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When Claire touched down in the City of Light, it was dark. On the death-defying cab ride to the hotel she felt dizzy with the whirlwind of people, traffic, and the Frenchness of it all. Her stomach was jittery — she couldn’t decide if it was nerves or hunger or fear of the unknown.
On her first morning, she slept in late at the little hotel on a quiet street near the Luxembourg Gardens. Still feeling a little groggy, jetlagged but strangely excited, Claire threw on some clothes and then realized she didn’t have a clue where to start her search for René Duclair, her father who didn’t know she existed.
She hit the pavement after breakfast. Even with a map she got hopelessly lost several times but Parisians, at odds with their reputation, turned out to be kind and helpful. Maybe it was her infectious smile or the fact that she used her tortured high-school French with cheerful abandon. Still, Claire had enormous problems getting information from public offices and libraries. She spent days at the Hotel de Ville. Her North American efficiency expectations were assaulted in this laissez-aller culture, but she persevered and after a week came up with addresses for seventeen René DuClairs. Three of them currently lived in the 18th arrondissement, where her father had lived. What were the chances he would still be living in the same district?
She spent an entire day at the reference library on an outdated computer, matching these names and addresses with Google searches. Finally a concrete clue! One of the prospective daddies was a neighbourhood artist and teacher. So maybe I come by my talent naturally, she thought. (Claire was a photographer.) This René Duclair had had a few modest showings at local galleries. Et voilà! In one of the online articles there was a photo of him standing with some gallery owners. There was no question in her mind now. This was the same man she had seen in the old photo she had discovered, alongside an intimate letter, among her mother’s possessions.