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Getting off from California.

The Mistaken Bastille Day Flight

eMail from Mike Harmon, via the Internet

Dear Ric,

Paris:- Thursday, 3. July 1997:- I'll never forget when I realized my dream to be in Paris on Bastille Day in 1994. Now, three years later, the memory of that terrific time is still very strong for me.

To this day I'm not exactly sure how I decided to do it. I guess the idea got planted in my mind early in 1993 when I decided to take this lady friend of mine to Paris. Tedy had been a model in Paris back in the middle 1980's. She wanted to go back for a visit to see how things were going for her friends there.

I must admit that having a French speaking guide was quite a good point as well. As it went, I decided to take another lady friend of mine, Suzanne, also, because two's company and three's a party.

Anyway, our trip-planning wasn't as good as it could have been, so we departed from California on July 13th with the idea of arriving on Bastille Day. This caused us to miss all the fun of the night before.

It was still a great plane trip though, with the flight attendants giving us all the Champagne we could drink, so we partied hearty all the way across the U.S. and the Atlantic. I don't remember sleeping at all as we talked with each other and other passengers as well.

We had seats in the small smoking section in the back of the plane so people kept inviting themselves into our little area to talk and have a smoke. It was great.

Finally we arrived in the morning of the 14th at Charles de Gaulle Airport; at least I think that was it. That's the one north of Paris with the modern escalator you see in old movies. We buzzed right through customs with a merci beaucoup, and only had to wait a little while for our baggage.

Then we were off to find some transport to Paris. As you might expect, since we were pretty buzzed after drinking all the way across the US and the Atlantic, we ended up on a bus and had no idea where we were going to metro Palais-Royal end up. We made it somewhere into the north side of Paris and could see that the big parade was getting organized.

The 'hardy' group tried the métro, but it probably was not this one.

Being a hardy group we decided to try for the métro and make our way to our hotel in the 12th near the Gare de Lyon. That was a big mistake. While I had traveled relatively light, Tedy had brought her entire wardrobe in a huge suitcase. So there we were struggling with all our stuff down the stairs to the métro station, which didn't last long. We soon got back to the surface and found a taxi.

The parade was really taking over all the streets by now, so, notwithstanding the resourceful spirit of our driver, we ended up taking the long way around town to our hotel.

I guess I was tired, but also being so high on actually being in Paris on that great day, I was ready to go. We got into the hotel, registered, unloaded our baggage, took a shower, rested a bit, and watched some of the parade on TV. Later, as night fell, we pulled ourselves together, and headed of to check out the scene.

Since we were just a short walk from the place de la Bastille, that's where we headed. After getting a bit tired we got a taxi and arrived in style at that historic location.

Seemingly happy people were all over the place, so we found ourselves a nice table on the terrace of a nearby restaurant and settled in. The sun was just setting and it was wonderful. We had some wine, a little dinner, did some people watching, and just generally luxuriated in the atmosphere.

After a bit, we were off walking around the Bastille area, over to the Marais, through the Luxembourg Gardens; and every place in between. Then we crossed the Seine and made our way to the Left Bank.

By now, it must have been about 10 pm; night had fallen completely and the temperature cooled down perfectly. I don't know how I did it, I must have been as high on Paris as one could get, but I wasn't tired at all. I've never had such energy, and couldn't have been any happier. We must have walked miles that day, and I didn't want to stop. Neither did Tedy or Suzanne.

We made our way into the heart of the Left Bank, with its little streets and passages, and small cafés and settled down on the sidewalk to watch the scene and have a drink or two. I guess I should have known how it might appear for me and two beautiful California ladies to be sitting there, but soon a charming and nicely dressed older French gentleman came over and sat down next to Tedy.

Since she knows French fairly well, they were able to immediately begin talking about god knows what. Even though I don't know any French other than the most basic stuff, I could tell right away that this fellow was very interested in trying to get to know Tedy or Suzanne. After a while he gave up and departed.

Both Tedy and Suzanne were quite charmed by this, but were also used to it by now since guys of various ages had been trying to score with them since we arrived in Paris. Actually, even before that, when we were on the plane, a young place de la Bastille French guy from Nice struck up a conversation with Tedy and ended up inviting us down to stay at his mother's house for a week.

The place de la Bastille is worth a visit, on the evening of 13. July.

That's the way it went for them. I think the only time anybody tried to score with me was this older lady on the terrace of a restaurant who flashed me, but that's another story - and not very interesting at all. Yes, I would have to say that Tedy and Suzanne were always seen as very attractive by the local guys.

Anyway, back to the Left Bank and our story. It must have been about one or two in the morning by now and we were all beginning to get tired.

We had succeed in our plan to arrive in Paris on Bastille day. We did miss the great fireworks show of the night before and all the accompanying partying, but the fun wasn't over by any means. The party kept on going though the weekend and beyond.

After a little overnight rest, we got up the next day and headed off for more adventures all over Paris and beyond.

I hope to get back to Paris to help celebrate the coming of the year 2000, because I can't think of a better place to do it. If I don't make it, at least I'll still have some of the best memories I've got.

Later, Mike

The Other Two-Thirds and the Flight Before

Dear Tedy, Suzanne and Mike,

Paris:- Saturday, 5. July 1997:- Good to hear from you again, with the fill-in of the 'before' Bastille Day and an account of the other two-thirds of it.

Although this reply is to all three of the intrepid travellers, the above letter was written by Mike as was his earlier account of a part of their Bastille Day in Paris which appeared in a Metropole issue in late May.

It seems to me that I did something similar L'Europeen at Gare de Lyon in the early '80's. I assumed Bastille Day festivities were on 14. July and in the evening went to the place de la Bastille to assist with the celebration. I was 24 hours late.

Tedy, Suzanne and Mike became familiar with the terrace of this café.

Therefore, this issue contains a sort of program for the coming occasion - which has been assembled from various sources in advance, rather than waiting for the 'last-minute' program which will appear in next Saturday's editions of Le Parisien, Libération and other Paris papers.

Everybody is invited to help the Parisians celebrate their Fête Nationale. Although they don't need any help, the extra bodies are always welcome.

Regards, Ric

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