April in Paris 1990 - part 2
The Cambronne Hotel was a fairly modern looking building with a sort of honeycomb of brown panels going up the sides of it. These we later discovered to be the shower extensions with little porthole windows. We were lucky to get an English speaking attendant, and she soon had us checked in. We were asked for our credit card which she made a print of, as a security check for them, in case we went off without paying. Our room was 484 and there was a bank of very swift elevators to get us close to it. The key to a door was a short piece of hard cardboard in a rectangle with holes punched in it. By this time we had lugged our suitcases for several hours and were ready for a rest.
We had agreed to meet Bill and Bett at their hotel at 7 and go out to find a restaurant together, but we had time to shower and relax before we went out. The view from the room was over the narrow street with a tall apartment building opposite. We noticed just down the road was a nightclub, and
wondered how much sleep we would get. The room was fairly basic - two narrow beds with hard pillows, one thick wool blanket and a cotton bedspread. There was one cabinet between the beds, but no chests or dressers. Only four hangers were provided, and the only other storage space was on top of the hanging rail. Philip left his underwear in his suitcase, and I threw mine on top of the railing only to have bits and pieces be constantly floating down through the rungs. Philip had been clever and brought a few hangers of his own, so I had three of the four hotel hangers, and I think there were six items on each - so it shows what a lot of clothes I took with me. But since I'd
lugged my suitcase all over Paris, I was determined not to have done it for nothing and I wore every single item from the suitcase, except for the Brownie uniform.
The adjoining toilet and shower room was small but adequate and we had all the hot water we wanted. One could turn a timer to get a combined heater and fan to work in there, but it took about four complete turns before Philip finished with his shave and shower each morning. They provided four small hand towels. The only other different thing was that the toilet flushed by pulling a lever up on the top.
We had a TV with good reception for eight channels. I fiddled it every once in awhile and was rewarded one day by getting the 4 a.m. news from Chicago. That was the day of the cricket plague in Utah. The farmers remember a similar plague about 40 years before which ended when the Mormons prayed to God and a great bunch of seagulls came to the rescue. But this time, they intended to use insecticides instead.
We called home to let the children know we had arrived safely, and then left to join the others for dinner. By studying the map we decided that it was easier to walk than to take the Metro and in fact it was less than half a mile to Bill and Bett's hotel. We also met up then with the other two of our party - James and Jill - both Philip's graduate students. James would be giving the paper on his and Philip's work and Jill was his girlfriend who had come along for moral support and a nice holiday.
They had had travelling problem. They had been booked to fly on Friday and since there had been an air-controllers strike, their flight had been canceled. As they had cheap tickets, they were told
they couldn't be rebooked until Sunday evening which would have been too late. so they had gone over by train and ferry and had arrived about 3 o' clock that day. but because they hadn't been at their hotel on the right day, they found their room had been given away and they had to search for another room. Luckily they found them not far away, and after the weekend, they moved back into the originally booked hotel.
We didn't really know where we would like to eat, only that we didn't fancy traveling too far as we were all tired. We decided that a drink was the first order of business and found the Brasserie Pierrot, which seemed friendly and had tables outside. But Bill thought it was a bit chilly to be
sitting out so we settled for a table in the window. We ordered six draft beers - and were amazed to see we were paying £1.50 for each. It was German beer - very nice but we weren't tempted to make a night of drinking it.
Bill was determined that we must all have French food. so we walked down the road and came to an Italian restaurant, followed shortly thereafter by a Spanish one. across the road was a Chinese one, and a Vietnamese one, but in the end after chasing back and forth trying to make up our minds, we settled on an Algerian one which seemed to offer French food as well as their native specialties. Jill was brave and ordered chicken couscous, but the rests of us stuck with the more traditional French fare. While we made up our minds, we were given a basket of French bread - not served with butter. We had our choice of snails, avocado or pamplemouse for first course. Jill ordered that thinking
it was pineapple and was disappointed to find out it was grapefruit. Then duck, beef burgundy or fish for a second course, and ice cream or rich cake or fruit dessert to follow. We had wine too, of course, and had a lovely meal.
As the meal neared its end, an old man came in selling long stemmed red roses - a very
romantic touch. Bill made some remark about he wasn't about to buy anything like that, but I think as much to tease him than to please me, Philip bought me a bouquet. They stayed nice for the whole week in my water glass, which regularly tipped over.
I was shocked when we got the bill - £100 for the six of us. It was not cheap - but one does not go to Paris every day. We later found out in the guidebook that by Paris standards it was considered very cheap. We had a nice friendly waiter who tried his English out on us and put up with our pathetic French so we gave him a 10% tip. He seemed very pleased. We later read our guide book and found that a 15% service charge was automatically added to the bill. If one had very good service the
thing to do was to round off the bill upwards for the waiter. Or for exceptional service 5% would be very gratefully received. No wonder he was so pleased. But we unfortunately didn't find out all this
until we had made quite a few other waiters were very pleased as well. We all agreed that the French reputation for exquisite cuisine was not exaggerated, nor had we any reason to change our minds over the whole week.
Having thoroughly enjoyed our first day in Paris, we sauntered back to our hotels, agreeing to meet together at at the first conference function, the signing on at 3 on Sunday afternoon.