Article and Images by Linda Beaudry Condrillo
The day I had planned to photograph the Eiffel Tower, it was raining. To make matters worse, I overslept, misplaced my hotel key, and was feeling the effects of too much wine from the night before.
I was on my fourth trip to Paris in seven years and this time, I was alone. I can’t explain my addiction to Paris, only that I have it. I had been hanging out in cyberspace long enough with others of a like mind-set, and since my husband decided he would not be joining me on this excursion, I began spending even more time on a Paris travel message board and coordinated the timing of my trip with a few other Francophiles. Well meaning friends and family half worried and half joked if I’d return at all. I reassured them that meeting up with other “message boardies” was practically customary in this new age of the Internet, and off I went.
To this day, I’m still not sure what happened (but I think it might have had something to do with too much wine), just three days into the trip and after exactly one dinner and one luncheon, any further plans with the message boardies fizzled. The funny part is, I was just as happy to continue on my merry solo way.
Lucky for me, I still had one more date with a new found cyber-pal, Barbara – a journalist and friend of another message boardie who lived in Paris – who I had arranged to give me a private photo tour. In an email exchange, we had agreed to meet at 9 o’clock, and if I was going to be anywhere fashionably late, I had to book it.
I found my lost hotel key, grabbed my umbrella and backpack, and headed for the metro. I was determined not be ditched, unintentionally of course, yet again.
I was still running about ten minutes late and nervous that Barbara might have given up on waiting for me, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a woman, obviously looking for someone else, at the entrance.
“Barbara?” I said, “I’m Linda.” And then, pronouncing every letter in my awful French, “Je suis retard!” Barbara instantly got my well intentioned double entendre – and everything else about me. In less than sixty seconds, I felt as if I had known her forever. It was as if she were all my best friends all in one person, and on the trip with me after all.
The new found great company did wonders. I hardly noticed the blustery conditions, but Barbara had a hacking cough and at times, the wind was practically unbearable. After a quick stop to a drug store for some cough drops, we were on our way to the base of La Tour Eiffel, where it always seems to be especially windy.
I remembered smuggling an airline blanket into my backpack and offered it to Barbara. Draping it over her head and around her neck, she looked as only women in Paris can look wearing an airline blanket – as if it were the latest in haute couture. Laughing, walking, and coughing, we moved on to the base of the tower.
My plan was to capture the lattice work of the tower in black and white. I was using a borrowed 35 mm SLR which I had never used before. My plans to read the instruction manual on the flight over were thwarted by Ambien, so it was a long shot that I’d get even get one good photo out of the roll. I did the best I could, walking around the base, looking up, positioning the camera in every possible angle, praying the automatic feature would save me.
Someone once told me that if you get only one photo that you absolutely loved on one roll, you should consider yourself lucky. In my dreams, I imagined all my photos on display in a gallery. I shot away.
I also wanted to get a picture of the entire tower – which is not easy to do when you are standing directly under it. Finally, Barbara’s cough took its toll, so we rested awhile on a bench. And that’s when she suggested I lie down, aim and shoot the tower straight up. Not caring whether or not I looked like a complete fool or a tourist, I went for it, and then, nearly fell off of the bench. That was the last photo I took of the tower, and all I ever needed to. The laughing and coughing continued, and we went on to lunch. Dinner followed the next night and here we are, a couple years later, tons of emails, until we meet again.
And my photos? Much to my surprise, nearly every single one was a keeper. I framed almost all of them and opened my gallery–in my bathroom. But the best part of my trip was making a friend for life. Now that’s what I call luck.
A columnist at www.SanityCentral.com (“Moms Always Write”), Linda Beaudry Condrillo has recently left her “real” job at an insane asylum disguising itself as a law firm to pursue freelance journalism and continue feature writing for her local newspaper. A self-professed “Desperate Scrapbooker,” Linda also fancies herself a fauxtographer who can’t wait to take her next “business” trip to Paris to get some more shots. She resides in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband, two children, and dog — the latter being the most well behaved. If you have a plum writing assignment for Linda, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article and Images Copyright © 2003 Linda Beaudry Condrillo. All Rights Reserved.