I wonder if five or ten years from now, we will refer to summer 2019 as “you know, this fucked up summer when we visited Paris twice just because.” Maybe Mark will remember relatives coming and going, an afternoon with his grandpa in a strange place with strange people, a memorable argument between his grandma and his mother, daily coffee breaks with his great-grandparents…—or maybe, to him, it’s just yet another French summer with pains au chocolat and trips to the Jardin des Plantes, who knows.
“Maman… wanna go to Paris? Not tomorrow, of course, but… the day after tomorrow?”
We need a break from Nantes—too much drama, too much stress—and Feng is a fearless backpacker who doesn’t mind travelling with his mother-in-law (shit, will I have to return the favour?). Oddly enough, this year, Nantes-to-Paris train tickets aren’t too expensive and hotel rooms in the French capital—a destination we all enjoy—are affordable.
Deal. We booked the trip the Canadian way—instead of talking about it for hours, we just fucking did it.
“All done,” I told my mom. “We have four train tickets and two hotel rooms. As simple as that.”
It took her by surprise, especially given that everything seems complicated this summer. “Life doesn’t have to be so difficult,” I shrugged. “Let me introduce you to our travel style.”
“I hate to sound stupid but… do we need towels?”
“Nope. We’re staying in a hotel close to Montparnasse. Towels are provided and you won’t even have to make your bed and clean the room. Now, you may want to bring plastic sandals.”
“To use as slippers indoors—pet peeve of mine, hotel floors can be dirty. I’m packing jeans, so I can lend you a pair if it gets cold. And I have everything we need or might need, trust me.”
At 9:30 a.m., we boarded a very packed and very cheap Paris-bound TGV at the gare de Nantes. Mark grabbed his tablet, Feng his MP3 and I put in earplugs. “Mark plays, Feng listens to music and I catch up on sleep” I briefly explained my mom who was looking at us, slightly puzzled. “That’s pretty much the routine in buses, planes and trains.”
We arrived in Montparnasse two hours later and walked to the hotel on Rue de l’Ouest.
“Amazing! We found it!”
“Huh? It wasn’t that difficult… one street up, turn right, down the street and that’s it. We checked the map, I don’t know this area. Our rooms aren’t ready yet. Come with me, I’ll get you some coffee and we can shop for tonight.”
“How do you know where to find coffee if you don’t know the arrondissement?”
“I think I can find us some coffee,” I explained. “Travelling is all about taking chances, exploring and hoping for the best. I’m willing to bet there’s a Carrefour City Market nearby and two weeks ago I noticed most of them have a one-euro coffee machine. Oh, you may want to grab something to eat at the bakery for tonight. We have a fridge.”
“Well, not really, there’s always a tiny minibar in the room. We empty it and use it as a fridge. I usually buy bananas and yogurt from the supermarket. Don’t worry, I have spoons, a knife, some sugar, instant coffee… basic stuff, really.”
We found some coffee, bought fruits, yogurt and cookies at the supermarket, then slices of quiche and sandwiches for dinner.
The rooms were ready. My mom was surprised to see how clean and functional they were.
“We’re lucky,” I said. “We did stay in some pretty shitty places around the world… but most of the time, hotels are alright. Guys, shall we meet at the Louvre? You’re taking the subway, right?”
“I’m walking. Maman?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“Super. Now a word of warning—you’re about to crossing Paris with the only one of your three kids who don’t actually live in Paris. Let’s go get lost together, that’s the best part of travelling!”