You scheduled a six hour layover at Charles de Gaulle. You can nearly taste Paris you’re so close. So close to everything your French teachers have ever talked about, so close to experiencing the perfect café au lait or the perfect crêpes. So close to standing in front of the Eiffel Tower and taking typical tourist pictures where you pretend to hold the entire tower in your hand. It takes an hour to get into Paris from the airport, and an hour back. You’ve got to be back at the airport two hours before your flight leaves. That gives you two hours in Paris.
1. Find a way out of the maze the French call the Charles de Gaulle airport to a taxi.
2. Attempt to drag up your rusty high school French so you can actually communicate with the taxi driver, and not end up in the gypsy slums near the highway that the media seems to cover constantly.
3. Make friends with the taxi driver so he’ll: a) drive you all around Paris and b) give you a lower fee because you are flat broke.
4. Visit Notre Dame and take touristy photos where you stand on a bridge over the Seine pretending to be Esmeralda in the Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Disney version; Victor Hugo’s version is a little too grisly for you). [photo available]
5. Stand on one of the bridges covered in locks. Read notes left on the locks by the lovers who ventured to Paris and placed these symbols of their love on the bridge. Watch as a couple miraculously finds a space to add their own lock and throws the key into the Seine. Guess how long until they break up.
6. Decide you want to live in a top floor apartment over-looking the Seine and Notre Dame. Try not to faint when the taxi driver tells you how much the rent is per month.
7. Browse the stands of old books along the river.
8. Take pictures of the flower stands everywhere while sitting next to two other American tourists doing the same.
9. Hop back in the taxi to get to the Eiffel Tower.
10. Feel a bit guilty when you think it’s not as pretty as your expectations. Then look at the framework and think, “holy shit.”
11. Try to stop comparing everything to Madeline. “Twelve little girls in two straight lines…
13. Wonder if nannies in Paris get paid well and how hard it’d be to find a job.
14. Find a little café and order “un chocolat chaud, s’il vous plaît.” Grin when you realize you’re having a conversation with the waitress completely in French and you know exactly what she’s saying.
15. Wonder why there aren’t any poodles tied to the table in the café, perched lazily on their owner’s feet. Isn’t that what Parisians do while they sip their black coffees and plan their next labor dispute?
16. Realize you have an hour til you need to be at the airport.
17. Get back in the taxi. Speak in even more confident French.
18. Race around the Arc de Triomphe in the most horrendous, free-for-all rotary you’ve ever seen. Hold onto the seat in front of you in the crash position demonstrated in the pamphlets on airplanes. Poke your head up to gaze at the Arc. You didn’t realize it was so big.
19. Speed back to the airport. Pay the taxi driver and thank him profusely for showing you this beautiful city; it was just as you’d always imagined it. “Thank you, merci beaucoup, have a good day! I’ve got to jump on the plane, now! Bye!”
20. Realize as you’re boarding the plane that you told the taxi driver you were going to put a skirt on the plane, rather than jump in it. Maybe you had some false confidence about that high school French.