Our bus driver and tour guide in Paris (photo by dorothyadele)
My high school French class flew to Paris where a travel agent had booked us in a brothel. The brothel was just the beginning of a stressful but humorous trip.
After about a nine-hour flight, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport with about 25 students and chaperones. We were exhausted and eager to check into our hotel room.
We boarded a bus at the airport and drove to a dingy smog-coated hotel. We saw signs from our bus windows that advertised rooms by the hour.
We left the bus and entered the hotel. We lugged our bags down a dirty, dimly lit hallway and entered our rooms. We noticed that our rooms did not have bathrooms but guests shared a common bathroom down the hall.
My French teacher was mortified and quickly called our travel agent. After several phone calls, we boarded our bus for the next hotel. We arrived and checked in to the beautiful Le Meridien hotel. I suspect that the travel agency absorbed the additional cost.
After an exhausting first day and visiting several tourist sights on the following days, I decided that I needed a day’s rest if I wanted to enjoy the trip. I skipped a midweek tour — which I regretted because I missed a lot. My group left for the tour, and I was the only student who remained in the hotel.
As I relaxed and read my book, someone knocked on the door. I guessed that it was someone from our group. I opened the door and a man stood outside my room. He asked for Madame Bertrand, and in my limited French I told him that she was not in my room, and I politely closed the door.
He knocked two more times about 30 minutes apart, and I did not open the door. I had no way to get in touch with my group, and I was nervous.
Rotary phone in our room (photo by dorothyadele)
I scoured the room for a weapon. I found a thin stemmed wine glass on our bar that I could break if he barged in.
Someone knocked again, and my heart pounded. I spoke through the door. The visitor was a flower deliveryman who held a large bouquet.
I opened the door and I tried to explain in French that the flowers were not for me and that a man wouldn’t leave me alone. I accepted the flowers and quickly dialed security while the deliveryman stayed.
Within 10 minutes, about five employees, including security and the concierge joined us in my room . In my panic, I must have dialed the concierge too, even though I didn’t need restaurant reservations.
I attempted to explain that a man “un homme” had knocked on my door. No one understood my French and I felt like I lost at a Charades game. I paced, knocked on the door, pointed to the flowers and used the French words that I knew. They laughed, but I was glad they stayed.
While I made a scene for my new French friends, my roommates returned. They were amused, but not surprised, that I disrupted the hotel while they were gone.
My French teacher learned that the persistent door knocker expected to meet Madame Bertrand. I guess he thought that I was hiding her.
During my trip, I nearly stayed in a brothel and played Charades with the hotel staff at Le Meridien. Who knew Paris could be so much fun?