Anyone expecting to read about the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, or any of that crap, may as well piss off now. This is the wrong kind of travel blog.
Basically, it all started when I got a message from Jacques saying he was going to be back in Paris for one night only. It was going to be a grand reunion, as Matthieu and Guillaume also live in Paris. (If you don’t know who any of these people are, this video from our drinking days in Japan should clear things up pretty quick.)
I invited Hattie, because she was still a Paris-virgin, and so it was that I found myself setting off on a Eurostar break for two, to “the most romantic city in the world”, with a woman who’s not my girlfriend.
I spent the train over being buffeted around in the buffet car, trying to avoid paying £5 for a 330ml can of Kronembourg, watching strange French characters in 80s suits sipping red wine and talking business (I imagine) while the French landscape sped by in the darkness.
The subways stank of piss.
The rubbish bags in the subways leaked puddles of what looked like piss.
This is something I always forget about Paris, but it is always the first thing I notice when I arrive and the first point of discussion with any newbie to the city.
It poses a bigger question however: who are these people pissing in the subway? Where are they and when do they do it? With the sheer volume of piss required to produce a smell of this magnitude, it seems impossible that they were nowhere to be seen.
Breakfast was a baguette. We had to vacate our rooms from 11:00 ’til 15:00, so I had no choice but to let Hattie do at least a bit of sightseeing.
The idea was a pleasant Parisian stroll along the banks of the Seine, but as soon as we stepped outside it started absolutely pissing it down, so we had to run for the cover of a cafe. Sitting outside under the canvas, wet and shivering, I assured Hattie that she was getting the typical Parisian experience, while she sipped on a cafe noisette and I started the day with what was to be the first of many beers.
A gap in the rain and we were off again, along the river, across the islands to Notre Dame, where Hattie wanted to see a gargoyle, but they were too high up, and the closest thing to a hunchback were a bunch of old, bent-over Japanese tourists.
On the other side we wandered the alleys of Montparnasse and the Jardin du Luxembourg, where we lay peacefully in the grass until the two gayest policemen I’ve ever seen came running over in powder-blue outfits and little hats, blowing their whistles and yelling.
Apparently you can’t sit on the grass in (most of) the parks in Paris, which seems to me to defeat the object of a park, but whatever.
Sadly, they couldn’t stay for long, as their next task was to apprehend a tramp before he could successfully complete a shit in the bushes.
We read the menus outside the old cafes (Le Select, La Coupole, Le Dome, La Rontonde) where Hemingway and the gang used to hang out, but there’s no use dwelling in the past, so we hit a backstreet creperie (which, we were later told in good authority, is not the thing to do in Paris) and I tried cidre breton (cider from Brittany) which came in the traditional ceramic jug and was quite possibly the best cider I’ve ever had.
The lesbian bar we were looking for had become a chain Irish Pub at some point in the many years between now and when Hattie’s guidebook was originally published, so we went straight to the St. George Tavern to get a head-start on the others.
The guys had picked a good place: rock music, a trendy after-work crowd, and named after the beloved patron saint of my people.
Hattie decided she needed some Dutch courage and in an hour managed to drink two tequila sunrises, two rum and cokes and a pint, and since I was matching her round for round, I soon ended up with five pints queuing up in front of me.
We were chatting about some bollocks when some guy walked in, slapped his hands down on our table, starred me in the face and shouted “Hey! How’s it going?” (American accent.)
I looked him up and down.
“Yasu! What the fuck are you doing here?”
It seems I’d missed – or possibly drunkenly forgotten – the memo: Yasu, another guy from our Japan days, also happened to be in Paris this weekend, by complete coincidence, with his girlfriend Jenny, and the whole thing had come together.
Pretty soon the guys started showing up, and the pints in front of me started disappearing fast, and new ones appearing in their place, and this is where things start to get a little hazy for me.
A lot of great guys that I remember (though vaguely, it has to be said) from my visits to Caen, were there. Hattie got introduced to everyone. Everyone got introduced to Hattie. Things got rowdier. Hat started speaking French … to which Matthieu’s response was always something like, “What the fuck are you trying to say!”
Guillaume’s girlfriend Marjory showed up and I always forget she doesn’t speak any English and there’s me and Hat babbling away at her in English.
Some of the guys are put out because their usual table, by the window, is taken by another group. Things get competitive, people start yelling and before I know it the bartenders are hosing us down with the coke guns for the first of what would be many times throughout the night.
In an attempt to take the table I decided to infiltrate their ranks. Hattie came with and pretty soon we got chatting to them (five girls and one incredibly homosexual Kenyan guy).
Next thing I know, Guillaume’s come over and joined us and I realise the Kenyan guy doesn’t speak very good French, so I’m telling him and Guillaume, “Hey, you know what? You guys would get along great! You should hang out! Two gay, single guys, living in the city together…” and Guillaume’s glaring at me and saying “I know what you’re saying, you motherfucker!” while the guy puts his arm round him, and I’m in hysterics.
Whatever we did, it worked and we got the table, or at least the two crowds merged into one, possibly united by Guillaume and his new Kenyan boyfriend‘s Romeo and Juliet romance, but by this time nobody cared about the table and we were all standing up and moving about anyway.
At the bar I order a pitcher of beer (I don’t want to check how much it cost since a pint alone was almost £10) take a swig and pass it to Guillaume who also takes a sip, then passes it down the line and before long it’s disappeared and never comes back and some inordinate amount of time later I suddenly remember “wait, what the hell happened to my pitcher?” so I order another one and the exact same thing almost happens all over again, but this time I’m on the ball (sort of) and catch it just as it’s drifting out of sight and start working on it again, this time keeping it close.
All around me the bar is bursting into flames. The bartenders prepare a semi-circle of glasses of some alcoholic beverage, topped with shot glasses containing another, highly flammable liquid. Suddenly there’s a blast and the glasses are all on fire and the shots are dropping one-by-one, domino-effect, into the other glasses. By this time the flames are spilling across the bar and have to be hosed down, as does the crowd for some reason.
I look outside and see Jacques, man of the hour. By this point I’m completely wasted.
At some point I get a random call from Myriam, a girl I met in Rotterdam four years ago through Ruth. She’s heard Hattie and I are in town and is inviting us to a Moroccan party tomorrow night.
Outside, Hattie and I are saying a long heart felt goodbye to Yasu and Jenny, only for them to tell us at the end of it that they’re not leaving. Thinking about it, I have no idea where we got the idea that they were. So we all go back inside and continue drinking.
Back outside again and Hattie’s trying to get back in to chat to her new friends and the bouncer is saying to her “You’re fucked! You’re fucking fucked!” but he lets me in and I prance in to prove a point to Hattie – though I’m not sure what – or possibly to search for her bag, or coat, which perhaps I’m thinking is the reason she wants to get back inside, which reminds me earlier she actually did lose her bag and had everyone searching for it, but all I could do was laugh because of how seriously she was conducting herself and of course it was under her chair the whole time.
Next thing I know we’re all down the street in a kebab shop, which is actually a baguette joint, which looks like a cake shop. I don’t order as even in my madness I seem to have the sense to know it’ll never stay down. It’s possible I downed the pitcher. It has been known to happen before. I’m taking a piss down the alley. I possibly swung from some scaffolding. Or at least I have the vaguest sensation – not really a memory – that I did.
Jacques, Matthieu, Guillaume and other faceless figures are sitting on the sidewalk/pavement but I can’t remember what we’re saying.
I can’t remember if I even said goodbye.
I can remember saying, “come on guys, let’s hit a club! What’s the time, like midnight?” I think. Though in reality it must’ve been closer to 5am, judging by what happened next.
We’re alone now, Hattie and I. Actually we’re with a random guy from Georgia (the American state) trying to hail a cab and I’m thumbing every car that passes, unable to distinguish a difference, and running about in the road – or should I say boulevard – while I’m at it.
An alley. Hat is yelling at me and finally I turn around and some guy is trying to drag her away.
“God damn it!”
I go fetch her and disperse the guy.
A subway station. The colossal volume of beer in my stomach, bladder, veins is kicking in like a lead weight and I can’t get up and can’t get on the connecting train we need and I can tell Hat is pissed off as hell but I’m drifting in and out of consciousness and mumble something to her like “get on the train. I’ll be fine” and then she’s not there any more.
When I manage to get up I cross a bridge but a train’s coming and so I run back and this is possibly where I fall.
On a train, waking occasionally, always missing my stop.
It’s gone 7am now and I think I’ve been riding this line back and forth for almost two hours, too sick to get off, trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible to the morning commuters who have at some point completely replaced the drunks, with the exception of moi.
This time when the angry hostel guys try to kick us out I’m not having any of it! I couldn’t get out of bed if I wanted to, and I definitely don’t want to. Hat doesn’t know what to do, so she pretends to be asleep as well.
Later I make a run for the bathroom. The guy chases me down but I get the door locked just in time. I spend the next two hours on the bathroom floor. I don’t know if you’ve ever known what it feels like to be too ill to vomit, or for any bodily function to work for that matter, but I now do.
Later I’m back in the room, but can’t make it up to the top bunk so I lay on the floor in my boxers, balls in all likelihood hanging out, which is even funnier if you know we were sharing the room with some random Latvian chick.
My knee hurt and I had a large scar – seems I fell at speed – yet no tear in the knee of my jeans. Odd.
We decided to go out for food as I was shaking with what I hoped was hunger. I had to get Hat to pull my socks on for me, which turned out to be a pointless exercise when we realised I couldn’t sit up, let alone go for food.
After much persuading, Hat went out and brought back McDonald’s for me (thank you Hattie!) which I ate in bed, while drifting in and out of sleep.
At seven I could just about walk, so we headed for Myriam’s party…because what better way to recover from a serious case of alcohol poisoning could there be, than to drink more?
The party was actually great fun. I sipped at raspberry-flavoured beer and mango-flavoured vodka and we ate the best Moroccan food we’d ever tasted! (Despite having just recently come back from a trip to Morocco.) Myriam was a great host. The girls danced traditional (and not-so-traditional) Moroccan dances. I even joined in for about 10 seconds. Photos were taken. Jokes were made. Good fun was had by all. Once again, Hattie didn’t finish her sacred bread. Shame on her!
At about 1am we had to dash off as I’d promised to take Hat to see the Eiffel tower, which in the end we never made it to, as we had to get the last metro back to Bastille.
In the subway, we crested the top of an escalator to be confronted with the site of a tramp, facing us and in mid piss.
“I knew it!” I yelled. “I knew it!”
We met our old friend Mathieu (another one) outside a party where everyone but us was an artist or “decorated cinemas” (designed film-sets).
“Let’s get out of here!” He said, so we went to a cafe, where he sat looking more French than anyone I’ve ever seen: black coat, sipping a small glass of red wine, chain smoking outside a packed cafe in central Paris at three in the morning.
When we told him about the tramp pissing down the escalator, he simply chuckled and said, “Haha! That is a classic of Paris!”
He showed us a picture he’d taken on his phone of the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night.
“There you go,” I said, turning to Hat. “You got to see it after all.”
No response. Just that trademark glare I’ve come to know and love.
Two hours later, we grabbed our baguette on the way out of the hostel, and were soon on the Eurostar, homeward bound.
Epilogue. Two days later, feeling a little upset that we didn’t take any photos of the Friday night, I logged into Facebook to be confronted with this image and the caption, “Zachary we missed your man sawsage”, and suddenly I remembered being asked to spell “man sausage”. Fail. I’ll leave you with the photo. Thanks for reading.