Monday, June 8, 2009

Paris: Day 1

Well, after a grueling few hours trying to figure out how to get a train ticket in the Hannover train station… I finally was able to get on a train at about 22:18. My cabin was already filled with 5 other people, none of whom spoke English, and all of whom spoke French. The lights were already off and they appeared as though they wanted to sleep, even though I had planned to finish Angels and Demons during the ride since I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep in such an awkward position. Luckily though the guy to my left moved and being in the middle seat I was able to take the seat next to me to give myself a wall to lean against since I was in the middle seat originally. Across from me was a really interesting couple. As the train took off the guy sitting in the middle seat with his girlfriend sitting next to the window, now across from me, tried to completely envelop the girl in his arms and legs to go to sleep. The woman however pushed him off and eventually he ended up with only a hand on her thigh as they slept. Watching this relationship dynamic was hilarious. I’d never seen a guy so eager and a woman so unwilling to cuddle.

After sitting for a couple hours I decided to watch out the window as we passed by nothing particular since it was pretty dark. This did however help me fall asleep and I generally slept the entire trip until about an hour before reaching Paris.

Stepping off the train I felt much more confident than in Germany, but that quickly changed as I realized I couldn’t really tell how to get on the metro system because all of the maps were so large and there were so many trains and it was all very confusing even though Ingrid had given me very solid directions (which I only realized AFTER I actually figured out how to get to Alesia, where she was staying). After about an hour of both standing around clueless looking at maps and wandering around the station looking for some kind of information kiosk, I walked outside to see a Holiday Inn with the British flag flying from it. I instantly went over there and asked one of the workers how to get to my destination. She pointed it out and I felt like the stupidest person ever. It was so obvious after the fact like everything in life. So, I go to the metro, wait in a line to talk to someone to buy a ticket because I couldn’t understand the machines to save my life with all the zones and trains and different prices. Finally I got on the subway and off at the right stop. Now I had to try find the right street… I picked a direction and started walking and completely by chance I had taken the right road. I found rue de Loing and found the number 7 next to a building. A woman walked out who didn’t speak English and she tried to help me figure out where 7 bis was. Then a man who did speak English also tried to help but to no avail, and in the middle of the conversation I heard Ingrid’s voice. I couldn’t have been happier. She had been outside waiting for me since I was about an hour late! We dropped my stuff off in her room, I met her wonderful host mother and we quickly went off to meet the other people from her program to head to Jeanne Monnet’s house. It was so wonderful being around a group of people who all spoke English and who all went to Brown, and it of course helped that they were all awesome individuals.

Around 13:40 we all boarded a train to go to the outskirts of Paris. After about a half hour we got off the train to find no signs of civilization except for the station and a small farmers market type area, which we found out later had THE best strawberries ever. EVER. Anyway, we were supposed to get a taxi to go this house which was about… 5 kilometers away. Unfortunately no taxi service was available. We were given the option of walking there or just taking the train back. 7 of us decided to walk it. We were up for the adventure. Little did we know just how far and long we were about to walk.

Ingrid grabbed the reigns and started leading us on where to go. After solving the problem of how to cross the highway (by going under it) we began walking down a not so busy street into a little town. After discovering that we had walked too far in one direction we had to turn around and backtrack. Ingrid finally pulled out her GPS and from there we never really lost our way.

2 hours later...

We reached the house after walking on streets that had no path for us to really walk on so at times we were forced to walk in some tall grass (which reminds me that I should probably check for ticks…).

The house was once owned by Monnet, not the artist, but a man who helped form the European Union and whose family created the Monnet Cognac. It was a quaint little house and we took an audio tour, which consisted of… 2 rooms. Liz, one of the girls in the program, began laughing and crying at the same time when she realized just how far we had walked for a two room tour. We had all gone a little crazy at this point from exhaustion and we were completely famished. We were all looking forward to the cab ride back… which never actually happened because again cabs were not available. The curator of the place helped us find a cab but to no avail and then offered us a ride back to the station herself. We found out that she actually lives in the house now upstairs away from the actual museum which is funded by the European parliament.

Since we didn’t have to spend money on the cab which Ingrid’s program had set aside funds for, we were able to use the money to go out to eat! The group was kind enough to include me in on this even though they didn’t have to. We ended up at a burger joint that looked like hole in the wall. The place was packed and we had to wait 30 minutes for a seat. In this 30 minutes 2 horrible events occurred.

First, we were standing on a corner and talking about nothing really when 4 of us watched in slow motion as this mother tried to move her stroller from the sidewalk to the street. She had forgotten to strap her less than 1 year old daughter into the stroller and the baby fell flat on her face onto the street. I’m sure the baby was in shock because it didn’t move or make a sound until the mother horrified realized what had just happened and swiftly picked up her daughter and started cradling her. The four of us who saw this happen were in utter shock. We stood there speechless praying that the child was okay. Eventually the mother strapped the child in and moved on but only after cradling her for 10 minutes.

The other event wasn’t as traumatizing as it was unlucky. Adam, a guy in the program was talking to a random French lady and he reported back to us that we had missed Obama’s entourage by 5 minutes. FIVE minutes.

After all of that chaos we were finally seated and presented with the best burgers I’ve ever had. I devoured it seeing as how I hadn’t eaten for a good 24 hours.

Now, the best part of the night was to come. We had 3 bottles of red wine for 5 of us. After discussing where we should go to drink it we were set on drinking it outside in a park right by the Eiffel Tower. We were sitting on the grass and finished the 2.50 Euro when at midnight the Eiffel Tower lit up. It didn’t just light up though, it was lights flashing all around it for 5 minutes. It was one of the most incredible and awe-inspiring things I had ever seen. I couldn’t have asked for a better night in Paris!!

After that we decided to head to a party Gan, another Brownie who was doing this program, had heard about. We jumped on the metro and headed that direction. Unfortunately the party had ended by the time we got there and we all decided to call it a night around 2 in the morning. Ingrid and I got back home after literally catching the last train to her stop!


No comments:

Post a Comment