We never did get his name.
He was compact, stocky, mid-40s and a man who loved to talk. He drove a newer-model Mercedes taxi with a big crack on the driver’s side windshield.
He started talking to us just as we drove away from the Mercure hotel, a half-mile from Charles de Gaulle Airport, where we had dropped off our rental car the night before. He didn’t stop conversing until he dropped us off in the St-Germain-des-Presneighborhood 55 minutes later.
In between, he drove, mostly with his knees, as his hands were busy with mid-air exclamations. And as we crawled through Paris’ streets, he borrowed Kathy’s map to zero in on the location of our little hotel.
Interacting with us, his passengers, however, he was always attentive. He spoke slowly and only in French, gently correcting our mistakes. After he learned that we loved Paris, he was a font of information.
“When you retire you should buy an apartment in Paris,” he said. “A little one. A studio.” We could rent it when we are away, he said, and always have a place to stay for free on our visits.
We might consider buying in the 17th arrondissement, he suggested as we drove through it, a lovely neighborhood but not quite as expensive as some. And we should use the Internet, he counseled, not the realtors who surely would take too large a cut.
He encouraged us to rent boats on the Seine at Pont Neuf rather than the Eiffel Tower, where they are more expensive. And, he said, we must spend an evening inMontmartre and another along the Seine, where the right-bank summer “plage,” or beach, attracts families and lovers who picnic and enjoy free music there.
As we passed a chic district near the Place de la Concorde he told us that this was the place to buy unique watches — at a very high price.
“My wife said she wanted one,” he joked. “I told her sure. All I have to do is sell my car.”
He drove 11 hours each day, he said, but the time passed quickly because he loved to talk to passengers. We surely loved talking to him. Our €51 fare wasn’t cheap. But then, neither is an hour of conversational French in the States, and on this drive we got that thrown in for free.
For those who rag against Parisians as rude and impatient people, remember this lovely cab driver. I grew up in and around New York City, a place for which the same stereotypes persist.
My advice: Regardless of where you are traveling, show an interest in the place and the people with whom you are talking. They will often surprise you by responding in kind.
This blog appeared first in the Huffington Post