This afternoon I was in a panic because it’s Day Q and I didn’t know what Q stands for. I was desperate enough to google “words starting with Q.” But halfway through the list, it occurred to me that yesterday my word was obstinate, which makes today Day P. And I was so relieved, because I had a word ready.
If I hadn’t fallen asleep in the recliner, my post would have been online hours ago. But heaven forfend that I should miss out on the Great Race Against Time.
Anyway–sixteen years ago, after I learned I’m descended from Clan MacLean of Duart, I just had to see our castle, so David and I flew to London, then drove to Oban, Scotland and the Isle of Mull–and then we drove down to Lorna Doone country and and saw Robber’s Bridge, and left a bit of paint the same color as the lime green Peugeot we were driving–the bridge is narrow, not much wider than the car, and, preparing to cross, David said, “Is there enough room over there?” and wanting to be agreeable, I said, “Yes,” and I was wrong.
On our way back to London, we spent one night at a B&B that had photographs, prints, paintings, and figurines of cats all over the place, and live cats in whatever space was left over. She said, “The kitties just keep coming, and what is one to do?”
The next night we stayed in a catless B&B thirty miles south of London. David spent the whole evening mapping out a route to Waterloo Station that ensured he wouldn’t have to make any right turns. Getting out of Waterloo Station on our arrival had been exhilarating, and we knew if we had that much excitement on the way back, we might end up in Scotland again and miss the Chunnel to Paris. Or we might get stuck in traffic around the Marble Arch, another experience we didn’t care to repeat. (I didn’t know a round-about could have so many lanes.)
But we got to the train on time and all was well until we got off the train in Paris and I saw that every sign was in French.
After dinner that night, we walked the short block to the hotel and then back to sit outside the cafe across from where we’d had dinner. David ordered two scoops of chocolate ice cream for me. When the waitress left, he confided that he might have ordered two soccer balls. But she brought ice cream.
Later we took a walk. We passed an empty building with a old sign out front that said “Moulin Rouge.” (It didn’t resemble the one that inspired the movie.)
We walked past a long line of knotheads waiting to get the counter at McDonald’s. (A travesty.)
We walked and walked, and when we were ready to go back to the hotel, we discovered we didn’t know how to get there. We’d paid attention, walked around a just two or three blocks. We couldn’t be lost . . . Then an epiphany:
Paris blocks are not rectangular.
We were lost.
So we started walking again. And walking. And walking. And, it seemed, compounding our error. Finally we stopped at a sidewalk cafe and asked a couple sitting there for directions. The woman stood and gave us detailed instructions complete with arm waving. David’s French and her English didn’t quite mesh, so he had to ask her to repeat several times. She patiently answered. What it boiled down to was that we must go to the Arc de Triomphe and at Rue Papillon, turn left.
We had seen the Arc de Triomphe that afternoon. It was miles from the hotel. David asked for clarification. She clarified–Arc de Triomphe, Rue Papillon, turn left.
The man was watching from his seat at the table. He looked like he was enjoying the drama. Suddenly he chimed in: “Right.”
She repeated the instructions. “. . . and turn left.”
This was getting scary.
She said it one more time, paused, and asked, “You know papillon?”
David nodded and flapped his arms.
We thanked them and went on our way. We could hear the man laughing almost to the Arc de Triomphe, which was (thank goodness) a faux Arc not too far away. At Rue Papillon we turned left.
And soon we found Rue Cadet. We passed a store with a vase of purple irises in the window. I recognized them. They were the same irises I had admired three times that evening during our search for the hotel. The two lost lambs had passed the hotel three times.
So that is the story of Papillon in Paris. I wish my narrative could do it justice. But there’s no way I can adequately describe David’s impromptu imitation of a butterfly. Flap, flap, flap.
You just had to be there.
By the way, we finally figured out that the man wasn’t saying, “Right.” He was telling us to turn left at the light.
I guess we did.