‘I am so sorry!’ The blonde says, so sweetly. Instead of being irritated, she is sympathetic. She really wants to help me. I give her my sad little boy look and get a friendly little giggle out of her.
‘I wish I could help you. But there is absolutely nothing available!’
‘Well, thanks so much for trying! I just will have to sleep on a Lyon’s sidewalk tonight!’ I make a poor me face to get another sweet smile out of her. Most reluctantly, I am about to turn around and slap down my credit card at Sheraton. The blonde is about to exit her computer screen. And then both of us hear a soft ping.
‘Wait a minute.’ She stops me in my track and busies herself tapping her keyboard.
‘An apartment has just become available, right across from Ponte Bonaparte. It’s on the sixth floor. No lift, but it has a panoramic view of old Lyon. € 95.- a night. No breakfast.’ She rattles off the screen. With my back pain, I am not too keen on having to climb six stories of stone stairs – but snap!
‘I’ll take it.’
It’s an easy walking distance. I walk across the bridge over Saône, turn right on rue Saint Jean and find # 70. Mrs. Breuihl – a woman in her early to mid-thirties escorts me to the apartment, she even helps me carry my bag. It’s a tri-level penthouse containing of a kitchen, a living room, a loft and a bedroom/bathroom suite. Soon as I enter it, I am in awe of it. I am in the heart of vieux Lyon. I have managed to return to the city I had fallen in love with fifteen some years earlier, and had promised myself to someday come back to explore it at a leisurely pace.
Patrick Magaud and I had boarded France’s pride and joy, the high speed TGV in Paris that morning and I just had enough time to spare before I flew out to Munich that night. We meet with Bruno Bonnell of Europe Telematique for what I remember to be a simple but an exquisite meal at one of the city’s cozy bistros, Bonâme, now (La Bonâme de Bruno). What I remember the most of that lunch is their most delicious aperitif, a flute of champagne blended with a dash of peach liquor.
Patrick has brought me there to introduce me to Bruno and Christophe Sapet, his partner to talk the possibilities of creating Playboy service on the uniquely French phenomena called Minitel. This is 1989, and much as they try to explain to me the concept of creating a chat line under Playboy banner, goes over my head. From what I understood, Minitel was a crudely made boxy little computer like plastic device provided free of charge to its subscribers by the French Telecom. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to think that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak copied or were inspired by the Minitel for the earlier look of their Apple computers. It contained a small blue screen with blinking text and incorporated in it was a telephone. It is connected to what we now call the contents providers via a telephone line, sort of like earlier dial up connections. Minitel, when it was introduced years earlier, featured electronic yellow pages and the country wide telephone directories.