Gypsy arguments, misreading a map


We arrived at Gare Lyon, the same station we’d left Paris from earlier in the week. If you know Paris, you know it’s on the Right Bank, but somewhat east of the fashionable area. And where we were staying this time was even further to the east. This is an area in transition with a mixture of working class Parisians, African and Asian immigrants, art and media people. Every major city has an area like this and I find them quite interesting.

Paris - J'adore board

I guess this could be nearly anywhere, but doesn't it feel like Paris?

I had wanted to see what this would be like in Paris and had read about the areas around Canal St Martin, Charonne and Belleville and so had found the Grand Hotel Francis on Boulevard Voltaire. It had great reviews, and based on that, I booked an upgraded room.

Coming in on the train I’d had a quick look at the map and thought that we’d be able to walk from Gare Lyon. Hmmm, a bit ambitious at best as it turned out.

But first, time to find our way out of the station. You’d think by now experience would have taught us how big Paris train stations are and even getting up to the street can be an adventure. Finally, we found the exit we were looking for. And when we got up to the street, the gypsies found us.

Paris - building detail

I wasn't going to get pictures of the gypsies. How about a beautiful Paris building instead?

We must have looked like two lost puppies. There we were, each dragging a big suitcase, looking up and down the street, wondering which way is east. I always pay attention to the people around me, and saw just to my left, a bunch of people standing talking. I made eye contact with one, and within a second, a big argument broke out in the group. A woman is yelling at a guy, cussing him out, he’s yelling back, people begin scuffling around. It gets really loud, really fast.

Right then, I realized we were about to become the centre of another gypsy trick. C’mon Marlene, let’s go, walk, walk, walk, quickly. The “fake argument” with lots of commotion is a favorite gypsy attention grabber. If you’re not careful, you catch yourself standing and watching, and meanwhile, your pockets and purses are being emptied.

Paris - Grand Hotel Francis

Our hotel under the trees. Our room is the one on the corner, right above the blue neon sign, with the classic "Hotel" sign at the edge of our balcony.

So we walked….. and walked….. and walked some more. It was starting to rain again, first lightly, then more seriously. By now I knew we were too close to the hotel to get on the Metro, but we weren’t really there yet. We stopped at one point at a cafe, thinking we needed a rest. But it was so depressing looking we decided to keep going. We were getting less happy. The romance of Paris was wearing thin.

It was at least another 10 minutes before we found ourselves on Blvd Voltaire and then down the street saw the hotel sign.

And here, Paris fortune smiled on us again. Check in was effortless, the desk clerk was smiling and funny, and we got the key to a room on the third floor.

Paris - view from hotel window

View from our hotel window on a rainy day in Paris.

And a wonderful room it was. The upgrade was worth it. Right on the front corner of the hotel, three sets of windows that opened to a little balcony looking into the plane trees that lined the street. And although Blvd Voltaire is a busy street, once you closed the windows, it was perfectly quiet.

Paris - Marlene on bed laptop Obama

A rest before heading out again.

We just decided to chill for a moment. Obama was on the television, Marlene got out her laptop and immediately found the hotel’s free WiFi. I read one of the guidebooks. Where to go for dinner? The adventure continues…..

Paris - Grand Hotel Francis and trees

Classic Parisian architecture.

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