I was a little nervous as I walked into the terminal at the Gare du Nord. It was my first time in Paris and unlike my London trip, I was not prepared. I had not mapped my route from the terminal to my hotel. The most I’d done was an Internet search for hotels within a 15-minute radius of the terminal and booked the first one that looked acceptable. It was then that I realized that I’d missed a key part of the plan — I had no idea where the hotel was in relation to the terminal and the city map made absolutely no sense at that point.
I was scheduled to meet my friend, Karen, for dinner at 7:30 p.m. at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. I had just about an hour to check in and freshen up so I joined the line at the taxi stand. My cabbie was young and Moroccan. We talked about his work, life in Paris and reggae music.
The desk clerk gave me a map of the metro and showed me how to get from Guy Môquet to Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Finding Saint Germain was the easy part. It took me almost as long to find the restaurant. No one, not even the folks in a pizza restaurant, seemed to know where rue Saint Benoit was. I got so frustrated that I gave up and hailed a cab.
When I told him where I wanted to go, he tried to give me direction because it was close, he said. By then, I was so turned around, I didn’t trust myself to find it on my own. We’d just started getting into a discussion of Haitian politics (he was Haitian) when we arrived. He was right: the restaurant wasn’t even a 10 minute walk away!
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte was humming. All the tables, including the ones outside, were taken but the wait gave me time to begin my catch up with Karen, who I hadn’t seen in months despite her living just across the river in Brooklyn.
Finally, we got a table. It’s a simple setup at l’Entrecôte. On the menu? Steak. Steak and steak. Well done for me and it was delicious. There was nothing left on the plate by the time we finished.
Karen knew her way around Paris and after dinner, we decided to go for a stroll so I could enjoy my first Parisian night.
When we parted, it was close to midnight. By the time I returned to my hotel, it was a little after 1 a.m. My first Paris night turned out better than I had anticipated.
I fell asleep excited about what the next day would bring.