Mendoza: Le Tu Effe

All Write

IT WAS also in 1982 that I first set foot in Paris.

While New York is the city that doesn’t sleep, Paris is the city of romance.

While Frank Sinatra immortalized New York with his song that has the classic first line, “Start spreading the news,” Humphrey Bogart countered with his “We will always have Paris” as his way of cementing his eternal love for Ingrid Bergman in the deathless film, “Casablanca.”

As I said here the last time out, I was covering the 25th Chess Olympics in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1982. After the event came the chance for me to fly to New York.

But since my Sabena Airlines ticket sold for a bargain, I was required to depart from Brussels, Belgium, for New York, four days after the Lucerne chessfest.

That’s when I decided to first visit Paris before flying to New York. Indeed, the Eiffel Tower beckoned.

Fortunately for me, I secured my visa to France in Geneva, Switzerland, glitch-free—thanks to a consular officer who was candid enough to admit that she wouldn’t miss “this rare opportunity” to extend a helping hand to a journalist “from faraway Philippines.” Sure enough, my visa was processed with the speed of lightning.

From Lucerne, I boarded a train for Brussels, where I finalized my flight details to New York. Kinda weird, this trip to the Big Apple, because for me to get back to Manila from New York, I still need to fly back to Brussels. Down with budget fares!

I reached Paris at about midnight. I tried to sleep at the railway station but a cop stopped me. Hailing a cab, I ended up in a restaurant open 24 hours. Lucky for me, it specialized in pig knuckles.

At the break of dawn, I told my non-English speaking cabbie (he adored pork, and whom I convinced to stick to me—for a fee) to bring me to Eiffel Tower.

Alas, he couldn’t understand me. Finally, with the restaurant manager’s help, he did.

“Ah, Le Tu Effe, monsieur,” he said, referring to the Eiffel Tower.

I stood only for a few minutes beside Le Tu Effe before I told my cabbie to drive me quick to the train station on my way back to Brussels.

Mission accomplished.


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