Close call at the Paris airport
Now off to the carousel to collect our suitcases. We had two virtually identical suitcases. I found one of them, and then thought I saw the other, except that another guy took it off the carousel. I stared at it. Wasn’t that mine? Maybe not. He stood there, I assumed waiting for another.
I looked at the suitcase again. I was sure it was mine. I made my way through the crowd with my one suitcase, and finally got to him. Even from a few feet away, I could see my yellow tag. I approached him, and said I think you’ve got my suitcase. He looked at it, nodded like it was no big deal, and gave it to me. A strange experience. It could have started our vacation in a truly annoying fashion.
OK, suitcases in hand, we looked for the way to downtown. We knew there was a train, and once we found the signs, we started walking. And walking, and walking some more. The entrance for the trains was as far away from where we had retrieved our suitcases as possible. We looked at the map. It seemed like it would take us to the train station Gare du Nord, where we would have to transfer to the Metro.
Express train to paradise
We figured out the automatic ticket machines, got our tickets, and sure enough, a train was there waiting for us. We were on the train for a couple of minutes, when the doors closed and we were off through the industrial suburbs of Paris, not the version you see in the guidebooks. Then we noticed a map. It seemed that the train did indeed go to Gare du Nord, but then continued on to the next stop at the Place Saint-Michel Metro station.
If that were true, we would be able to walk to our hotel from there.
While the train traveled above ground for quite a distance, it then went underground. First stop, Gare du Nord. It kept going and the next stop was Place Saint-Michel. We got off, excited as kids.
It was still early morning. Some Parisians were on their way to work, others to school. As best we could, we rushed through the station and then found what we thought would be the best exit. Up the escalators, dragging our suitcases up the stairs, and then all of a sudden, there we were, standing in Place Saint-Michel, the heart of the left bank, the Latin Quarter on a beautiful Paris spring morning.
The square was crowded with people as it always seems to be, the cafes next to us were full right to the sidewalks, the Saint-Michel fountain was splashing and the Seine and the Îlle de Cité were just behind us. We were grinning ear to ear.
Our hotel was the Hotel Dauphine, at 36 Rue Dauphine. It had been recommended by my world-traveling, Neil Young-loving friends Bob and Kaz as a wonderful place, with great service and a perfect location. I did a bit of research – it got sparkling reviews except for the odd crank.
It seemed unbelievable that nine hours ago we left Toronto and now we were walking along the Seine on the Quai des Grands Augustins to our hotel. Since it was only about 10:30 in the morning we assumed we were going to ask whether we could leave our bags with them and then check into our room later.
Within 15 minutes we were standing in front of the hotel, right off the sidewalk on busy Rue Dauphine. We walked in, announced ourselves and a minute later were given the key to our room. Wonderful! We took the tiny elevator (I wonder when they retrofitted all of these Paris hotels with elevators) up to the 5th floor to room 55. Along a very narrow tight corridor, around a corner and we were there.
Open the door, and of course it was a small Paris-style hotel room, but so nice, so clean and very pretty. The window opened to an interior courtyard – no view to speak of but the sun shone right through our window onto the bed. A dark wood-timber ceiling seemed to reflect back to a Paris of many years ago.
We were still in a state of disbelief that we were here. We weren’t tired either. But we were hungry. We unpacked a few essentials, got changed, washed our faces and headed out, looking for an early lunch.