After a few days in Belgium, where the chocolate really is better, I finally sucked it up to go to France. Paris, specifically. I had been stalling and stalling. It’s an intimidating idea of a place. I don’t speak a lick of French except “Parlez-vous ingles?” and “Je ne trouve pas le metro,” which a French girl taught me at a hostel in Ireland. I got off the train with Faithful Old Orange and pounded the streets in the center of the city for a couple hours. Really, I was looking for a bookstore I had read a book about: Shakespeare & Co.
This was my plan: find this magical place where writers slept among the books and ask for a bed for the weekend. I didn’t have a hostel booked (a mistake I seemed bent on making over and over again) and hadn’t thought about the fact that, oh you know, this is Paris, one of the most visited places in the world, and you know, it was the middle of the summer when all the poor students would be traveling like me.
The bookstore was everything I’d imagined it. It was very surreal seeing the real version contrasted with what I’d imagined in my head. The beds didn’t look very comfortable either. But I bumped elbows and backsides left and right with my massive orange backpack in the cramped spaces with tourists packed like sardines. After making sure I’d seen every room and every bookshelf and remembered everything I’d read that had happened in each one, I wended my way back to the front desk and looked for someone who looked like they were in charge.
I approached a girl who looked a few years older than me and said, “Hi. I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I was wondering if there was any possible way that I could sleep here.”
She looked me up and down and in the eye. “Yeah. You’ve got the look,” she said.
That just plain made my whole life.
Unfortunately, it turned out that they didn’t take on short-timers. You had to stay at least a month. Which of course I completely understood. She asked me if I had a hostel booked. I didn’t, which worried me. She said to come back and see if Sophia (the owner) was there later that day and see what she said. In the mean time, she gave me faulty directions to a computer bank so I could find a hostel.
I was supremely disappointed. But still. I got to see and be in the Shakespeare & Co bookstore. Someday, when I’m really down on my luck (or up, depending on how you look at it), I’ll go back to stay for a while and learn French and read a book a day and write.
The story of my hostel is another adventure entirely it’s own, and that’s the one I’ve been saving my words for, and it will be wonderful.