After helping Shirley up the 68th staircase of the night, we stand there huffing and puffing and I have a look around. Here we are in the middle of the giant plaza by the giant arch I vaguely know about. I only have a moment to think "ohhh, this is pretty" before Shirley takes off in a different direction exclaiming....
SHIRLEY: OHHHHHHH! I recognize that big thing! (points to arch) We've been here before! Vincent the tour guide took us here and said something about that big thing!
ME: (catching up to her) Great! Do you know where your hotel is from here? (they both point in different directions).....sigh....ok. (think, think) Can you SEE this arch from your hotel?
ME: OK, just take a good look around. Look at the different buildings and angles. Does that help you remember anything?
SHIRLEY: The tour guide DEFINITELY said something to us about that big thing right there.
ME: OK, but are you RECOGNIZING anything about your HOTEL location maybe?
NANCY: Ah just don't know. Maybe ah have been here at some point.
Pointless. I give up and we head back to where there is a taxi station. My heart leaps as we walk up to the first taxi driver. But before I can even get to him with the address given to me by Benoit, most helpful security guard ever, Nancy rushes up to him to exclaim....
NANCY: WE NEED TO GET HEEEEERE! (points to piece of paper that says Hotel Mercure, 3 rue de Fontanot, La Defense...note that there is no Q in Mercure) HEEEEERE! DO YOU KNOOOOOOW HEEEEERE? (pointing pointing pointing)
TAXI DRIVER: (looks at piece of paper) No. Thees no here. Two Hotel Mercure. Go across that way (points in general direction) and there ees one.
I intervene again and find out in French from the taxi driver that the address is apparently completely wrong and that there are in fact at least two Hotel Mercures. My heart sinks and for the first time, I just don't know what to do. Nancy is still asking the driver "WHYYYYYY? WHAAAAAAT? Ah just don't understaaaaaaaand! Vincent GAVE this address to Benoit and he wrote it out!" as though mentioning the Spirit tour guide and the security guard at Conforama will somehow magically make the taxi driver suddenly understand bad directions and know where we want to get to. I tell Nancy it's over. Done. We have to come up with plan B. Nancy spies a Hilton Hotel right in front of us...
NANCY: Ah'll bet they have a bar in there and they speak some English.
Nancy is now making sense to me and the thought of a drink is growing more appetizing by the moment. Hotel Hilton here we come. One rolling cart, four bags and now three lost tourists enter the lobby. Shirley sees a piano and as she now knows I am a singer, she stops and insists I sing them a song. "Well, you're a lounge singer aren't you? Play something!" Ok I am just not feeling up for breaking out in song. No ladies, this lounge singer is grabbing the bull by the horns here as I have had it with any further distractions. I'm doing it My Way from here on out. "No, we are going to the front desk. Let's move."
We roll up to the reception area and I ask the young guy behind the desk if he could look up the Hotel Mercure for me. He has just started working there and has no idea where 3 rue Fontanot is. I ask him over and over to please just google it. Nancy pipes in with a "JUST GIVE US THE NUMBER!" as I try to speak in French to them. I smile my best "I am really really really trying to stay super friendly" smile and ask him again if he could just google it. He directs me to a woman next to him who also has no idea what the address is I gave them and also knows nothing about any Hotel Mercure. She tells me there is an old man who works there who knows every street in the area but he doesn't start work for another 10 minutes. OK, I say, we'll wait. And we wait. And wait. Another hotel employee tries to find the Hotel Mercure and also comes up empty. I begin to wonder what exactly is on the mystery screen that they have been looking and looking at behind the desk as I could have googled this half an hour ago and already had the number.
An older man approaches me, takes one look at the name and the address on the paper and tells me that the hotel I am looking for is actually in Nanterre and I can take the RER A train there. Nanterre. Really. As in, not in Paris. No way. I am not putting these ladies on another train to nowhere. They will take a cab. I thank him profusely. Still no number from the mystery/I no google screen so I decide to stalker dial Vincent the tour guide over and over and over until he picks up. I dial two times, three, four....I begin to hate Vincent with all my soul as I get his voicemail over and over and over and over and over.
Then, at last, he picks up....
VINCENT: (frantic voice) ALLO? ALLO?! (massive static and voices and noise)
ME: Yyyyyeah. VINCENT. HI. You don't know me but I have the women from your Spirit tour that you left behind at the Louvre. Yyyyyeah...I found them in a store totally lost and VERY upset. The address you gave the last guy who called is TOTALLY wrong and we are now in La Defense at the Hilton. I need the number of the correct hotel please.
VINCENT: ALLO?! Ahhhhh, oui, bien sur. D'accord...I am on ze RER A (train) weeth the rest of ze tour and I....NONONONONONONONON zees ees NOT zee stop! Do NOT get off ze train here!!! ALLO? ALLO?!! Attends.....NON! STAY ON ZEES TRAIN! OK ZE NUMBER EES 01 58....
Suddenly I cannot possibly be mad at Vincent. After two more calls, I finally get the entire number of Hotel Mercure, call and get directions and a correct address. It is, in fact, in Nanterre. I write everything down for them real big and clear. Nancy spies the hotel bar and invites me for a drink. I want to but it is 10pm now and I have to find my way back to the metro with my wilting lettuce and get home.
NANCY: Aw your husband must be worried sick about you. You go home. We'll take a cab downstairs. Dana, you are just an angel.
SHIRLEY: A real ANGEL.
NANCY: Thank you so much for getting us here. We'll send you the pictures.
I kissed them goodbye on each cheek. As I walked out the door, the old man who helped me asked where the other ladies were so we cold catch a taxi. I told him I didn't really know them and was just helping them find their way. I asked if he could keep an eye on them, he smiled and I rode the subway home with a grin on my face.
Thank you for the random ride through Paris, Shirley and Nancy. I had a wonderful time and yes, you did get to see the "real Paris." I hope you made it home ok.