September 8, 2009

Summer in the City - Shifty Business

I met Mum and Dad in the evening – they’d arrived early in the morning and spent the day wandering around Montparnasse while I navigated from Edinburgh to Glasgow and onto Paris Beauvais. With two backpacks and a sudden leap in temperature, I was relieved to unstrap my baggage from my person and get involved in a big group hug.

We spent the evening catching up – them filling me in on gossip from home, and me telling them all the travel stories that came to mind. Sitting outside a café on Boulevard Edgar Quinet in the warm evening made me think about BBQs by the pool at home, Dad with cigar in hand and Mum and I making silly jokes. Yes, it was all very gay and picturesque and I was trés excited to see them.

But on with the adventure! I was expected to show them around Paris, translate all the signs and give interesting historical accounts of the many sights. I had been on a walking tour of Paris myself just before heading to Italy, so I recycled some facts and polished the stories I knew, and surprised myself without just how much I could remember.

Dad had 2 goals in mind for Paris – see the Mona Lisa and climb the Eiffel Tower. 25 years previously, Mum had visited Paris as a single girl on a Contiki tour. It was much as she remembered it, perhaps without the 80s fashion, and was happy to follow along. So the following morning, I met them at the hotel and we set out for the Louvre. We made a bee-line for the Mona Lisa, and Mum with her tourist backpack and camera in hand joined the crush in front to take a picture.

Happy with her snaps, we went past the Coronation Crown, through the Egyptian exhibit and Napoleon Apartments and back down past the Venus de Milo. It seems even the statues can’t get into the museum without paying for it in limbs. As we watched the throngs of tourists surround Venus, Mum and I noticed a strange-looking fellow who was paying a lot of attention to people’s bags. He had none of his own, nor a camera, but carried a map of the museum which appeared not to have been opened. He stood against the walls, eyeing everyone in such a manner that Mum and I decided he was either a pickpocket or an undercover detective. With no coiled plastic tube behind his ear, we ruled out the latter and branded him criminal. Mum told Dad to watch his bag, and we left the museum, Dad happy with his first mission accomplished.

We strolled up the Avenue d’Opera and into Franprix for the baguette lunch that so many a tourist survives on. Mum opened her backpack to pull out her purse and failed to grasp that soft tan and black leather she required. The contents of the bag was emptied on the supermarket floor and no purse could be found. It was not in the hotel either, as we went straight back to look. We quizzed the man at reception - no-one had seen it - and the maid looked more than a little put out that we’d even asked. Mum skulked upstairs to her room to cancel her Mastercard.

She ditched the easy-open backpack and bought a new tamper-proof bag. We had a winge about all the Euro that had disappeared and decided not to let it ruin their trip. But we needed a police report for travel insurance, so I mustered all the French I could and explained to the officer the Metro route we’d taken, the express lap of the Louvre including the busy-fingered crush at the Mona Lisa, and the lunch from Franprix.

“What brand iz zee purse?”
“Louis – “ Mum started.
“Vuitton?” the officer interrupted, eyebrows raised.
“Cardini,” Mum sighed.

Dad had bought it for her for Christmas.
The officer had never heard of Louis Cardini. Reading #FrenchSafari: Summer in the City - Shifty BusinessTweet this!

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