One week earlier around this time, I was standing under the arch at Rue de Rivoli. While having une cigarette, I tried to resist the scent of caramel biscuits from La Cure Gourmande at the corner. Captivated by my sense, I watched the sun going down behind the Tuileries gardens. Three hours before my splendides vues sur I went through the most horrible ‘Taken’ reboot you could ever imagine. This is where the cigarette comes into play…
I arrived at Gare du Nord and immediately started searching for the taxi signs as if I was stung by an adder. It’s been two years since I’ve visited Paris the last time. Things were different I didn’t have to worry about getting lost with my man by my side.
After passing by drivers holding up signs with ‘Dior’ and ‘Balenciaga’ written on them, I made my walk of shame out of the station. Finally, I have spotted the taxi queue, which was longer than any London Airport check-in queue I could recall.
Suddenly a man came over: “Moped taxi, Madame?”. I don’t speak french which is a shame, but I could easily put one and one together. “No, no thank you”, I said. “Why? I got everything. Helmet for you and jacket. We are very fast!”, he explained. No way, I would get on a moped with my trolley and a stranger. So he started swearing in french and went away.
It didn’t take long until the next man spotted the victim in me: “I speak English. You are looking for a taxi?”, he said. “Yes! I need to get to Rue de Rivoli”, I said. “Oui, no problem. Follow me!”, he replied, grabbed my trolley and made his way to the elevator. All alarm bells in my head were ringing. It drives me mad if a stranger grabs my luggage: “Stop, can I carry my luggage please!”, I said. My heart was beating extremely fast. I asked him again, ‘What taxi’ he meant. Wordless, while shaking his head, he pointed to the taxi sign in the elevator that said -1. He was laughing at me, but I didn’t care. I felt relieved but a bit awkward for my reaction.
We got to the car, a pretty posh BMW. It bugged me that this super private ‘limousine’ didn’t have a taxi sign on it. Don’t ask me why, but I trusted the signs in the elevator and the fact that there were other taxis parking around. So, I got in the car.
“Rue de Rivoli, please”, I said.
I switched on Data Roaming, in case something would happen to me, my husband and friends could track me down. Guess what, it didn’t work. ‘Fu**’, why do things like that always happen to me? However, twenty minutes later we were still cruising around the city of love. “Paris Fashion Week, very busy traffic!”, he said with an angry mien in his face. With a crooked smile, I replied: “Haha. Yes, that is true.” I made it my mission to keep the mood up in the car. At least, he shouldn’t recognise that I was bloody nervous. What the hell did you do Bella? OMG.
One failed message after the other. I tried to text K. and my girl bosses: “I’m in a taxi that isn’t a taxi”. The best way to communicate to family and friends that chances are high you are going to be taken. ‘Not’.
Suddenly I read ‘Rue de Rivoli’. Thank god, at least he drove me to the right address. “How much?”, I asked. “Eh, eighty!”, he said. I had only fifty in cash with me. I tried to find an excuse: “Sorry, I understood eighteen, but I only got fifty with me.” Damn, why did I tell him how much I got with me.
After a few minutes spent with ‘fake calling’ his boss to ask if fifty were okay, he cashed me. In this moment I didn’t care about the money, I just wanted to get out of THIS car. In the end, everything became clear: I fell for a scam.
Later I explained to my bosses the situation and they were so kind to come up for the money. In the end, I was glad to arrive safely at this breathtaking penthouse and wonderful city. I think after this horror trip I have deserved one cigarette, right?