The first time I went to Paris, many years ago, I ended up walking around in my husband’s underpants. True story.
It wasn’t intended that way, you understand. This isn’t some sort of private kink we have and I haven’t just lost my mind and gone running into the valley of uncomfortable oversharing on this blog. In fact, the underpants weren’t actually uncomfortable at all; the problem was more that I only had one choice of trouser to wear with them (super skinnies) and the underpants were rather large on my small frame. Why was I wearing them in the first place? Well, I’d just flown to Paris from Rome (via Zurich) in the morning and Swiss Air had lost my suitcase somewhere along the way. My husband’s (then boyfriend’s) suitcase had managed the journey just fine.
The rest of the first day was ok. Mark, the boyfriend-cum-husband, had already been to Paris roughly 478 times and was forced to show me all the obvious tourist stuff because I was a Paris virgin. Assuming he had the time of his life. The second day however, was the kicker, with all issues heightened by these problems:
- I had been a bit chilly on the first day as temperatures in Paris weren’t exactly on par with temperatures in Rome. I stupidly didn’t take any kind of jacket in my carry on, so I was left only wearing a halter top and waistcoat with skinny jeans. Yup.
- I am not the kind of freak who can wear knickers for more than one day. It’s icky and you’re just going to spend the rest of the day feeling icky. After an unfortunate incident at the beach in my adolescence, I knew going commando in jeans was a terrible idea too. Wasn’t gonna happen.
- I don’t like being seen in public without mascara. I don’t like being photographed without makeup (even at 21). This was all in my luggage and as it was my first time in Paris life was pretty clicky.
- We had sod all cash. We were travelling for around 6 weeks, with the type of budget that rendered shoe strings unaffordable (totally nicked that line from one of my husband’s biographies)
So, what did I do? Wore a spare pair of my husband’s pants and hoisted them up as far as possible to try and disguise them under the skinnies. I also hid my face behind giant sunnies until 10am when the department stores opened and I could nab some cheap tinted moisturiser and mascara. Did I buy a jacket, or something to keep warm? No. I had already blown my clothes budget on the first day on a €15 dress. Halter neck. Of course.
That’s how I ended up walking down the Champs-Elysées as a crossdresser. Mark took me to all the usual haunts during our three day stay. I saw the Eiffel Tower (didn’t climb it), the Arc de Triomphe (didn’t climb it), Sacré-Cœur and the Moulin Rouge. We wandered down by the Seine, bought dirty postcards and even had people try to scam us! It was the ring scam, where a man pretends to find a ring on the ground in front of you and then tries to sell it to you. Don’t buy it, it’s worthless, but the experience was definitely something for a girl from a town with only 50,000 people! People thought I was worth scamming! Whodathunkit?!
I had also requested a trip to Pere Lachaise cemetery, where (among many celebrity guests) both Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are in residence. Or, as Mark put it, “the back door and the front Door”. Classy, that man. Basically one just follows the crowd to Morrison’s grave, which has its own security guard. Just outside the cemetery was a Doors-themed café, complete with droopy middle aged man who was convinced he was the absolute spit of Jim Morrison. Mark paid him €5 for this photo:
See, potential panhandlers? Try and sell us a worthless ring and we’ll see through your knavery. Do a terrible impression of an iconic rock star and we’ll give you all of the cash. That’s our line in the sand.
We also did the usual tourist thing at Notre Dame, where you make a donation and a get to light a candle. Officially I believe you’re supposed to do a prayer or something, but I liked to believe I was part of an important Gargoyle adoption scheme. I’d seen the animated series. I knew that affiliating myself with such creatures could only be a good idea.
Being art history buffs we spent the second day at the Louvre. I saw my favourite painting (The Valpinçon Bather, by Ingres) and Mark entertained himself by taking lots of pics of me with little, tiny penises. Yes. We went penis hunting at the Louvre. We mocked those statues and their teeny danglers. We had all the maturity of 12 year old girls, but quite honestly it made up for not having time to visit the erotic museum.
This is all sounding like a pretty good first trip to Paris, but you wanna know what was really the icing on the cake? The people. Having spent years in French class hearing second hand stories of France and its people, I was intrigued to get to know them myself. Guess what? We met actual, real life, incredibly rude French people! So exciting!
We needed a rest, so we chose a little café in Montmartre. An incredibly brusque woman greeted us and we sat in a table by the window. It was around 3pm. We weren’t hungry, exactly, but we probably just wanted some coffee and maybe some cake. Or a dessert. Never miss an opportunity for a French dessert. The café was deserted apart from a collection of middle aged men propped up in one corner at the bar. When we ordered she mocked my attempts to pronounce the French words. She made a huge pantomime of not being able to understand a word I was saying, despite my employing the time honoured point-at-the-thing-you’re-ordering-on-the-menu-while-you-order it technique. She was having none of it.
When we finally made it through the orders she huffed. She puffed. She grew a thick coating of body hair and searched frantically for a house made of sticks to blow down. Then she began ripping our chairs from beneath us. What the hell was happening? We weren’t ordering enough food. This part of the restaurant was only for folks who were eating main courses. Or three courses. Or something. Coffee and cake didn’t cut it. We were ushered back into the dingy back of the restaurant; to eat in the dark away from the window. Where people couldn’t see us and how we lowered the tone of the whole place with our tea and our gooey chocolate.
We should have just left right then and there, but we do love a production. The food was average but we had a story to tell, and that’s the most important thing when you’re travelling.