Monday morning, we stepped out of the metro at the decorative platform of the Louvre museum. And after hearing pickpocket warnings in five different languages, we were sure to keep our wallets tight. As we approached the queue, we were greeted by the legendary upside down glass pyramid.
“Excusez-moi, est-ce que c’est le queue pour le Louvre?” I asked a middle-aged couple in front of us.
I was surprised that their only response was a blank nod before turning back around. My confusion was made clear a few moments later when we overheard them speaking in Mid-Western American English.
Once inside, we were overwhelmed. We made our way through prehistoric pottery collections, hieroglyphic tablets, and colossal monuments to forgotten gods.
“We’ve got to see the Mona Lisa while we’re here,” Jacob insisted.
We made our way to the Italian art wing, and as the air thickened with the heat of hundreds of tourists, so did the stench. By the time we reached da Vinci’s chef d’oeuvre, we had been assaulted by selfie sticks and grumbled at in five languages simultaneously. The crowd was thick, but it was worth it to see the timeless masterpiece.
After a bought of espresso-induced crowd anxiety, we decided it was time to leave.
“I think we both could use a drink after that,” Jacob said.
Agreeing, I directed us toward the adjacent town square. We wandered into El Tonel, a deserted bar with a welcoming barmaid. We ordered a round of Stellas and chatted with the bartender. I got to practice my French, and she got to convince us to order a round of tequila shots. To our delight, she soon brought over a mysteriously delicious square of cheese and hash browns.
“It’s called la tortilla” she explained.
“This is a far cry from the tortillas we have at home,” I said to Jacob, laughing.
We left El Tonel and our precious tortilla in search of Le Marais again. Remembering the lively district from yesterday, we boarded the metro – Marais or bust. We settled on the Gossip Café, mostly because of le happy hour advertised on its patio. We took our seats outside, and just as we were deciding what to order, it began to sprinkle. As destiny would have it, we were forced to move one row over, right beside a blond guy and girl.
“Bonsoir,” I said.
They repeated the pleasantry back. As we were ordering, I was attempting to explain in French that we could only have white tequila in our drinks, as Jacob is allergic to the gold variety. Apparently, tequila colors don’t translate perfectly, so we were having some difficulties.
Thankfully, our new neighbors stepped in and helped bridge the communication gap. They introduced themselves in English as Veronica and Alberto. They two were here on vacation from Italy.
We spent the rest of our visit at the café conversing with our new Italian acquaintances, who proved to be both interesting and hilarious.
“We must hang out again later tonight. You can meet our friend who lives here,” Alberto insisted.
We happily obliged and swapped numbers. Alberto and Veronica left for dinner, and Jacob and I opted for a change of scenery a few bars down. This time, we found ourselves at Style Café. After a final round and a chat with the barman about where to go out on a Monday evening, we headed home to change and have a quick dinner.
We stopped by the Carrefour, a small market near our apartment, to pick up dinner, along with some wine and cheese. After eating and relaxing, we realized we were quite fatigued. It was 11pm, and Alberto was texting us eager for us to join them at a new bar. Still seated on the bed, Jacob and I were on the brink of turning in for the night, when finally I had a flash of resolve:
“Let’s go,” I said. “You’re only in Paris once – YOPO!”
Jacob agreed, so within half an hour we were back in Le Marais. We called Alberto, who guided us to the new watering hole. Once there, we found a lively crowd, a dance floor, and Stella by the pitcher.
We made friends with a few local Parisians, a band of boys from Kentucky, and a squad of Canadian girls who were enthralled to meet a couple from their bordering nation. Sadly, this Parisian bar closed even earlier than the ones back home. So, as the bouncer expelled us we slithered back to Style.
We must have been pretty loud when our group of four arrived at the café, as we earned a disdainful remark from one of its patrons.
“Sorry,” I explained in French. “People always say we’re too loud. It’s just who we are!”
Unable to resist our joie de vivre, the complainer and his accomplice joined us. They introduced themselves as Karim and Sébastien and turned out to be wonderful company for the night.
As the night burned on, the bartender eventually forced us to bring the party inside since we couldn’t comply with his requests to quiet down. After a few drinks, I was less and less willing to speak in my native tongue.
“Je parle pas anglais,” I said anytime someone would switch to English on me.
I was getting quite a kick out of blabbering in another language and actually being understood for once.
Around 3:30am, our final bar shut its doors. A wave of terror ran through me as I realized that the metro, our only ride, stopped running at 1am. But Veronica quickly informed me that there was a night shuttle a few blocks down.
“We can’t have our drinks in the street, can we?” Jacob asked.
“Of course we can, it’s a free country!” Alberto replied gleefully.
Making our way over to the Hotel de Ville to board the shuttle, we invited our new friends
back to our apartment for an after party. Karim decided to leave the bus once Alberto fell on a passenger, deciding it was better to sleep this one off. Once inside the building, the five of us attempted to mount six flights of stairs without making too much noise.
“Cheese and wine, anyone?” Jacob asked.
“This is so French” Veronica laughed as we devoured the slices of Swiss and popped the Chardonnay corks. We continued to talk, laugh and dance until 5:45am, just as the sun was beginning to rise over the rooftops across from us. At some point during the after-soirée, I realized I had forgotten to speak a lick of English over the course of the past two hours. Luckily, Jacob was a good sport about it and I had the time of my life, finally getting to practice with true natives.
As the night came to a close, I sat with Veronica by the window as she smoked handmade cigarettes, taking in the view of the ornate European skyline on this very Parisian night.
Stay tuned for Day 4 of Peaks of Paris!