Can now say with confidence that I know my way around the neighborhood. Found Gare du Nord today, one of the largest train stations in the country. Scoped it out for my friend Amy’s arrival, inquired as to where the ticket (billet) counter was, and bought my month-long subway pass there while speaking French only! Subway pass for a month is about $90 and only includes Paris proper, and I even manage to tell the cashier that I understand the limitations, also in French. It is amazing what the intersection of my limited French and their limited English can accomplish. Guess I’ll be ponying up for the Versaille ticket, which is not included. The cashier is quite adamant about that, which I appreciate, as much as I can without English. I must go back to Gare du Nord with my camera; the building is stunning. Most of the exteriors in Paris are warm beige instead of the cold grey cement you often see in America.
I then wander around in the Gare du Nord area, looking for a blow dryer and Converse low tops without success. Despite bringing comfy shoes with me, my feet are still blistering up. The pre-Paris sendoff pedicure was a waste! Proceed to walk up Magenta Boulevard, which should be called the Boulevard of Marriage. Wedding stores everywhere; I’ve never seen anything like it. A beautiful African girl dances out of one of the marriage stores and continues dancing in the street, singing, “I’m going to get mahr-ried,” rhythmically in French. She turns and sees me smiling; her friends laugh and I say, “congratulations.” They immediately ask if I’m American, and I say yes, then they explain that she is getting married, as if I couldn’t figure that out. I remind myself that the French say, “bravo” in these situations and continue in my quest for the blow dryer and the shoes.
A few doors down, I find the blow dryer, which is a relief, since bad hair in Paris seems like a crime. The apartment was supposed to have one, but a previous tenant stole it. The shop owner speaks no english, so I just say, crudely in French, “I buy it.” Once I whip out some Euros, the store owner is smiles. I smile back, tuck it under my arm, gesture to my bad “coiffure,” and say, “Now, I fix!” in English. He laughs. I do go home and fix.
Now for the Converse low tops. I need another pair of shoes I can wear with socks until the blisters heal. I no longer care if I look fashionable; bloody feet have a way of obliterating your fashion sense. Why Converse? Parisians are nuts for them, believe it or not. I read Ines de la Fressange’s book before coming here, and she mentioned this very thing. I was skeptical, but it’s true. The women wear them with skirts and skinny pants, and they look great. They are everywhere, however, French women have little feet, so my “ginormous” size 9s are hard to find. A kindly shop owner once again matches his limited English with my limited French and persuades me to try some khaki low tops in a size 8 (38). I humor him, and they almost fit, shockingly. But no good. I am bummed on both counts, because I would have loved to give the man some business, he was so sweet. I continue on and manage to ask another store owner if he has the same color as in a child’s shoe, in a woman’s shoe (pur les femmes), in French only. He gestures toward a high-top, then is rude, but I didn’t care. Being able to ask in French makes me happy. I guess the Converse will need to happen another day. If my feet could pray, they’d say, “soon.”