Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Colonel Mustard

There is a vast array of venues in Paris to get suitably tipsy in. You can choose from cafes and bars, which serve a variety of drinks and snacks, bistros which are small bars often family-run, serving local and traditional dishes and brasseries, which are usually larger and noisier. Last Friday night I found myself at the Brasserie Triadou Haussmann, or so the Police report reads.

One of the members of my soon to be new triathlon club (Expatriés Triathlon Club) invited me out for a drink and a bite to eat, which I gladly accepted. We thought we’d start the evening with an apéritif.  While the usual meaning of a before dinner drink applies to apéritifs here in France, including the standard selection of pastis and bitters, it generally means any type of alcoholic drink before dinner.

The brilliant thing about having a drink in Paris at any one of the establishments above, is that they always serve your drink with some type of small nibbles.  It may be chips on the lower end of the scale or marinated olives at the top end. At the Brasserie Triadou Hausmann it is salted popcorn – nice!

So there I was telling my new acquaintance about the story of my allegedly gay midget (I mean little person) neighbour back in St Kilda East, who one night came home drunk as skunk, having lost his keys to his apartment, he repeatedly kept locking himself out from our security door to our building, constantly buzzing my apartment for me to let him in. My patience had worn thin by the third time in the middle of the night and so I ignored his tiny pleas outside my window. This was of course a totally appropriate story to be telling someone on your first night out with them. It was during this engrossing tale that the lights in the Brasserie all went out and the Friday night revellers were all silenced.

This is interesting I’m thinking. Reminds me of Cluedo – it was Colonel Mustard in the Study with the iron pipe. Perhaps it was more like Garson, with the baguette in the bistro. All French establishments have some element of red velvet, dark wood, gold railings, mirrors and little lamp shade lighting...but now it was all black.

Bang, then the lights came on, and the golden hue of the Brasserie returned – damn, not fun. After our second helping of popcorn (the French sometimes don’t even get through the nibbles – how could you not??), we decide to head off to our next venue. I reach for my handbag which is hanging on the back of my chair, to get my wallet...I’m reaching...I’m reaching, I turn around, where is it? OMG, WHERE IS MY HANDBAG!?!?

I leap from my chair. Where has it gone? My heart is racing as it continues to sink further and further into my chest. It’s gone! My friend insists that it must be here. I look under tables. My friend starts speaking super fast French asking all the patrons around us if they had seen my handbag. Nope! Not really interested they were. We tell the, not overly concerned. French people barely fain interest in ensuing public dramas. If that had been Melbourne, the whole restaurant would’ve been searching for my bag...ok probably not....but they would’ve watched intently as I went into panic mode and start to recall the contents of my bag – wallet, credit cards, iPhone, camera, PASSPORT....and oh shit, my apartment keys!

Suddenly a nearby lone diner in his late 50’s looks up from his crème brule and says that he saw two men with ‘dreadlocks’ come into the restaurant, walk past our table then turn around and walk out. He thought it was strange.

We exit  the Brasserie and my interpreter is asking every possible soul which way, if any, did they see the men with the dreadlocks go. No one has seen them. We start searching the nearby bins, between parked cars and little construction sites to see if they have tossed my bag. Walking around without the weight of my handbag on my left shoulder I feel naked in a city I barely know.

Making our way towards the large train Cluedo detective skills suggest that they would have gone this way, we come across some policeman. Police here are organised into various levels. We happened to stumble upon the Gendarmerie Nationale.  The Gendarmerie Nationale are part of the army and are dressed in army fatigues which are all dark blue. They deal with serious crime on a national scale and general law and order predominately in rural areas.

“A serious crime has occurred”, we announce as we approach. My friend explains the scene and the assailants, no register of concern from the Gendarmerie, we go on to explain that I’ve only been in the city for a week and a half, ah-huh, what kind of bag was it one asks, “Prada” I say. (*insert French accent here) “Hroh, hroh, hrof, ho!” one of them mocks, forget it, you’re never going to see it again.They tell us to go to the train station where there is a Police Nationale office and they deal with crime within the jurisdiction of the police station.

At this point I’m in recover mode – right, police report, then cancel credit cards, block am I going to get into my apartment??? Oh I feel sorry for my former alledgedly gay midget neighbour now. Wait...I put my spare apartment key in my draw at work – bonus! Clever cookie. Just need to call my colleague to meet me at work.

Now of course, this is when my administrative living nightmare begins. I can’t make a police report without ID...ummm, it was stolen! Ok, not a problem, I’ll come back tomorrow with a photocopy of my passpart that I have at home...once I get in. Still can’t make a report, when I eventually return the next day. I need the serial number of my phone. What? Who thinks to record this information? I start to huff and puff and begin to launch into the Australian “This is ridiculous” speech and then realise how futile it would I give up and go and regroup with a coffee and contact Telstra (thank goodness for 24/7 customer service numbers and my friend’s phone) and retrieve my serial number.

And I won’t even go into the hassle of trying to buy a new iPhone...with 5 attempts at various stores, interpreter in toe, I am still without a phone. Hopefully by the weekend I was told by Abdul the Orange sales representative, they are sure to get some in. He goes to check. Then comes back and says that maybe they might get some in...maybe, everything is either maybe or “Impossible” here.

Oh and if you ever lose your Australian passport in an EU country, the Embassy is going to slug you 75 as a penalty, then another 75 for a temporary passport which is only valid for 7 months. Of course I need to apply for a permanent passport whilst I’m here in order to continue travelling (a lot of countries don’t let you into the country if the validity is 6 months or less) which will be another 165 thanks!

So in the end, it was the Rastafarians, in the brasserie, with the Prada handbag.

C’est la vie!


  1. OM goodness Talz did you find it??? Did you get things back???? My link to the blog stops as you leave the cafe!!! Eliza

  2. When I read "or so the Police report reads" I laughed heartily at what I thought was going to be a story of drunken hilarity. Turns out not so funny.

    I have always been suspicious of men with long, unkempt hair.

  3. Sorry to hear but great reading!! Jools

  4. What an experience Talz!! I hope your next adventure is less sinister! Dina

  5. the one and only JulieTFebruary 1, 2011 at 3:11 AM

    forget stolen handbags......I think my ID has been stolen..who the heck is juliet??

    I'm visualising similar look on your face like when you lost your exam you had been working on for 2 days last year. The silent sobbing from your desk I will always remember.

    Julie Tribe (the original and only JulieT