The air was ripe with Frenchness.
The airport had an indoor smoking area that was packed with people puffing away on tar sticks.
Our first order of business was to make a phone call.
We were renting an apartment from a company called Paris Perfect.
We would be living like regular Parisians in a regular home in a regular neighborhood.
But we needed to call the person who would meet us there to give us the key to get in.
This was happening 11 years ago.
I think we owned a cell phone, but this was before the invention of the all-knowing smartphone.
We didn't want to use our cell and use expensive international minutes to make a 2 minute phone call.
So we needed to buy a phone card.
At what appeared to be a little convienance store within the airport.
You could buy a bag of chips, cigarettes, phone cards, or condoms at this tiny little shop.
When you only speak English and you're in a foreign country, you must make do with your key intellect in the art of pointing and pantomime.
After using our hands and finally getting the clerk to understand what we needed, we headed to the pay phones.
We had to punch in a whole slew of numbers to reach who we needed in the city limits.
After completing our call, we hopped onto the Paris Metro.
We would take the train into Paris and then walk a few blocks to our apartment.
My husband had been taking the subway in Chicago for many years as he didn't drive.
He was confidant that he could figure out the Paris subway system.
I have a profound love for maps and he has a great sense of direction when looking at colored lines on a board, so we weren't worried in the least.
We settled onto the train and headed out.
Past what I would consider the suburbs of Paris and into the underground tunnel system.
We got off at a stop called Invalides after transferring lines a few times.
And as we ascended the stairs we came out into the light.
The light we had dreamed of fell upon our faces.
It was the light of a city that I immediately fell in love with.
We began walking to try to find the street our apartment was on, Rue Saint Dominique.
It was in the 7th Arrondisement.
The French call their neighborhoods or districts Arrondisements.
And those Arrondisements have names as well as a number designated to them.
We were staying in the Invalides and Eiffel Tower Quarter.
The Invalides was a hospital built by King Louis XIV for his wounded and homeless veterans.
It now houses Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb.
We saw this imposing gold-gilded building and, I guess because we were in awe of it's giganticness, we began walking in the wrong direction.
After a few blocks of pulling our suitcases down uneven and oh, so tiny sidewalks we came to a halt.
My map instincts told me we were going the wrong way.
I sniffed the air and said " go back."
So we headed back to the subway entrance and walked the other way.
Through a small green space, around a few corners and yes, there it was!
Rue Saint Dominque!
The apartment was nestled on a quaint street full of clothing shops, bakeries, and coffee shops.
Tiny cars were parked on the cobble streets.
Dogs peered out from the doorways of shops run by their masters.
There was a veterinary clinic that we passed, where we would eventually spot a beagle waiting with his owner one morning for the doctor to arrive as it stood in a gingerly fashion as a sock was sticking out of it's bum.
There was a Pizza Hut.
A French Pizza Hut.
That we did eat at because the pizza choices were not at all similar to the Pizza Hut choices in America.
We got to the apartment and knocked.
I don't remember if it was a man or a woman who answered the door.
But whoever it was welcomed us joyfully and in English and gave us a "Welcome to Paris" basket of goodies.
One of the things in the basket was a hand embroidered baguette bag.
You buy your fresh baguette loaf from the bakery everyday and store it in this cloth bag once you get it home.
I still use it to this day.
It holds my French rolling pin and hangs in my south facing kitchen window.
The apartment was amazing and was everything we hoped it would be.
On the top floor of a three story building.
With an inner courtyard that we could see from the kitchen.
There was a small pool of water in the courtyard that was tiled in dark blue so it made the water so deep and luscious looking.
Everything was so clean.
The people who lived in this building were very proud of it and it showed in the pristine condition of the courtyard.
It would be our home away from home.
A kitchen that my husband could cook in.
A dining table for two.
A washer/dryer combo machine was in the bathroom.
A bedroom window that when I opened and leaned out and looked to the left I saw what I came to see.
The Eiffel Tower.
Just down the street.
The symbol of France was within my view and I couldn't wait to see it up close.
Across the street we could clearly see the neighboring apartments.
Every morning we saw the neighbor's cats sunning themselves in the window as we ate our breakfast.
We were only in Paris for a short time, but I looked for those two white cats every morning.
While I ate a croissant and had a latte that my husband had fetced for me from the bakery downstairs, I would pretend that I was in my own home.
And that my own cats were in the other room sunning themselves in our window.
And someone else was noticing them.
To be continued...
To read Part 1...