Our room was tiny, but thankfully tidier than the stairwell. Two single beds were pushed together, leaving approximately six inches on either side. A clothes rod was attached to the wall just inside the door and a small table and straight-backed wooden chair were tucked in a corner. There was no dresser, so we hung our clothes on the available hangers and left the rest in our suitcases. An enormous claw-foot tub occupied most of the bathroom.
We spent little time in our room. We were awakened early by the noise in the alley beneath our room's window and after breakfasts of croissants, cocoa and cafe au lait, walked carefully along the sidewalk in front of our hotel, picking the safest route among the broken bottles and piles of dog feces.
We used the Metro, quickly adjusting to the intially over-powering array of fragrances worn by Parisians and added our own "signature scents" to the mix after visiting a parfumerie. We'd packed carefully, avoiding clothes that shouted "American tourist," and found small, inexpensive bistros for dinner.
The first evening, I made the mistake of translating the menu written in chalk on a blackboard on the wall. "They have frog's legs, tripe, goat . . . "
"Mom, stop reading," she said. I began to read the next item, but she interrupted me. "Mom, I mean it. I'm gonna puke."
"That's impolite," I said.
"I'm serious, Mom," she said. After taking one look at her face, which had taken on a decidedly greenish cast, I asked if she'd be okay with roast chicken and a green salad. "It won't be served with the head or feet," I promised, as a waiter carrying a platter containing an opened-mouthed fish with eyes focused toward the ceiling walked past.
The waiters were friendly, because I ordered in French . My daughter promised she wouldn't utter the word "wino" for the duration of the trip, permitting me one glass of beaujolais each night with dinner in exchange for my agreement to let her have chicken McNuggets for lunch. We never spent more than $30 a day on food.
The only difficulty we encountered was when I purchased a child's ticket for her at Napolean's tomb. The man eyed her up and down and stated, gruffly, "She's tall for an eleven year-old old." I looked into the pair of cold eyes above his grimace and replied, smiling, "So's her father."
She made the visitors at the Musee d'Orsay laugh as she photographed me seated ram-rod straight, wearing a black sweater, skirt, tights and shoes, feet propped on my black back-pack, in front of "Whistler's Mother." The only time she expressed any disappointment was when we arrived at the Louvre, which we'd saved for the last day of our vacation, only to find it was closed.
I hugged her and said, "Then we'll have to see it when we come back."