Our belongings formed a precarious mass on top of the luggage cart. I pushed as Marguerite shored up the sloping heap of suitcases and satchels, and protected our kitty.
The customs booths came into view. In my jacket pocket I fingered the packet with Felicia’s health and vaccination certificates. Still, I worried that the customs official would say, “Take your cat and your papers and go back to where you came from,” or worse, “We must lock your cat in a little cage for three months with only bread and water.”
I slid our passports to the official. “Bonjour.”
His eyes darted up at me and then back under his visor. He mumbled, “Bonjour” and glanced at Marguerite’s passport, then her face. My palms sweated. He leafed through and ca-chunked his stamp onto one of the pages, repeated the same with my document, and waved us to go ahead. But wasn’t there something else we needed, a paper to legitimize Felicia’s entry into France? Better face it now than not be able to take her home at the end of the trip.
“Et nous avons la chatte.” I lifted the carrier to eye level. He nodded and swung his arm toward the door a second time. As I pushed forward, annoyance set in. “He didn’t even want to see Felicia’s documents.”
“I told you this was no big deal. They love pets in France.”
“It was her first time in a plane,” I said.
“Tell him she was very good,” Marguerite directed.
“Elle était très bonne.”
“Tell him she slept all the way, and she waited to pee until you took her to the restroom.”
“That’s a lot of French, and it might be more than he needs to know.”
“I have a cat, too,” the cabby volunteered. “His name is Beauregard. He is a fine cat, but he never travels farther than my neighbor’s yard to see his girlfriend.” (This being a loose translation based on my limited French.)
Our cab entered the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe. Cars rushed in from boulevards on all sides, but I focused on the monument with its sculpted battle scenes.
Adrenaline roused me as we veered down the Champs-Elysées, and I spied its symmetrical rows of trees, wide sidewalks, glitzy perfume shops, brasseries. Soon we would see our Paris home.
The cabby waited while I picked up the key for our apartment at the PSR rental office, one floor up from the Mercedes dealer on the grand avenue. Back inside the cab, Marguerite had unzipped the cat case. Felicia’s cinnamon-colored head stuck out, scanning from side to side. The cabby observed as Marguerite told our kitty that this was the most glamorous street in the world.
The driver executed two U-turns and pulled to a stop in front of our building. “L’avenue des Champs-Elysées, c’est très élégante,” he remarked. He would never guess that we would pay only $63 a night for this prominent address.
As I paid, I offered, “Say bonjour to Beauregard.”
“Meow,” Felicia added genially.
Five flights down at street level, our building housed an indoor arcade—a brasserie-style restaurant in the center, surrounded by shops, all closed and eerie at this hour. I peeked in windows and saw gold jewelry, women’s clothing (way-too-bright yellows, chartreuses, and oranges—with shoes to match), a display of African statues, gems, and baubles.