Day 1, Sept. 22nd: Arrival
I had to smile as I stood crammed onto the trolley that transported everyone from my flight to the airport and baggage centre, as one of the female workers managed to effortlessly maintain the stereotype of stylish French woman as she executed her job in heels and pearl earrings. After collecting my luggage at an incredibly crowded conveyer belt, I had to taxi it to the hostel. Even though it was 42 euros, I was just glad it wasn’t the 80 the lady at the airport said it would be! I did have a slight heart attack as the taxi driver said, ‘Here is 245 rue La Fayette, but I do not see a hostel’ … only to realize he was on the wrong street! I was too busy wondering where to go if it wasn’t, all the while thinking I wasn’t paying him if it wasn’t, to really notice my heart had stopped beating for a second! I love taxi rides in a new place, if nothing else because they let me look around in silence and just absorb everything. Like for instance, the fact that duct tape really is a universal solution to any problem, as I see a car mirror duct taped together. Or the clichés as an old woman carries a baguette down the street.
Once he had dropped me off on the wrong side of the street, I had to drag my suitcases against traffic to the sidewalk! Granted, he wheeled one to the other side, but then let me face traffic on my own. Lovely!
As one of the hostel workers explained how things operate here to me, he was like, ‘I have a funny question for you… do you need both of your bags?’ Knowing this was a bad sign, I did a nervous laugh, and said, ‘Well, kind of.’ And then I had to ask it. I knew the answer, but part of you just can’t help but wanting to hope— ‘Soo, uh, do you have an elevator?’ One hundred and fourteen steps and a skinned elbow later, I made it up the six flights of steps to my room (I counted). Ok, so I passed out halfway up the narrow, winding (of course it had to be winding) staircase, and lied on my suitcases for a while, but I still made it. Definitely had to have a shower after that and the plane ride. It was also incredibly hot out, to add to my lovely climb. ;) Looking out my window though, I felt the climb had been worth it, as a glittering river ran parallel to the street, and Parisian architecture flanked its banks.
After settling in, I set out in search of food… and ended up at McDonald’s. I know, I know! My first meal in France, and I go to McDonald’s. Judge if you will, but know that my hunger was driving me, and I had no desire to pay the nearby café prices, no desire to walk further, but a strong desire to eat something I knew I would like. So, as it was only about 10 steps from the hostel, I succumbed to McDonald’s. I did, however, buy a chocolate from a local chocolate shop later to start enjoying French food. Although I had no idea where I was wandering really, I asked this lady at a shop where this park was located. It turns out it was only about 5 minutes away, and I had thought it was in the total opposite direction! I’m glad it wasn’t though, because it was so beautiful! I may have gone camera happy. ;) The atmosphere was so relaxed, and so unique… there were elderly people chatting on a bench, little kids running around, dogs in heaven… my favourite was when this little kid is walking up to his friend, and he has a long stick poking out of the back of his shirt, waving two in his hands, and saying, ‘Jerome, tu peux pas me battre!’ haha He was probably right, as his friend/brother approached waving only one long stick. I was so thankful to have found that park, and for the incredible weather. I eventually wandered back to find some Peace and Love, and called it a night. I told myself I wasn’t going to bed at least until 8, as the plane ride and two days with no sleep had gotten to me, and so I was quite proud I made it until 9:15! Living big. ;)
Day 2, Sept. 23rd: Navigation
13 and a half hours later, I awoke! Aside from waking up briefly at 2am, I slept for 13 ½ hours solid!! I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time that happened. I had left a note on Claudio’s pillow (my Italian roommate) to please lock the door when he came in at night. This is because there is only 1 key per room. Apparently the budget is tight. It’s not so bad, because you just leave the key in the room with whoever is there, and only take it down to the main floor if you’re the last one to leave. So when you come back in, you ask if the key is there; if it is, no one’s in the room—if not, someone is. Well, it seems efficient, except when you walk up all 114 steps and then realize it is locked! Then this morning, I thought someone else had climbed onto the top bunk (Claudio is on the bottom) but I was half asleep, and thought maybe someone new had checked in. However, Claudio informed me that no, someone had just come in, and then left really early. Ahhh!!! I thought I had heard him lock the door, so I don’t know how this random got in, but needless to say, I was not so hooked on the 1 key per room idea after that!
This morning, I met with confusion when trying to explain that I wanted to take the train to Evreux. The hostel lady kept pointing to the metro and saying to take that, the ‘bus’. I was like, ‘Ok, but um, you see, I have two large suitcases—can I take those with me on it?’ wondering if she maybe meant the train somehow. And if one more person looks at me like I have three heads when I say I am going to Evreux, I am really going to wonder if it does exist! Honestly, people, it is an hour away! Anyways, I decided to hope for better luck tomorrow, then headed off to find the church called Sacré Coeur. Over an hour later, I finally glimpsed it behind some buildings. After Toronto and Montreal, organized like grids, I’m not sure I was quite prepared for having eight—eight—different streets coming at me all at once.
Once I realized that there were in fact street names, just on the sides of buildings instead of actual signs, it made life a bit easier! It was a beautiful church, and we had nice weather again, so I was able to enjoy my lunch on the grass in front of it. I missed the guy doing cool soccer tricks just before I went in, and he was ending his performance again just after I came out. Ha. As I was looking for a washroom, I came across this whole little town, I want to call it, behind the church. Cobblestone streets, artists with the most beautiful paintings, homemade ice cream and traditional French cookies, crepes, souvenirs… it was beautiful and relaxing. And it is time to admit that I may have bought postcards yesterday…… and today. For those of you who don’t know, postcards are my weakness. For some it’s shoes, other chocolate, and for me, just a 4x6 picture on paper. I comfort myself by the fact that at least they are light to carry home!
It took me a lot less time to find my way back (hooray for landmarkers!) and I was tempted to take one of the bikes I see everywhere, but realized I didn’t want to go against traffic on a one-way street, nor barge through pedestrians on the sidewalk. It is really cool, as I don’t think you have to pay to use it, and it encourages public transport. I had to buy a baguette on the way back, because it was only 0,60 euros, and even though I had no idea what I would do with it, other than just bite it off and eat it, I just had to feel French for a second, walking down the street, holding a baguette.
Hopefully I should be off to Evreux tomorrow! We’ll see if anyone at the train station has heard of it. ;)