Peaks of Paris: Day 1

Friday morning, 7am – Taylor Swift’s New Romantics drifted into my slumbering ears. My first instinct was to silence the alarm, but then I remembered: today, we’re going to Paris.

After hastily throwing together my remaining luggage, making sure the steam iron was shut off, and scooping up the cat to take to my mom’s, I jumped in the car to pick up Jacob, albeit a little later than scheduled.

“You’re not going to be so calm once you miss your flight!” insisted my mother as we sped down Interstate 459.

I really wasn’t worried about the time. After all, it’s just Birmingham. After checking our luggage and getting our boarding passes, our goodbyes were interrupted by a strangely Morgan Freeman-esque unclaimed baggage announcement.

Finally, just as I was finishing the last morsel of my $9 croissant, the gates opened to board our mosquito-sized plane to Philadelphia.

After a layover in Philly, it was time to board the Airbus. Along with baby cheese wedges, an assortment of films and a rather well-made polyester blanket, the flight also included complementary wine. We of course took advantage of a few glasses’ worth before drifting into a delicious slumber over the Atlantic.

At 8am on Saturday, we arrived at Charles-de-Gaulle airport, just outside of Paris, France. We had booked an apartment in the 11th arrondissement on Boulevard Voltaire. I texted Manon (our hostess) to let her know we would be arriving shortly, not thinking much of it.

After working our way through customs and sneaking into a bathroom you’re supposed to pay €.79 to use, we emerged from the metro tunnel at 145 Boulevard Voltaire. It was a few minutes after 10am, and Camille – the girl Manon sent to deliver us the keys – was nowhere in sight. Feeling sufficiently awkward loitering in front of a residential apartment gate, we spotted a bench across the way and rolled our luggage over to wait for the mysterious Camille.

An hour passed, and still nothing. I put down my iPhone after the twentieth call to Manon, and stared, defeated, at the ornate walls of the apartment that was almost ours. To the right, we noticed a couple that had been enjoying a Saturday lunch and several drinks all during our roadside internment.

“I wonder if that couple over there has noticed us stranded here with all of our luggage,” I remarked to Jacob.

“They’ve been pointing and laughing for the past 15 minutes,” he replied dryly.

Disappointed and betrayed by our first hour in the city of love, we decided to search online for alternate lodging. Just as I was about to book a spot in one of Paris’s few remaining rooms – a terrifying looking “hostel” – my phone vibrated.

“Camille was supposed to be there at 10, I’m not sure what happened. I’m sorry,” was all that the text from Manon said.

After half an hour and another close encounter with the hostel, Camille called.

“I lost my keys last night, I be there in 15 minutes, je suis très désolée!” Camille promised.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, just as the couple from the café was inviting us to join them for a drink, we spot a frantic hand on the other side of the street. Finally – Camille.

After a hurried apology in broken English, our trio ascended to the sixième étage where the apartment was located. Camille left, and Jacob and I laid down for a well-deserved nap.

The check-in fiasco had left us rather famished, so upon waking we wandered into a roadside café a block away from the apartment.

Juste deux…” I said to the waiter/owner/cook, realizing that I never learned how to request table seating in class.

The owner repeated the phrase back, confused, then thankfully switched over to English. We soon learned, however, that speaking in only English came with its own complications.

“Do you have any chicken dishes?” I asked, unable to decipher the menu completely. We should have studied less Voltaire and more food in class, I thought to myself.

After a confusing exchange of dish descriptions, our stomachs won and Jacob and I settled on two cheeseburgers.

“We’ll be authentic tomorrow,” Jacob and I promised one another.

Little did we know we were in for a surprise for that meal, too. When the restaurateur emerged from the kitchen, we tried to disguise our shock as he presented us with two chicken-cheeseburgers, hold the beef.

“I guess all the chicken talk confused him,” I said to Jacob.

Afterward, we hopped on the metro to stroll the Champs-Élysées. About 10 minutes into our walk, Jacob spotted a tempting red beast on the corner ahead.

“That’s a Ferrari – no, two Ferraris!” Jacob exclaimed.

We meandered over to investigate, and a man wearing a #DriveMe shirt quickly approached. With very minimal convincing, Jacob and I were signing the waiver to drive a Ferrari on a tour de Paris. I took my post in the back seat, ready for Snapchat duty.

“Make sure you story this,” #DriveMe said. “One thousand screenshots minimum!”

After several heart palpitations for me and the drive of a lifetime for Jacob, we were parked neatly back on the Champs-Élysées. To finish off the night, we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe, then had a glass of vin rouge at a café nearby.

The hostess, an older, mostly likely intoxicated French lady, was all too eager to bring us a paper map of the city (“iPhone map no good,” she warned) and take several glamour shots of us, leaving no angle untried:

arc collage


Finally, we made our way back to Boulevard Voltaire to retire for the night and wait for what Sunday in Paris had in store.


Stay tuned for day 2 of Peaks of Paris!


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