Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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Thursday, January 18, 2007
Paris du jour
Immediately after I tripped over the Yorkshire Terrier, who quite understandably squealed in protest, the woman holding the leash exclaimed, Ooh la la!
(For those interested, I offer this as evidence that Parisians do, in real life as in the movies, say Ooh la la – just as I have discovered that many Italians actually often do use the expression Mamma Mia!).
Like a deeply traumatized rabbit in a hole, my brain trapped among three languages – my high school French, my present, daily Italian, and my native English – simply punched the mute button and I, mutely, helplessly, stared back at the mildly distressed woman staring at me.
I wanted to say, “I'm so sorry, I love dogs, we have three at home, you know, two of whom are also terriers, and I would never deliberately harm a dog and I only tripped over yours because it moved suddenly when you, not seeing me, turned and moved also and even so I only did it because I had to get up at 4 am this morning to catch the 6:45 flight from Rome to Paris because my husband unexpectedly had a meeting here this afternoon and invited me to tag along and how could I pass up the chance to see Paris even if it's only for a day, and now it's fourteen hours later and I've been walking around your city (which I have been reading about all my life) for what now feels like a month and a half, and I am so tired I can barely lift my boots and, truly, I could curl up quite comfortably on the curb right behind you and fall asleep without the slightest problem but we are rushing to get on the shuttle bus to the airport so we can catch the 9:45 flight back to Rome, and I really, really am sorry I tripped over your little Yorkie, but actually, you know, it jumped in front of me when you moved, you see... so, uh, it really isn't my fault.”
My brain was right about the mute button.

We took the regional airline Ryanair from Ciampino airport (near Rome) to Beauvais airport (near Paris). According to its website, the airline offers two flights daily from Ciampino to Paris, one at the sado-masochistic hour of 6.45 am (arrival 8:50 am Beauvais) and one in the evening at 7:15. Our airfare per person RT was 120 euro including taxes and fees. Gentle advisory: passengers pay an additional price, so to speak, as captive victims of a virtual bombardment of sales pitches over the PA system, for items ranging from scratch cards to win a million euro (I didn't), duty-free gifts from the company catalog, snacks and drinks, and international phone cards. If you don't want to shop, take earplugs, your i-pod or a parachute.
Private lunch – shell pasta with butter and Parmesan, roast chicken, pureed potatoes, carrot salad, Chianti, assorted French pastries, espresso – as guests of the brother of a friend and business associate at the Italian Cultural Center next to the Church of Notre Dame de Consolation.
We stopped at a small café bar – wish I remembered the name – near the Concorde La Fayette Hotel (next to the shuttle bus pick-up point) – don't remember the street. We ordered a coke (served with a slice of lemon) and white wine. Free bowl of mixed nuts. Halfway through the nuts and wine, our friends called and said shuttle had arrived so we rushed away. Cost: 8 euro. Wish I'd finished the wine... and the nuts.
by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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