Paris on Valentine’s Day

Lovers in Paris

Or Nightmare on Elm Street..

Several years back, my husband booked a trip to Paris. What could be more romantic?  We were living in London at the time. My British husband had big plans for his American wife. It was the deal of a lifetime, a weekend in Paris for £100.00 ($175.00). The price should have been a clue.

We picked up a bus in London that was to drive us south to Dover where we’d board the ferry, and cross the Channel. The bus circled southern England for hours making numerous pick-ups. We arrived in Paris the following morning, too early to check into our hotel.

I was desperate to find a bathroom to wash away the stench from a night spent on the bus. We had a busy day planned so I rallied. I was in Paris after all.

I settled for the self-cleaning portable public toilet. I dropped my coins into the slot, stepped in, washed, brushed, and reapplied my makeup. Renewed but tired I pushed open the door to exit but noticed my make-up bag sitting on sink and stepped back in with the door closing behind me. The door snapped shut and held me hostage for several minutes. How was I to know the portable toilets are self-cleaning?  In seconds, water was shooting at me from all sides. I got my shower after all.

I spent the day smelling of toilet bowl cleaner, fresh and tangy. What man could resist me?  Turns out it was most of the population of Paris.  Even my husband struggled.  There was no time to open my luggage—the driver refused to dig it out—since we had a schedule to keep. We sped around Paris stopping for pictures before getting back on the bus to resume our sight-blur-tour.

I desperately wanted to embrace the moment, overcome my lack of sleep, my tangy Paris eau de toilette, and enjoy the day despite feeling like something thing the cat upchucked on the carpet.  I struggled to hold on to the passion the city evokes in any aspiring artist, but my shoes we’re squeaking from over saturation, my hair was matted and looked as if I had massaged an entire bottle of dippy-due into my locks.  I was quietly miserable.

I couldn’t wait to check into our hotel, shower, and nap before the dinner cruise down the Seine.   In one of the thirty stops we made, I managed to swallow glasses of wine, eat bread and cheese.  Sustenance can remedy the darkest of moods.  I noticed my husband stopping at every bakery and confectioner along the way, usually so.

It was finally time to make our way to the hotel.  To our horror, it was seventy-miles outside of town.  By the time we arrived there was no time for napping, even bathing was discouraged. We had thirty minutes to disembark, check in, and drop our bags before the bus headed back to Paris.  I was as close to the edge a woman should be allowed to get before being considered dangerous, armed, and close to erupting.  It was almost forty-eight hours since I had slept and my mood was blacker than tar.

My husband sensing the shift in me suggested we stay in for the night.  He lobbied we should buy a couple bottles of wine, a baguette and some cheese, at the market across from the hotel. It will be romantic to dine in our room, just the two of us.. no sense in rushing to board the bus. It wasn’t perfect, but I was outside of Paris, so I rallied.

It had been raining in the country—where we were staying—so the walk to the market required we step around the puddles peppered either side of the potholed motorway. My husband keen to make it a good night sidestepped my mood as gracefully as he did the pools of rainwater. I was less mindful of the ground, lost my footing and fell into a pool of muddy water. I laid face down in a foot of muddy water unable to pick myself up because my calve-length wool coat absorbed both mud and water like a sponge.  When the husband finally managed to pry me from near death by drowning, I emerged coughing up mud and speaking in tongues. Who knew I was multi-lingual?  I was drenched, and possessed by exhaustion.

I walked through the store covered in mud spewing angry words in American-French, alternating between crying and laughing fits, mild hysteria.  Adding to my fresh Paris eau de toilette allure was the mud dripping from my hair, face, clothes, as we walked up and down the aisles of the super market with me leaving a trail and trying to avoid eye contact with the country Parisians.

Back in the room, showered and numb from the wine, we toasted Valentine’s Day, hoping the following day would be better. It wasn’t.

We’re still married.  Shocking.


Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want (romantic or not)?




I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

60 thoughts on “Paris on Valentine’s Day

  1. k~

    Well Brenda, I don’t think I can top that for a romantic get away gone awry. You certainly had your share of (clears her throat) moistened moments. Who would have known that things like that could happen in Paris. I’ve never been, but I won’t be believing any of those bright city lights, sweet sails down the river stories I have seen now… I am wiser, vicariously, by having shared a part of your journey with you.

    (mutters… hmmm) “A gift I didn’t want”… I’m sure I have, though right at this moment I cannot think of what it might have been. Danged I have gotten good at selective memory! 😉

    Thanks for sharing an interesting adventure!

    • K- what is life but a little fun, even if it means showers in toilets and falling into a puddle of muddy French water. It’s a funny story and is one the husband shares all the time. He gets a kick out of telling it, especially after a couple glasses of vino.

  2. You should have warned us from the get-go not to read on a full bladder. I almost ended up as saturated as you, only without that tangy freshness.

    OMG, what a wonderful, wonderful story. When I go to Paris (as I will, someday) I now know to approach said public toilets with caution.

    I’m guessing almost all V-day’s forward have been better, even if they *weren’t* in Paris.

    • .. Sorry about that Bev, it was intended to be funny (and we do laugh about it now.. I mean, it’s a funny story even if I am the butt of the joke). I have never been back .. can’t seem to work up the courage. :-)

  3. Girl, I held it together until the part about you slipping in the puddle of mud, then I lost it! ;p Often it’s times like those that are as precious as the perfect dates–in hindsight, of course! Thanks for sharing this and here’s to many more (and smoother) Valentine’s Days to come!

    • Adriene – We’ve had quite the ride in terms of unusual adventures. I am glad you laughed, it was intended to amuse. I so wish we had pictures, but then again if he tired taking a snap of me day he might not have survived.

  4. pamela bono

    I can imagine your facial expressions were priceless! Remeber Steve? Back when… He gave me a clown statue for V day……..Need I say more………..

  5. Thank you for the best laugh I had all day! This was stupendous and told in such a delightful fashion one couldn’t help but snort at the same time as belly laughing! Now I’m confused about your love life though. I thought you divorced the Brit. Perhaps you could enlighten me…

    • Still married to the Brit.. I am a hopeless romantic and I am the sort of writer that taps into this place inside of me. I am so glad you had a good laugh.

  6. That is hysterically funny! I have lost my desire to see the city of the mud holes now. I shall, however, one day visit Ireland and I really want to see London. Is it safe there? LOL

  7. Hi, Brenda! ~

    Although, I don’t have a new post up yet, there were a few writers who I thought I couldn’t miss on V-day, and you are one!

    First of all, I am shocked to learn you are married! How funny, that changes my perception of you entirely — haha!

    Second, beautiful and hilarious story! It sounds horrifying and like an experience that only a storyteller could truly appreciate in the moment, knowing it will make a great story later on! hahahahaah!

    • Hi Linda.. Married or not, I am the same person but more importantly, the same writer. :-) It was a heck of a weekend. I was never so happy to get off the bus after the weekend. I am glad you enjoyed reading because it was a fun to write. I couldn’t miss posting today.

  8. June O'Hara

    Fresh and tangy, eau de toilette…LOL!!! Nightmare on the Seine. I felt so sorry for you reading this! You handled it better than I would have. Thanks for telling the story, I was totally entertained by your tribulations. :)

  9. That is the best story ever! If it had all gone well, it would not be nearly as memorable! Point of order – I would have done great harm to the driver who refused to dig out the luggage after the “spraying” incident. Thanks for my Valentine’s Day humor!

  10. Oh what a hoot :)
    I had a clear image of this story the whole way. Poor you! And how many Parisien women gave you their famous once-over look???
    It’s stories like these though … loved it.
    Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your man!!

    • Many thanks, Astra. Oh my goodness, you should have seen the looks I had that day. Of course, being an American didn’t add to my cause. They disdain was dripping down me along with my mud.

  11. Paris on a Shoestring? That’s almost an oxymoron. So funny, I would have thought a Brit would know better, this sounds more like the kind of thing my fellow Kiwi brethren would do. I hope you said no to anything on a shoestring after that episode.

    But thank you so much for the laughs (pl.), not so at the time I am sure, but I hope you toast the memory with a few laughs down memory lane tonight! I might just have to toast you myself now, its 7pm here and I’m feeling thirsty.

    Happy Valentines Day Brenda!

    • Clarie – to this day when we talk about I always ask him, “what were you thinking when you booked a trip for 175.00”, he cautiously replies, “I hit my head….?” It is very Kiwi-ish to travel on a dime. And please laugh away, we did this weekend after I wrote it. I hope your day was nice.

  12. Brenda, you made me spew my coffee with this one! How utterly dreadful! I was a little curious what you would be getting for $175 or so in Paris. I was pretty sure you weren’t talking “George V” here. Men do weird things.

    On my first trip to Europe, my husband thought we should fly in and our of Heathrow which was fine with me. We’d spend one night in London and then go on the train to Paris. We had no reservations in London though. So my husband got a “recommendation” from a cab driver. We went to a seedy looking place in a sections called “Earls Court” and the place was rocking with Russian Mafia guys or something similar. I sat in the depressing room and looked out at the view of a brick wall out the window. Oy vey! The price was right though. We still laugh about our night in Earl’s Court.

    • Oh, Linda…at least you had a good laugh (coffee spewing aside). We were newly married and he hadn’t quite figured me out yet, is my assumption. While I am not of royal lineage I do fancy myself a royal. He never booked ‘a deal’ trip again for fear of being chucked overboard. Earl’s Court is dodging.

  13. Wow, what a story! I had several travel disasters flash through my brain as I read it. Once I thought it would be cool to try steak tartare in Paris on the night before we returned home. Let’s just say that I didn’t think I was going to make it onto the plane. Then there was the apartment in Avignon where the eyes of the Jesus painting on the wall seemed to follow us everywhere we went…and that was one of the better aspects of the apartment.

    As others have already said, the good news is that we have plenty of stories to laugh about — later, as the horror dissipates!

    • Nadine – That is too freaky, those eyes following you everywhere. It is always good to have tales of horror to share with others. What I am enjoying is finding others have their own tales to share. Seems like best laid plans can go astray.

  14. Oh my, what a trip for the record books!! I am sure you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the time, but like most things in life the retelling was nothing short of hilarious!! On the bright side, you were together and you survived which is nothing short of miraculous after your little shower of horror in the toilet.

    Happy Valentines Day!!


    • Kathy, you’re spot on. It wasn’t funny in the moment but ever since, we always laugh about it. It’s one of those moments that you aren’t sure really happened or maybe it was just a bad dream. I’ll have to write about a trip we took to Madrid..

  15. LOLOLOLOL oh sweetheart……..i felt i was with you on that bus and then the bathroom/toilet spewing “clean” on you…..LOL omy GAWD i think you should write this adventure in paperback form!! You are an amazing writer..

  16. Oh Brenda,
    Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m sure it was horrific at the time, but the story is hysterical…you either have to laugh about it or cry about it but the events were surely memorable! We will be in Paris this summer for our 20th anniversary. I’ve never been, hopefully we don’t reenact those events. Thanks for the bathroom tip!


    • Anna – I’ve been thinking about you. Hope all is well. And yes, it is funny now (clearly) but the moment in the bathroom and then much later falling into the mud… not my crowning moments. And to think, I had ballet lessons.

  17. What a hilarious love story! But you know what they say, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sounds like it was the trip of a lifetime. Maybe you can relive it for your 50th! :)
    Happy Valentine’s Day, dear Brenda!

    • Oh I don’t, Monica.. I fancy myself footloose and fancy free living in a villa in Barcelona living the writer life and having men servants, a makeup artist and someone to cook and clean.

  18. Oh my goodness, Brenda! Indeed, what a nightmare! Thank God you were finally able to enjoy a hot shower and glass of wine back at the hotel! I’ve heard of the self-cleaning toilets in Paris. Fortunately, I’ve never had your drenching experience! The visual, not your bad luck mind you, made me chuckle! Think of it this way, what wonderful tales you’ll have to recount to your grandchildren some day! I didn’t know you were still married to your British husband! Does he still have his accent? :)

    • Hi Bella, I am glad you chuckled. It made me laugh writing it. I don’t hear his accent, but then again my ears of deaf to the British accent now. Yes he does still have it. (and yes, a nightmare way back when, but as with most things in life, after some time, the nightmare usually becomes funny. Yes?

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