Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"I'm Not Speaking English Sense!" - Me

Ahh, Paris. Where to begin?

Let me tell you a thing or two about the airport situation in London. First off, there are four main airports, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Heathrow. Secondly, none of them are located near the city and require alternate routes of transportation (well Heathrow you can take the tube, if you’re lucky enough to be going when it’s running, which I never seem to be). Your best bet is to take a bus or a train, and in my case, this time it was a bus… at 4:30 am. Why did an 8 o’clock flight sound like a good idea at the time? And why oh stupid bus driver were you about to let me get on the WRONG bus to Stansted when my ticket clearly said Luton? Let’s just say getting to airport this time was an ordeal I never wish to repeat. Apparently in Europe, getting to/from the airport is the hard part. After that, it’s cake. For this trip, my travel buddy was a girl named Monique Sar, a fashion and marketing major from Denver. We had several classes together, and I was confident that this trip was going to be far superior to my last, plus it was PARIS. The best thing about traveling with Monique though, was that she had no idea what to see, and I had a list, so that meant I got to call the shots, scorrre! The bad thing about traveling with Monique, was that girl clearly didn’t get out to the airport much and had no idea how everything worked. I seriously wonder how going home alone from London is going to work for her.

After an incredibly sleepy flight, we finally arrived, with another one hour time difference and no real idea of how to get to the city. Georgie said ‘take the train’. Righhhtt. Well I figured out where the train is, but how do I buy a ticket? All I see are machines, which doesn’t bode well for me as A.) They only accept coins, not bills, and all I have in Euros right now are bills and B.) They only accept pin and chip Euro credit cards, not swipe American card. Why is it so hard to buy something from a person these days?! The sign on the machine made me laugh though. Welcome to my first country where English isn’t spoken first or even by everyone! I only know about 5 phrases in French, and it looks like I’m going to have to use one of them to find someone who can point me in the way of a ticket office. *sigh*

An hour later, Monique and I were on the train to Paris with 5 day metro passes to boot. I had instructions from the hostel about how to get there, but I was slightly worried how this was all going to go. It had me changing lines three different times and the Paris underground looks incredibly intimating the first time around. There are 14 lines compared to London’s 10, but they’re labeled by numbers, not names. And unlike London, they don’t give you arrows pointing this way northbound and this way southbound, but they have the last stop in either direction as the way to distinguish which way to go. Oh yeah, and everything is in French. But the metro turned out to be the easy part. Finding the hostel on the street, not so much. Enter the cutest and most polite little old French man ever! Here’s me and Monique on the street looking up at buildings confused, looking down at the paper for an address, then back to the street, carrying luggage and up comes a tiny little man who offers to help, my hero! Turns out, it was hidden inbetween these two buildings in ‘a square’, which meant that it was off to the side located by some steep stairs. But don’t worry, it wasn’t sketchy. It was actually a combination of a hotel and a hostel and our room was the nicest I had stayed in yet. Check in wasn’t until later so Monique and I dropped off our stuff and decided to get some much needed nourishment.

By this time it was noon Paris time. I hadn’t eaten since 7 pm the night before London time and I only just realized how hungry I was. We wondered down till we found a little pizza/pasta shop that looked promising and oh my god, I had the creamiest, cheesiest pasta I’ve had in my entire life! It’s no joke about what they say about the French and their food, mmmm! I also started feeling sick halfway through due to the amount of cheese, but somehow I managed to finish it all, lactose intolerance and all. Monique and I then looked at a map and made a game plan for the next 4/5 days, starting with the cemetery! Now, when I saw a huge cemetery marked on the map, I naturally assumed that it was the cemetery Laura visited earlier in the year that’s depicted in Paris, je t’aime in which Oscar Wilde, Edith Paif, and Jim Morrison are buried. As it turned out, there are at least three HUGE cemeteries in Paris filled with famous people, and this was not the one I was looking for. Hmm perhaps I should have done some actual research and looked up the proper name, opps. The one on the map was called CimetiĆ©re du Montparnasse, was once a farm and covered about 3 acres, but all the same, once we got there and I realized it wasn’t right, checking out the old graves was kinda cool… to me. Monique apparently thought it was creepy and was somewhat hesitant about walking around dead people. Ahhh, right, back to the Metro.

The next stop was the Arc de Triomphe. This thing is MASSIVE! Funny thing about the Arc is that it’s located in an island in the middle of a roundabout, and at first glance, there’s no earthly way to get to it without being killed by cars, and Parisian drivers are absolutely mental! As we’re standing there, taking pictures from across the street, I see the underground walkway that presumably leads to the Arc, and just as I’m about to point it out to Monique, my boots skid out on the pavement and I completely fall on my butt, as ungracefully as possible. The good thing about this was that a very good looking French man picked me up and asked if I was alright… in French! Hahaha, umm Qui, all better now!

I should also take this time to mention that it was absolutely freezing in Paris! It had started getting cold in London, but somehow, Paris was colder. You’d think since England is an island, located north of France that it would be colder in London rather than Paris, but you’d be wrong. I think it has to have something to do with Ocean current patterns or something, I should look into that… Anyways, as we’re standing underneath the Arc taking pictures, it starts snowing. It’s not cold enough for the snow to stick, and it melts as soon as it hits the ground, but this is about as extreme as San Antonio’s weather conditions get and the only kind of ‘snow’ we ever really get. My hands are pink, on the verge of turning purple, that can’t be good. I think I have plenty of picture of the Arc now Monique, let’s go get warm!

So back to the hostel we went, and as it turned out, we were the first in our room, yay. This meant that it was nap time for Devon. Well, not really, but all the same, the only sleep I’d had in the past 48 hours had been the hour plane ride. I was pretty exhausted and any down time was welcomed by me. A couple hours later, I sat up and realized, it’s Thanksgiving! We’re in Paris! Let’s go EAT! So once again, we got dressed to go out into the cold, this time in search for a Thanksgiving feast. We ended up going to this cute little place. We walked in and after saying the basic, “Bonsoir!” the man looks at me and says, “You speak English, yes?” Gahhh, yes. Not fair. But he sat us down and gave us a menu in English rather than French, so that was appreciated since I knew what I was ordering. Monique got steak and potatoes, and I ended up getting this vegetabley rice with fish on top. Now, I am not a pescatarian, I don’t even really like fish and I have no idea what possessed me to do it, but… I ate some of the fish. Not all of it, but I ate about a quarter before giving up. The best part was when I was sitting there eating bread and drinking a glass of wine and watching the French man behind the bar. Mmmm with his scarf, and hat and red sweater, mmmm. And now some caramely cream thing for dessert?! Best Thanksgiving yet. As we were walking back to the hostel, it was so cold that my face felt like it was freezing and when I tried to talk it came out funny, like I couldn’t really form words. “I’m not speaking English sense!” I tired to explain to Monique, who just laughed. It was only 8, but I was ready for bed, but before I could fall asleep, I got a text from my boss Ben saying, “Happy Thanksgiving Devon! My mate just reminded me and you’re the only American I know. Hope Paris is good –see you soon!” Ahh I was so tired, and the sentiment so sweet, it almost made me teary… almost.



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