HOT FLASH FROM PARIS AND BARCELONA:
Guest Blogger (My Father!)
I invited my father to contribute an entry about our recent trip overseas. Below are his observations.
(Photo by ddip: Ecole Militaire metro stop. Guest Blogger is on the platform. Can you spot him?)
PURSE FROM A SOW'S EAR
Every aspect in the planning of our recent trip seemed fraught with problems, all of which of human origin. It did not bode well for this journey. Despite the signs, our vacation turned out exceedingly well.
With few exceptions, usually I do not pay attention to individual acts while traveling. This time, perhaps because of the initial experiences, I was more aware of them, and they added an interesting and enriching component to our trip. Here are a few examples, listed by city.
Champagne in Three Acts
DDIP and I enjoy La Table de Joel Robuchon (an expensive restaurant, but worth it). In Paris I have two quests: one is for the perfect lemon tart (thus far to be found at a patisserie on the Rue du Temple near the Hotel de Ville); and the other for the best kir vin blanc (a kir made with white wine), thus far found in my own home.
(Photo by ddip: lemon tart)
At Robuchon, I had ordered my preprandial kir while ddip ordered water. The director of the restaurant came over to greet us and noticed ddip’s empty wine glass. He could not tolerate such a situation. He turned to a waiter and instructed him to pour champagne for us. Madame could not have just water!
Several days later, we had lunch at Casaluna--a Corsican restaurant singled out by Pudlo (a French guidebook to restaurants in Paris). It was such a fine experience that we decided to return for lunch on the following Sunday. When we arrived for our second visit, we were welcomed like old guests.
We went to use the rest rooms before sitting down. When we went to our table, there to greet us were two glasses of champagne. A little special welcome for two "old friends."
Marcel and Ginette were our downstairs neighbors. We had met Marcel at the elevator, and he had told us of his lamentations about people who had previously stayed in our apartment. He was acutely aware of our comings and goings and remarked that we had gone to bed early the night before.
Toward the end of our stay, ddip bought a primrose plant as a thank you for Marcel and Ginette putting up with "our noise." Later, Marcel knocked on our door and invited us for an aperitif on the following afternoon.
I thought we would have a simple glass of wine. Instead we arrived to a spread of hors d'oeuvres and desserts. And then came the champagne and an expressed regret that we had not met earlier.
Invalid Credit Cards
On one occasion, neither of my credit cards would work. Fortunately, ddip’s card did. Later, at Casaluna, ddip asked what would happen in instances where people’s cards would not be accepted. Our waiter casually said that they would be taken to the forest, tied up, and never heard from again.
The Failed Thief
There was a new scam being run in Paris. As one walks along at a popular place, a person "finds" a gold ring on the ground and engages you in conversation about it. DDIP spotted the ruse quickly and moved us on.
We ran across the scam several times! In one instance while crossing the Seine (on the Pont des Invalides, I think), someone tried the game on us. I just laughed. The response was also a good laugh of acknowledgement of his failed attempt.
(Photo by ddip: Eiffel Tower, a prime spot for con artist scams)
The Curious Waiter
In the mornings, we took breakfast at our hotel. Basically because it was "un-Spanish." Breakfast was served from 7:30 to 10:30! We ate closer to the latter time.
The meals was charged to our room. When the waiter came with the bill for us to sign, he noticed our name. Not quite sure, he asked if I was American or Italian. We remarked that we were of the former, but of the latter ancestry.
DDIP suggested that my nose gave us away. No, the waiter said, it was all of me.
The Button Sewer
We had dinner one evening at La Dama--a Michelin one-star restaurant. (DDIP did not inform me of this for fear that I would refuse to go.) When we entered through locked doors and removed our coats, a button fell off ddip's coat. She proceeded to put it into her pocket, but two La Dama persons--the maitre d' and the head waiter--refused to permit this. No, they would have it sewn on while we dined.
After an excellent meal, they presented us with our coats, and there was the button properly affixed but not at its original place. The coat had been missing another button at mid-line; so they had resewed the button but in the more "strategic" location. Then it was “Buenas noches y hasta la proxima vez” (Good evening and until next time).
The Toilet Counselor
While visiting at La Sagrada Familia--Gaudi's fanciful church--ddip wanted to use a restroom. She asked a guard, who suggested she use the facilities at the nearby McDonalds. A woman who had been chatting with the guard frowned (in distaste) and insisted that ddip not go there but to use the public toilet, which was in the park across the road. We went to the preferred facitity.
(Photo by ddip: peppers at La Boqueria market)
For lunch one day, we decided to go to the Boqueria, which is a large and fascinating market on La Rambla Catalunya. We decided to have a Spanish tortilla, which is like a fritatta. DDIP asked to have it heated, and the woman agreed.
DDIP then said thank you, to which there was no response. I told ddip that she said thank you too often. A faint smile crossed the woman's lips, and without raising her head said, "Es mi trabajo" (It’s my job).
The American and the Security Officer
Our flight home took us through Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. While standing in line to go through the security check/interview (I was once interviewed by a cook because there were not enough security officers!), an American woman tried to bypass the line. She was distraught because she had a baggage problem.
The security officer stopped her and explained that she would have to go to the end of the line. In an exchange about her luggage, he explained that the responsible people were taking care of that, but that she was at a different station and she would have to join the queue.
The woman looked at the officer and told him not to be angry. As she walked away, he replied: "I am not angry; just disappointed."
The rest of the trip was uneventful, except that I lost every game of 20 Questions as we flew across the Atlantic.