Image: Creative Commons/Juan Pablo Arancibia Medina
I’ll always have Paris. I knew that during my very first visit to the City of Light.
A year out of journalism school, I was a green college graduate on her initial assignment abroad. A bit overwhelmed, I wouldn’t let any inhibitions impact what became a truly memorable trip.
Back then in 1974, I was booked into the Hotel California, a modest four-star property just off the Champs-Élysées on the Rue De Berri and a short walk from the Arc de Triumph. Also, an added bonus: This ideal outpost for a first timer to France’s capital was, at that time, located directly across the street from the International Herald-Tribune. As a wide-eyed scribe, it was soothing to hear the Paris presses purring for the paper’s run as I drifted off to sleep.
Looking back, I could not have chosen a better Paris hotel for me, the fledgling journo. Even when I was too tired after meetings to sightsee, or do anything for that matter, I would sit in the lobby and people watch (something that, decades later, has turned into a passionate travel pastime). While comfortably ensconced in a sinkable old leather chair, I met working stiffs like me from England, Norway, Canada, Hong Kong, everywhere, many of whom settled in across from where I was enthusiastically biding my time to have a chat.
While languishing in the lobby one day I conversed with a group of Japanese photographers who demurely asked if I would like to see a movie that evening. My dance card empty, I happily accepted the invitation — and went down the Champs Elysees into a swanky theater to watch “Emanuelle.” The x-rated flick was my Japanese companions’ pick. These gentle gentlemen even paid for my ticket.
Because of that, I figured they knew at least a bit about the movie in advance. I did. And sure, the story was racy, but this was the early 1970s and since I was fresh from college, I actually found the film kind of funny. My Japanese escorts, though, were not quite so liberal. In fact, they were downright embarrassed.
After our viewing, we silently walked back in the direction of our hotel, ducking into a small Paris cafe for an innocent espresso. There, a French journalist based in Nice asked to join us. Our resulting triumvirate of nationals was quite compatible. We sat talking in various pidgin versions of our collective languages for which we all seemed to understand just fine.
Back at the Hotel California, I said good night to my Japanese photographer friends by giving each a peck on both cheeks as is permissive in French society. However, not one of them gave me a single peck back, but instead giggled and said good night in my language. Then each of the guys handed me his business card, an Asian way of letting me know they would definitely see me again. I was sure that would happen.
I also knew I would be back in the City of Light many times during my career as a travel
writer — and, to my delight, that prediction has come through.
Every trip has been different from the other, each always an adventure and none ever a disappointment. That gives me great comfort, for, at the end of the day and forever in my heart, I know I’ll always have Paris, which, as an inveterate sojourner with perpetual wanderlust for the great cities of the world, could not make me any happier.