Boomer in the city | Summer romance

“First, we’ll go to Paris, then we’ll take a Crystal cruise to Spain. Happy birthday,” my kids say.

“Wowie. You don’t have to do that.”

“You write all day and then go to Starbucks for coffee. It’s time to live. Maybe you’ll meet someone.”

“Sure. Great. Thank you.”

We arrive in Paris. It’s 6:45 a.m. and the porter informs us that there’s a taxi strike and a bad heat wave. The only way to get to our hotel is to take the Metro. So we shlep our five bags on wheels along several steamy blocks, down dozens of subway stairs and onto the train.

Hot isn’t the word: I’m breathing heavily and I have a blister from my new sandals.

Henry, my son-in-law, is studying his Paris map. A half an hour later, we get off the train, dragging our suitcases, one by one, upstairs to the top.

Voila! We’re by the Arc de Triomphe, two blocks from our hotel. I stand in awe of the iconic arch, the Champs-Élysées, the gorgeous apartments with terraces, the cafes, the boulevards bordered by magnificent trees.

We settle into our lovely air-conditioned hotel, then stroll along the Seine.

We stop at a café and eat delicious fresh salads and cheeses, drinking espressos. I feel as though I’m inside an Impressionist painting.

At the Louvre, thousands of tourists ascend hundreds of marble stairs to see the Mona Lisa. Japanese tourists holding long poles with cameras on the end pose and take selfies in front of the tiny haunting Mona Lisa, shouting to the hot screaming children, “There’s the Mona Lisa!”

I’m feeling exhausted. Recently, I’d been diagnosed with a light case of emphysema, advised to avoid heat and stress. So here I am huffing and puffing and wheezing, plus the blister on my foot is ballooning.

 “You look like you have heat stroke,” Henry says, frowning.

“No. A selfie pole hit my head. I’m fine.”

“All you need is to drop dead here,” Suzy says. “Do you have travel insurance?”

“No. But my life insurance payments are up.”

The next few days we spend our time on hop-on, hop-off buses. We visit the d’Orsay, Picasso and Pompidou museums. In front of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” tears flow from my eyes.

But am I like the ugly Americans? Speaking high school French to the impatient, tired waiters?

As for stress: My purse is snatched from my shoulder and I have to spend a day getting an emergency passport. My blister blows up. I’m wheezing and have to inhale this spray stuff.

Plus I get lost. By mistake thinking the kids were following, I got off the bus at the Left Bank, but no kids. Here I am stranded in the hot train station, no cellphone, no Euros. An hour later, they find me and lecture that I have to “listen.”

From Paris, we take the high-speed train to Cannes and then Nice, where we board the fabulous cruise ship, which is like a five-star hotel. We cruise from Monte Carlo through Spain.

I have a brief summer romance with the ventriloquist who works on the ship. We hang out, until one evening we’re slow dancing to “Moon River” and I hear this voice saying I eat too much, need to lose weight and lisp when I talk. I realize it’s the cute ventriloquist.

Then I meet this widower from England who eats strictly kosher. He’s a retired doctor. We slow dance on couples night, but he steps on my blister so hard I go to the infirmary and have to wear a boot.

On formal night, everyone dresses to the nines. I wear my black H&M off-the-shoulder dress and this single dentist oldie invites me to tango. He’s dipping and swaying. My daughter holds up two fingers in a victory sign, when the poor guy falls backward and breaks his hip.

So much for summer romance.

But Spain …  In Barcelona, I love the ancient cobblestone streets by the sea. Flamenco, Gaudi architecture — it’s all beyond beauty.

I have a ship date with the Spanish chef on his night off. He makes me paella, so delicious I slurp it up. Then my irritable bowel syndrome acts up and I spend the night taking Imodium.

Europe is full of culture and tradition and beauty. But when my flight lands in San Francisco in the middle of the night, I stop wheezing. And when I see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge all lit up, I cry.

San Francisco is my summer romance. 

Barbara Rose Brooker is an S.F. native and author. Her new novel will be released next year.

Barbara Rose Brooker
Barbara Rose Brooker

Barbara Rose Brooker is a native San Francisco author. CW is making a pilot for a TV series based on her book "The Viagra Diaries."