I was ready to be disappointed. The last time I was in Paris, I was twenty-one years old. I lived here when I was nine. But with age comes disillusion and cold, mature assessment. Paris would not - could not - wow me again.
Boy, was I wrong.
It starts the minute we leave the train station. I spy La Rotonde and the Café de Flore out the cab windows. It's all I can do to keep from squealing. Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre used to hang out here. We step out onto the narrow street and that old Paris smell - diesel exhaust and chocolate and a soft breath from somewhere above the buildings - spirals into my brain and sets the fireworks going.
We drag our bags behind us (the cab was unable to pull directly up to the hotel door) to our little hotel on the corner of the Rue d'Odessa. We learn later that this is where the finalists for "Nouvelle Star," the French version of "American Idol" are staying, but we would never have known: the place is small and sleepy. The desk clerks appear to be identical twins; one wears dark glasses. The elevator can only hold Mr. Billy with the bags, so I take the scenic route up the curling staircase.
I lean out the window of our tiny room. To my right is Montparnasse tower, and directly below are sidewalk cafés.
"Let's go out and walk around," I say to Mr. Billy. I feel like I'm nine years old again, or twenty-one. I bounce on my toes. "Let's go see Paris."
And so we do.