Updated: Oct 7, 2021
Arriving in a city at 10 p.m. was not my goal, especially as a young, solo, female traveler, and this was Amsterdam! Departing the train station I walked towards a youth hostel - so I thought; I must have made a wrong turn. In the lit up store display windows were women, live women in lingerie, not mannequins, and they were not model size, but large women with cantaloupe sized breasts. The clientele on the street was a bit shady and then it hit me, “...I’m in the Red Light district…”, at night! After staring for a moment, I noticed some men staring at me. It was prudent to keep walking as if I knew my way. I eventually found a nice hotel and asked for the location of the youth hostel which was about an hour walk. When I arrived the only accommodation left in the hostel was a mattress on the floor in the attic. Perfect! I was tired and safe. The next day I toured the city, and no, I did not partake in the drug scene in Amsterdam! Even by 1989, at age 24, I had realized that traveling alone and an altered mental state could end badly, but that's for another story. Time for a train ride to Lille,France and more “tetons”.
Arriving at the intimidatingly large train station in France, with a solid four words of French under my belt, I was again wandering trying to find the elusive youth hostel. I decided to splurge for a hotel room and long, hot shower for $43. After, while enjoying a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe, I noticed a good looking dark haired man, adored with gold jewelry, wearing a tan trench coat. He was selling things in the street that he pulled from inside his coat and approached my table. My lack of French was evident when my attempt to say “get lost” was met with a smile as he sat down at my table. He summoned a friend in the cafe to interpret for us and eventually they invited me to go to a carnival with a group of people. At night, traveling to a carnival with a group of men would be out of the question, but since it was afternoon and some women were going too, I was game. It sounded like fun. After a few rides at the carnival, the group fragmented and there we were, just the two of us standing in front of a velvet red curtain waiting for some show to begin. As the curtain opened I had flashbacks to Amsterdam. There in front of us was a large woman in lingerie with watermelon sized breasts and a scale on a table before her! One at a time she lifted her tetons and placed them on the scale, proving that no two are identical. The curtain closed and the show was over. Red light district - French style! After picking my mouth up off the ground, I noticed the group had returned. We ended the evening at a lovely Lebanese restaurant where they introduced me to ghanoush, falafel, and manakish. Before going back to the hotel Michel gave me two tokens of our time together: a small bottle filled with clear liquid which I've never opened it to taste the contents and Lebanese money with his name and date written on it. Everytime I look at them, I smile. Oh, the “Grand Tetons!”