It is a bad idea, I knew this, to arrange for more than two meetings in one day in Paris. But time was limited after the Easter holiday, which included Monday. I had only two business days available before I left, Tuesday and Wednesday, so I pushed the envelope.
Tuesday's schedule included meetings at 9am, 11am -- then a 1pm lunch meeting and a 7pm apéritif. It was risky to so heavily schedule, but I carefully planned all transportation routes the night before. It would be do-able: leave the house at 8am to get up north to La Villette; leave around 10:15 to get to Batignolles for 11am, then use the same metro line from edgy Batignolles to super chic Avenue Matignon for a business lunch about international technology collaborations. No problem.
After much emailing the night before the 9am meeting, the 9am interlocuter could only do 11h30. Alas, that last-minute schedule change, after weeks of planning the day, just could not work. Desolée.
So at 10am, I skipped down the rue de Bièvre into the sunny and cool Paris morning, enjoying the ample time I had to soak up Paris on the walk across over the Seine to the Hôtel de Ville métro stop.
It is not a short walk, but it is an awesome and very familiar walk. I descend the steps into the métro stop, confident in this familiar routine on a familiar route, use my last métro ticket, and await the train.
Odd. Why are the times for the next trains on the info panel all X'd out. Then I see the sign. Line 1 closed, and for a critical part of it. Dang. I knew it was closed the day before; just did not register that it would still be closed on Tuesday.
Well, there goes that time cushion. I think not enough to time to get an Uber. I think taxi. But where?
I briskly make my way to the only potentially sure thing that came to mind: the taxi line at Boulevard St. Michel near the quai. I am no longer feeling chic. Or cheery. Walking, walking...walking briskly over across the bridge, back to the Ile de la Cité, where just minutes before I had been so light on my feet for a perfectly planned day of perfectly executed optimal transportation routes.
What luck. A taxi, just sitting there, not in a taxi line at all. I leap in, expresssing great relief, and tell him the street name.
I did not understand hardly anything from this chatty delightful driver. He was speaking a mix of French with something else with a non-discernible accent. The scenic drive took us down the rue de Rivoli, up around l'Opéra, through the streets named for Europe in the 8th. He shared his opinions with me on (1) God; (2) man's inabilty to accept the lack of control in life (the weather); and (3) the power of music for man's soul (he used to be a violin player). At a break in that line of thought, he pointed out a café he almost bought.
I arrived at the most charming (albeit with grungy edge) little corner of Paris on the Place Docteur-Félix-Lobligeois, in front of the appointed meeting place.
I am enchanted by this new littler quarter. [See article about Batignolles here.]
It was soon 12:30, time to get to the 1pm meeting. The lunch venue selected was The Berkeley, an elegant but not intimidating little restaurant on the sublimely quiet Avenue Matignon.
It was easy and so fast to get there. I sigh with satisfaction, pleased with my transportation successes, overcoming adversity. Yep, look at me, manhandling Paris. And here I am, nice and early, at this little slice of dreamy Paris elegance.
I speak with the hostess. I do not see his name there for a reservation, but she says no matter. I can seat you. Why, yes, thank you, that would be lovely. She offers to take my coat. Why yes, thank you. Lovely.
I am ensconced at a table for two and sink into the comfy chair. The front windows of Le Berkeley are all open to the street on this gorgeous day.
There are business persons all around, not surprising as the area is full of law firms and venture capital firms. The women have superb shoes. The men look so relaxed and urbaine.
If I had had enough life experience back when I was 14 in San Angelo, Texas, when I was dreaming about what Paris must be like, and what some imagined version of me might be like in Paris someday, this is exactly the type of place I would have imagined.
The first person to inquire of my needs asks about my water order. I go for the carafe of water, per usual. But no one is keen on getting me free water. Fine. But I am not paying for water. I will pay for wine though. I order a nice glass of white wine to wait for the other person. That order arrives quickly.
It is now 1:15. I call the business lunch date on his mobile, which was on the last confirming email.
As soon as he heard my voice, I could tell. He had forgotten. He was appalled. We schedule for the next day: same time, same place. He was so horrified. I say no worries. A demain.
But what to do now.
Leave? Ask for the check after just one glass of wine, though I am sitting at a table at which one may only dine, not just imbibe?
Does it appear so obvious that I was, you know, sort of stood up--even though sort of accidentally?
I decide to stay for lunch.
I send a lot of emails during my non-business meeting lunch for one, while enjoying this entrée of quinoa and tuna.
When I was done, I got the coat myself, used the lovely ladies room yet again, and headed out. [We did reprise that business lunch the next day. The conversation was much better.]
That 7pm apéritif meeting, at a certain club on the Champs Elysées? I was right on time. Only one problem: They would not let me in. At first. To be continued.