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Kicking It: A month in Paris, Day 10

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

Oct. 11, Thursday: We like to do one big thing per day, two if the weather holds. Today our strategy is to visit the Museum de’ l'Orangerie at the place de la Concorde in the jardin des Tuileries to see Monet’s famous water lilies.

But before we take off, we’ll need to find an ATM. Oh wait, there is still some cash-on-hand. Except now that we’re talking about it, I can’t remember where I put it. Not to panic, we start to search the places I might have hidden 900 euros. Thirty minutes later, it is time to panic.

That’s when I email the apartment’s owner to ask her if someone might have an extra key? Madame Cirelli is horrified by the thought. We keep looking. Tired of searching, I pause to make lunch and that’s when the stash appears.

Apparently, trying to out-think a thief, I put the money bag behind some cooking pots in one of the kitchen cupboards. Embarrassed and contrite, I immediately emailed our landlady.

VJ takes 300 euros out to buy our second set of museum passes and to have some extra cash. I grab a hundred. We’ll buy the second set of passes at the museum as we head over to see those famous water lilies.

The jardin des Tuileries, once a grand palace built by Catherine de Medici in 1564, was burned to the ground during the Revolution. Today it’s an open mass of green outlined by trees with cubed canopies. It would seem Edward Scissorhands snipped them into bonnets.

To our delight, in addition to Monet’s lilies, this small museum houses paintings by many of the finest Impressionists of the early 20th century. Not just the recognizable names like Renoir, Sisely, Utrillo, Picasso, Cézanne, and Matisse, there is a display dedicated to Chaim Soutine.

Even so, we’ve come to see the real treasure below stairs in the rotunda gallery. Claude Monet’s famous water lilies are stretched along curved walls taking advantage of the natural sunlight. It is said that is the way Monet imagined them to be displayed. All I know is they are magnificent. I take a seat to catch my breath. One wonders why there is an unexplainable mauve luster above the lily ponds?

With enough daylight left, we ask for directions to the nearest metro station. We’re going to cross town and visit the Musee de Musique.

Hurrying along, we make it down the Metro steps just as our subway pulls in. Like sheep, we squeeze through the frenzy in time to grab on to a pole as we surge forward. Packed in tightly with strangers, I can’t tell VJ to put his hand in his front jean pocket.

The crowd clears out a bit at the next stop. That is when a pretty girl in her mid-twenties steps in and stands right in front of VJ. She reaches around him to grab on to our same pole. She smiles up at him. He smiles back. The train rockets off. At the next stop, the same pretty girl smiles at VJ again just as he gets bumped from behind. With another smile up at him, she and her very large shoulder bag, twirl and step out to the platform.

In slow motion, yet in reflection, the blink of a cat’s eye, a black wallet comes flipping back through the open doors and lands on the top step, perfectly timed as they close. Stunned by witnessing a flying wallet, we glance at two men staring back at us. There we are, four adults staring at each other. Blink. Looking back and forth. Blink. Then back down at the wallet. Blink. Then back at each other. Charlie Chaplin could not have directed this scene better.

The flying wallet lands in front of the businessmen’s feet leaning against the half rail on the top step inside the subway’s bi-fold doors. They look at us. We look back at them. With a shrug, one of them asks, “Is this your wallet”?

“No,” says I, with a shrug.

VJ says “Mine is in my front pock…'' just as one of the men picks it up to reveal VJ’s California driver’s license.

Never a pick-pocket victim before, it takes a few beats to realize what just happened. Reclaiming his wallet, VJ figures she got about 120 euros. Thinking about it later, we figure there wasn’t enough time before the doors closed to remove all of the money, the credit cards, and return the wallet. Besides, if the pretty twenty-something girl taking the wallet gets stopped by metro police, she would be hard pressed to explain a wallet monogrammed with someone else’s initials. No doubt, today is not her first day on the job.

In reflection, it’s when VJ was bumped was when his wallet was lifted. That flirty smile from that pretty twenty-something girl was a ruse.

The moral to the story is when a pretty twenty-something girl smiles at a sixty-year-old man, mischief is bound to follow.

As far as I am concerned, the laugh is on her. After all, even a used Louis Vuitton men’s wallet is worth more than the cash she took. Bottom line, I’m glad he got it back; after all, it was his wedding gift from me.

To be continued.

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].


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