I arrived in Paris at via high speed train. The ride, however, did not pass quickly. From Brussels to Gare du Nord my car was pummeled with noise from two children that I estimated were about 12 years old. They slammed down tray-tables to wake up a sleeping passenger, then pretended the whole thing was an accident. They yelled and banged on the table when speaking to each other. Whenever the conductor walked through the car, they pretended to be asleep so as not to arouse suspicion. They almost made it to Paris and off the train to safety. Just before we pulled into Paris, two conductors surrounded the kids and asked for tickets. The conductors did not believe that the pair spoke no French. When the pair failed to produce tickets, the conductors esscored the kids away towards the front of the train, just before we all disembarked.
Dinner was at a fondue restaurant in Montmartre. It was about halfway up the hill to Sacre Couer, just far enough to make you breathe a little faster. The restaurant itself was a long rectangle. Two long tables ran from the door to the small bar and kitchen area. The area between the tables was wide enough for one person to walk through, as long as no one sitting decided to move their chair back. Benches lined both walls and, due to the space constraints, patrons had to stop onto a chair and over the table to access the benches. This made for round after round of entertainment as progressively more inebriated patrons arrived and departed. Chalk graffiti from years of customers covered the walls in the dining area. Multi-colored notes of currency from dozens of nations replaced the graffiti at our end of the table, by the bar and kitchen.
I shared dinner with some friends from college. We talked about how our lives had progressed since graduation and the activities, marriages, and other things of our mutual friends. We talked through the small plate of charcuterie and the cheese and oil fondue main courses. A group of rowdy Englishmen sat at the other table. Their many proclamations, exclamations, and cheers made clear that they were throwing a stag party. That, and the striking orange and brown custom-made t-shirts that the groom (or who I assume was the groom) wore. As we all ate, their cheers became loud, but they were amusing rather than annoying. Eventually, their lively banter and good nature helped them convince the rest of the restaurant to sing along to Yellow Submarine, causing passers by to stop and stare. After a particularly passionate chorus, everyone raised their drinks high and toasted the party. Later, as I sat twirling melted cheese off of a piece of bread, one of the group got up from the table and did about 15 pushups, much to the amusement of all the rest.
After dinner, we finished the climb to the top of Montemarte. We walked up steep flights of stone stairs, across quiet streets, past busy cafes, a small jazz club where an man with a grey ponytail played the flute, and to the steps in front of Sacré-Cœur. There, we joined the crowds taking in the view of Paris at night. Almost the whole of the city was visible from the steps, except the Eiffel Tower, which was hidden by a tall, old tree that moved gently in the breeze. On the steps, we continued our conversation while listening to many others. Every so often we would politely decline to purchase individual bottles of beer or laser pointers from the many street vendors wandering the steps. The tinkling of empty bottles and cans rolling down the steps marked the time to move to another location.
After a brief stop at the hotel, we arrived at the banks of the Seine. We sat down on the stone pathway by the river, surrounded by other groups, the black waters quiet and smooth just below our feet. With no river cruses, the Seine was devoid of waves. It flowed at a leisurely pace below the banks and under the many Parisian bridges. Conversations echoed of the old stone walls and under the bridge arches. Every few minutes the breeze carried a burst of laughter over us, down the river, and off into the night.
After another hour, one of our trio departed for the evening to pack for a morning flight back to the States. The remainder closed the night at a small street-corner cafe in St. Germain, watching people amble home down the twisting streets of the 6th arrondissement.