All we had was an address. No phone, no GPS not even directions to where we were going. Amanda and I were planning to spend two months in Europe. We had booked flights in and out of Paris. Our only obligation was to be in Florence in March 1st, otherwise we had no plans-just an address. We spoke barely enough French to order a croissant or baguette and coffee. We carried a computer, credit cards, camera, clothes. We had intuition and resourcefulness and the advice of friends met along the way.
After a train from De Gaulle airport Amanda and I stood outside of a big gated apartment building typical of Paris. On the sidewalk we began to fiddle with computer attempting to contacting our friend Jamilla. We were not sure just how we were going to contact her, realizing it may not be easy with our limited resources. Just at this moment she walked around the corner! Beautiful, tall, dressed in black with a big bienvieu smile Jamilla hugged us and welcomed us into the courtyard of her building as Amanda and I gasp and look at each other in relief.
Jamilla’s roomate was a cat and a large, stylish American-Parisian cat-woman named Ella. The shower was economy, curtains red, and the inflatable mattress as tempting as a the sirens call to Odysseus. Jamilla insisted on helping us burn off our jetlag by taking us out on the town. We napped briefly then followed our hostess on a dreamlike nighttime tour of Paris streets, cafes, and a Spanish techno bar where the baronne, a Spanish drinking device, made a mess of our shirtfronts. We squeezed together into Paris Metro turnstiles to save on fare and stumbled home to the relative comfort of our air mattress.
The next day, Typical sightseeing ensued. Rue Mouftard was our lovely home base. Before noon this old, windy, slanted street is a gallery of purveyors who’s storefronts spill into the streets and burst with cheese, meats, veggies, as well as cafes, boulangeries, rotisseries, bistros, brassieres and the like all of fine quality and presentation. Also during this visit met our dear friend Haseeb and had Parisian kebab near the Center Pompideu. We spent four days in Paris. Thankfully we had more time in Paris at the end of our European loop.
The cat-woman, Ella, who guided Amanda and I South to our next destination. She suggested that we visit Aix au Provence. This advice we ignored, but helped to set our course to the place that would become an important food pilgrimage: San Sebastian, Basque country, Northern Spain.