shot of the Tower.  But, I decided to get as close as possible.  I stood on street median on a bridge over the Seine River and turned on my video at midnight as people popped champagne, cheered and kissed.

After about five minutes, I decided to pack it in.  After all, I had my video; I had seen what I wanted.  Why stand there in the freezing wind with my nose running?  I hailed a cab and gave him the address of Vincent’s apartment.  When I arrived, I quietly crept in and collapsed into bed.  I was so glad that I had seen the Eiffel Tower for New Year’s like I wanted.  Since I saw the Champs Elysees, I don’t see any reason to go back there.  It’s a street.  It’s full of high-end stores.  How many times have I seen that in Milan?  In Rome?  In Turin?

As for the Arc d’Triomphe, I’m not sure about that, either.  There’s other things I want to see.  I want to check out Parisian neighborhoods, eat in some great restaurants, savor chocolates, pastries and coffees (“duh” moment).  I want to also find something special to buy for myself.  I always purchase something special from every place I visit as a reminder. Chances are I’ll never get back to Paris, so I want to have a memento.  BUT, I will not buy cheap trinkets made in China of the Eiffel Tower.  I would prefer something from a local artist, something that I won’t find on the shelf at Target next month.

I am staying in the apartment today to write and, I hope, get my photos and videos online.  After Vincent returns, I asked him to show me around; I will pay for his dinner and any place we go since he is taking his personal time to accommodate me.  It will also preclude me from dealing with the snooty French who ignore you if you don’t speak French fluently.

Since today is New Year’s, little is open.  Tomorrow and Friday I’m figuring Notre Dame or the Louvre.

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