Not Quite The Ritz

I’ve digressed a little in my last few posts, but as promised, I am returning to my ‘arrival narrative’ – I’d hate to leave you hanging!

Relieved and somewhat sleep-deprived, I left Airbnb No. 1 on the Sunday morning and began the veritable trek across Paris to the hotel I’d booked for two nights – pretty much as far from the Airbnb as it was possible to be whilst remaining on Parisian territory. Nice one, Past Me.

I was relocating to a hotel for two nights because I had a friend coming to stay with me (she literally booked her transport to Paris before I had booked mine) and I wasn’t allowed a guest stay with me at the Airbnb. Something else I hadn’t realized when booking (along with the fact that I’d be sharing the place with the owner) and hadn’t been able to negotiate around. I wouldn’t have minded, except, if you remember the super strict (no) cancellation policy, I couldn’t get so much as a single euro back on my booking and I had actually reserved the Airbnb until the Tuesday, initially.

Consequently, I was keen to spend as little as humanly possible on this hotel; forget the cheerful, I just needed cheap. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly the Ritz.

Au contraire, it was by far the grottiest establishment at which I have ever had the misfortune to find myself a guest. The stained wallpaper was coming off the walls; the shower was so grubby-looking that I felt like I needed to wash again by the time I was done in there; and I’m surprised I didn’t spontaneously develop asthma on arrival from the amount of dust coating every surface.

After wallowing in self-pity for an hour or so (I did also have to charge my phone, in fairness to myself), I set off again to collect my friend. It took a lot less time to get to Gare du Nord than I had allowed for, so I found myself wandering around the station for a good long while before my friend’s train actually got in. And then for a good while longer after it got in too, because, despite being two intelligent, resourceful women with fully functional communication devices at our disposal, we could not find each other anywhere. Genuinely. It must have taken us a good 20-30 minutes. How? No idea.

Personally, I blame the fact that she had her usually-uber-distinctive, vibrant, bouncy curls knotted up on top of her head in a flipping BUN. I mean, this hair is her trademark. I have nearly hugged strangers in the street in the past because they had her hair and I immediately assumed it had to be her (back when we did actually live in the same city, just to clarify). And she so rarely ties it up (outside the house). *Cue eye roll*.

There is also the fact the French – or at least Parisian – metro/rail stations are SO badly signposted inside. I mean, where there are signposts, there’s an abundance of them. But then, half way to your destination, some of them will just… disappear. You’ll be left in the middle of a maze of corridors and staircases with absolutely no idea whatsoever where on earth you’re meant to go next. And then if, by chance, you happen to pick the right path, the signs will suddenly reappear again in a few hundred metres like they’d never abandoned you in the first place. It’s bloody annoying and nearly left me stranded one night – I was seconds from missing the last train home – but that’s another story.

But I digress – my friend and I did, of course, find each other eventually. And in fairness she was sporting her other ‘trademark’: glitter everywhere.

The day took a serious upswing from here and we had a lovely evening of walking and talking and eating and drinking. We found a small Italian place over by Chatelet and they had happy hour cocktails, so that was pretty much us sorted. We managed to top that the following night, though: deciding to look for somewhere local to the hotel, we went walking over towards Montreuil until we came across the most stereotypically French-looking brasserie/bistro you could possible imagine. It was packed with people – locals rather than tourists, which is exactly what we wanted – and all bathed in a very ambient yellow glow. The plates leaving the kitchen were piled high with food too, which is always a positive indicator. And it wasn’t misleading. The food was good (as well as plentiful), the wine was great, and the bill was surprisingly low. We even had some banter with the waiters.

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