In early June of 2009, Daniel and I quit jobs/graduated and headed off for two month of adventure before settling into graduate school/work/life. After spending a few days in London, our next stop was Paris, where we Couchsurfed with a kind family just outside the city. They had one little 5-year-old girl who didn’t speak or understand a lick of English, and they were hoping that hosting various Couchsurfers would help her learn.
On the Saturday night of our stay, our host dad offered to take us on a nighttime driving tour of Paris. He was a former firefighter, and knew the streets upside down and backwards. He zipped in and out of traffic, coming centimeters from scraping adjacent vehicles; it’s the only time in my life I can recall keeping my eyes squeezed tight for minutes at a time for fear of what I’d see if I opened them. Still, it was incredible, as he zoomed about the city, showing us monuments twinkling in the dark, and arriving at the Tour Eiffel exactly on the hour, just as it began to sparkle.
We returned home late, and had to cajole ourselves out of bed the next morning, mentioning briefly as we headed out the door that it was my birthday. We managed to get up and out to church, then spent the rest of the day strolling Montmartre in the warm drizzle, huddled under a too-small and too-weak umbrella. We enjoyed a delightful lunch and tried to keep our shoes dry in the damp Parisian metro. We eventually made our way back to our hosts’ flat in time for dinner, to which they’d invited us.
We ate and chatted, them in their halting English and me trying to practice a bit of my stiff-from-underuse French. We finished up with fromage, and sat relaxing in the twilight. Our host mom rose to clear dishes and beckoned to her husband, who returned, bearing a beautiful, flickering cake. They began singing, the jauntiest mish-mosh of “Happy birthday” and “Joyeux anniversaire” to conclude one of the sweetest birthdays I remember.