XXVII - In Paris

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[RECAP: Juliet is in Paris on a school choir trip, accompanied by her hot teacher Carl Spencer]


France. Paris. People speaking in different languages as they milled through Charles de Gaulle Airport. Signs in French. Announcements over the loudspeaker that they couldn't understand a word of.

Juliet was enraptured. It distracted her from the huge awkwardness she had felt waking up to find her head on Mr Spencer's shoulder. He had looked so uncomfortable and embarrassed.

But this was like stepping into a different world. It was around the middle of the day in France and winter sun was streaming through the airport terminal. She wanted to savour every moment.

I'm actually here, Juliet thought. I'm in Paris. In Europe.

Margot had caught up with her after they exited the plane. She had also slept through most of the flight and was nearly as excited as Juliet though she had previously visited Europe with her family on a number of occasions. She had given Juliet a grilling about Mr Spencer.

"So what happened? The mile high club?"

"God no." Juliet had visited the aeroplane bathroom during the flight and struggled to imagine how anyone could misbehave in such tight space. Maybe two teeny tiny little people, but Mr Spencer was quite tall and broad.

"Cynthia was furious about it," Margot told her. "Miss Mead wouldn't even let her talk to anyone else during the flight, she had to shut up and watch movies."

Juliet would have been glad except she suspected it would make Cynthia even more vengeful. "We'll have to watch out."

There was a brief stop at a café in the terminal so people could buy food if they wanted to, before they caught the Paris Metro underground train to their hotel. Miss Mead had to deal with a couple of girls who bought wine with their baguettes, which was perfectly legal in France. They claimed they had meant to buy cokes and it was the result of poor translation skills but even Miss Mead wasn't that stupid.

"While we're over here, we'll respect the rules of St Gillian's which are those of our native country, the United States of America," she told them.

"That is so dumb," Margot remarked to Juliet. "Buying it right in front of her like that. She'll be watching them all the time now."

Juliet wanted to try something as French as possible so she ordered a brioche. She was completely confused by all the Euros and the different banknotes there.

The train journey passed in a blur - Juliet was very glad their choir teacher spoke such good French - and they finally arrived at their hotel, exhausted and aching from hauling their suitcases, and dying to freshen up. Aware how bedraggled she probably was, Juliet had been avoiding Mr Spencer since they left the plane. She feared that some of the shocked expression on his face had been at the horrible star of her when she woke.

Still, at least she hadn't drooled in her sleep.

The hotel looked much older and smaller than the photos on its website. Cynthia and her friends were bitching about it, with Cynthia claiming she had been "forcibly prevented" from staying at some five-star hotel or other.

Juliet was just thrilled to have a room looking out over the rooftops of Paris. If she leaned to one side there was even a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. The room itself was plain rather than luxury, with twin beds and a single long window. But it was clean, there was a tiny en-suite bathroom, and best of all she was sharing with Margot.

Margot emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a large white towel, drying her hair.

"The hot water kept going cold, you have to keep adjusting it," she said.

Juliet hurried into the shower so she could get ready quickly and not waste any more time than needed in the hotel.

They had been given the afternoon to rest but Miss Mead was only allowing them to stay in the hotel or visit a café across the road. After this the schedule was tightly packed with cultural visits and singing in church, barely allowing them a moment to catch their breath.

This was intended to keep them out of mischief: the actual result was that everyone now planned to sneak out at night, after Miss Mead had gone to bed.

"Do we need to keep wearing these sweatshirts?" Juliet asked Margot.

"I'm not going to. If Miss Mead asks I'll tell her I was keeping it clean for excursions."

They had three hours before they had to assemble for dinner. Easily enough time to go somewhere interesting. Juliet wanted to go to Montmartre to see the portrait artists. They already had group excursions planned to all the main cultural icons, and Montmartre was within walking distance from their hotel.

Margot considered it. "Cute arty French guys. Sounds good to me."

They set off but to their dismay Miss Mead had taken up residence at a café table. She had a clear view of the hotel entrance so there could be no sneaking off.

"Damn. Time for Plan B," Margot said.

There was no Plan B. The hotel didn't have a back door, and a side window on the ground floor only opened into a dead-end alley from where they would have go to back to the main street.

"If this was Annie we could escape in a laundry basket," Margot suggested.

They lingered for a moment in the unattended reception, wondering what the best approach would be.

"Excusez-moi" came a rude voice and a shove from behind. It was Cynthia with a couple of her friends.

Juliet stepped out of her way.

"There's our laundry basket," she muttered to Margot as Cynthia strode across to the café. They watched as Cynthia got into a conversation with Miss Mead and used the opportunity to slip out of the hotel and around the side. It was the opposite direction that they needed to go, but no matter.

The two girls cut around through different streets until they reached the funicular railway that took people up the hill. Juliet had read about it in her guidebook. They figured out the right money and rode to the top.

Margot in particular had her eye out for cute guys but it seemed to be mainly Japanese and European tourists, most of them their parents' age.

The Place du Tertre was full of artists, their easels set up around the square as well as examples of their work. Some of them were very talented. As well as portraits there were landscape painters with endless scenes of Paris. "I don't want to buy something I haven't seen yet," Margot said, "but I might come back here for souvenirs."

After wandering around they found a café and ordered drinks. Juliet still felt dehydrated from the flight so ordered a mineral water, as did Margot. This turned out to be a much wiser choice than wine.

About five minutes after they sat down they heard their voices spoken. "Juliet, Margot."

It was Mr Spencer. 

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