Author: Shameelah Cassim
Date of Trip: September 2012
The travel bug had bit me hard some two years ago. I had made two trips to Italy in six months and so, itching to travel again, I planned, booked and finally got on a plane to….. France, which was not on my immediate list of must-see places. But there I was, flying on Emirates via Dubai to Paris. Yes, some would say but why such an excrutiatingly long flight when you could have arrived in Paris in a much shorter time and direct from Cape Town. Well, I like flying, I like catching up on movies and I like to keep things simple; and simple in this case was being able to eat anything and everything I was served on the Emirates flights because the meals are halal.
I can ‘hear’ you wondering: That if France was not on my list, why was I headed there? The answer is simple. Years ago I watched a taped show of Chico & the Gypsies over and over again until the old VHS tape was . . . well ruined. It wasn’t until January 2012 that I thought about them again and their lively energetic music. I’m a “shift-expectations-5th-dimension” kind of person: in other words, I listen to my soul. And my soul was telling me to listen to gypsy music to lift my spirits. I became so enthralled by their music again that I decided to Google and find out more about them. By the time I arrived in Paris, I knew I would recognize each member of the group if I were to bump into them. I say this lightly now and with a giggle because low and behold, I found myself on my first morning in Paris in the same hotel as Jahloul ‘Chico’ Bouchikhi, front man for the new group and one of the founder memebers of the original Gypsy Kings! Now, my travel plans included a TGV train trip to the south of France; Arles to be exact, the home-town of Chico & the Gypsies. And why would I go there? To catch a dinner-show of the very same gypsy music that had captivated me all year long; at Chico’s place: Hacienda de Chico. They say if you think about something long enough, your very thoughts can bring the dream to reality. I told Chico of my passion for their music and that I was headed to Arles on the weekend. Before I knew it I was with the Gypsies at a recording studio in Paris where they were taping a 20th anniversary celebration show that was aired on TV that weekend.
But back to Paris. I find it useful to check into different hotels if I plan to be in a city for an extended time. That way I can walk from my hotel directly to the sights I want to see. No hassle of taking the wrong bus, being held up in traffic and best of all, no extra transport costs. So first I stayed at a hotel near Gare de Lyon so that it was a short walk to the station on the Saturday morning to catch my TGV train to Arles. Deciding to return to Paris a day earlier than I had planned I had to find a hotel for that extra night as the one I was going to on the following day couldn’t accommodate me for the extra day. And that is how I landed up in one of Paris’s most expensive hotels for one night: The Royal Saint Honore. But it was well worth the price I paid because I was treated like royalty, up until the moment I checked out and searching for the taxi I had ordered to take me to my next hotel in Montmarte, found…..no taxi! However, since I was royalty after all, the reason I was standing on the curb with my suitcase sans taxi, was that the concierge felt it only fitting that royalty should travel from the Hotel Royal Saint Honore in their limousine. And from that moment I had only one word for France: Efficient!
PS. I am returning to Arles, France in February 2013, God-willing.