Paris is burning! Or rather, they are the blood vessels of the waiters, the hotel staff and the taxi drivers: the people who keep this city moving, who have to deal with the universal irritation of a mass influx of tourists who have resumed their travel plans. Grand Tours. They run phones with LeFork restaurant reservations, Yelp reviews, and plotted itineraries. If real mishap or human error gets in the way, then hell has no fury like a hungry traveler.
I’ve been here for a week for the couture shows where big dresses, mega jewelery and Covid era surgeries of super rich clients are on display. But on the high-octane fashion side, everywhere I’ve been in Paris, I’ve met The White Lotus characters in different settings, which shows how direct Mike White’s writing is.
I’ve seen Tanya (played by Jennifer Coolidge) emotionally shattered at the entrance to the hotel spa, begging for a massage. She wanted to comment that a hastily built makeshift spa in the basement of an urban Paris boutique hotel won’t give her the soothing relief she craves. But no, right now this woman wanted hands of any kind to treat her back, and she would twist the hearts of the spa staff to get her way.
I have witnessed an obnoxious Shane-like character at the hotel front desk zooming in on a reservation. com on his phone and be utterly confused as to why the reality of his room doesn’t match the clearly digitally manipulated image. “But here he says it’s 24 square meters and I’m an architect and I can tell you the dimensions of the room don’t really add up.” Dude, the only thing that doesn’t add up is the fact that you took the time to walk into a room and analyze whether or not it was 250 square feet. I felt so sorry for his partner, clearly embarrassed, standing there shyly and potentially wondering if she had made a mistake by coming to Paris with a man who mentally sorts rooms.
There are the characters from ‘Karen’, who must have had visions of a city filled only with croissants and preserves in wicker shopping baskets, but instead stumbled upon a Japanese bakery in the second, wondering why everything had matcha and where were the palm trees and were the cupcakes. She wanted to come to the defense of the wonderful Aki boulangerie (four words: matcha melon cream sore) and her lovely staff as Karen huffed and puffed about the “weirdness” of the pastry on offer.
Last week I talked about London’s baggage problems. It turns out that most of the destination cities are hectic after Covid and people are exhausted. The patience of both sides is wearing thin. As tensions rise, sad/red-faced visitors lament the lack of service and the people who do their bidding are often newcomers learning the ropes and just trying to keep the peace. They are fresh-faced waiters. Young guns trying to work with hotel room key card. The new Uber drivers play French hip-hop and don’t drop you exactly where you want. His predecessors quit and left, probably so they wouldn’t have to deal with the Shanes and Tanyas of this world. So tourists are forced to brave the heat and dashed Christmas hopes. They will scream on Yelp and leave one star reviews. They will use loud and slow English to make their voices heard. Nobody is immune. The summer of tense and concise travel doesn’t seem like it’s going to let up, but let’s do like Quinn Mossbacher, get in the proverbial canoe and off we go.