This weekend I got a bad case of the wanderlust and grabbed a book bag, shoved an extra shirt and some underwear in it along with a good book, camera and tooth brush and took the Friday midnight express train to Paris. I had a sleeper car that I shared with a very fragrant Indian man who snored (Thank God once again for my American Airlines ear plugs and mask). I arrived about 07:30, sat in a cafe at the Gare de l'est watching other trains disgorge a steady effluent of bleary-eyed tourists and irritated, fast-walking Parisians and planned the day. I had three women on my mind, all of them beyond my reach. But I was able to at least catch a glimpse of one of them. After standing in line and being among the first in the Louvre that day, Mona Lisa looked back at me from her glass tomb like she knew exactly what I was going through and was glad that all of the color and light and confusion were beyond her now, for whom centuries aren't even minutes.
After five hours in the Louvre I left, had lunch in a cafe near the Tuileries and started looking at hotels. The third one I found, the Hotel Londres St. Honore, was only 390 francs per night, or about $70. The room was up four flights of narrow stairs and I had to duck to get through the little doorway, but I had my own shower and separate bathroom, a minibar and color TV and a view of the rooftops all the way to the Rue Rivoli. If you go to Paris on a budget, or like me, you don't intend to sleep much, this is a good choice (01 42 60 15 62) Otherwise you will pay $200 and up.
I made a couple of calls trying to stir up a dinner companion from my short list of Paris contacts, but to no avail. So I walked up the Champs Elysee and went from place to place sitting outside, watching the teeming throng stroll by and sipping cappucinos at about $7 each. I wish I could tell you that I met someone and had a romantic dinner and made athletic and passionate love all night, but it just didn't happen. I met a japanese girl at a cafe who was with her parents and practiced my fading Japanese skills, but nothing came of it. I went back to the hotel, had a nap, then went to dinner in a great little Italian place and then bounced around to a few bars- Chesterfields, The Buddha Bar. And had a few brief conversations with English speaking women and surly bartenders, and then went home to crash with a serious buzz. I got a little confused walking back. It started to rain and the walk seemed much longer with my unsteady gait. But I made it back eventually.
The next morning I went out into the Tuileries again and had breakfast outside and read the London Times for about two hours. I watched some guys play bacci ball for awhile, then shopped around and bought a Waterman pen, some wine to bring back to the lads, and then I hopped the metro back to the Gare d l'est and caught the express train back. You know, riding the train is really under appreciated. I could have driven the six hours to Paris, but then I would have to park, and gas here is about $4 a gallon. The train cost me about $90 round trip and I could sleep, have a meal in the dining car, and read or watch the passing French countryside that enveloped my attention for about three hours of the return trip. It's a civilized way to travel. I'll do it again. I think I'll try Amsterdam next weekend. The Van Gogh Museum and buying hashish in a cafe with my coffee. How better to kill a weekend?