Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bonjour Paris!

Let me just tell you how foreign, yet familiar it feels to be back home in the States. It's strange. The reverse culture shock is certainly hitting me. Enough about that, though, and more about Paris.

Atop the Eiffel Tower.
I don't know who the lady is, but I certainly love this place.
Oh, Paris. This city was truly the most beautiful city I have been to. I'm sorry, London, but you definitely have some competition. I know the French and Brits have a bit of a rivalry, so I hope nobody gets too heated about that statement. Seriously, though, the moment I got to exploring the city, my eyes lit up, and I could have remained there forever. It almost came to that, but I'll explain later.

My first night in Paris was relatively uneventful. I got into my hostel late around 7:00pm, so there really wasn't much daylight to spend. I was exhausted anyway, so all I wanted was some food as I'd only had grapes for breakfast early that morning before I left Firenze. I caved and bought a California wrap at the hostel, inhaled it, and proceeded to meet some of my first friends in Paris. I had met a very sweet German girl while unpacking before my dinner, and she noticed a tipsy Canadian struggling with the washroom door. We giggled at him, and he proceeded to our table asking if I was Australian. Not even close, buddy.

I joined him and his friends outside soon after and we soaked in each other's company. It's really such a blessing to meet so many people while traveling. Whether I stay in contact or not, each person still holds a special place in my heart and experiences.

Around 2am, I was practically falling asleep at the table and the guys urged me to head to bed. I waved them off, saying I was fine, but about thirty seconds later I agreed and went up to get some much needed rest. I promptly passed out after cleaning up and brushing my teeth; I wanted to be ready to thoroughly explore the next day.

I woke up for free breakfast and found my German friend downstairs already eating. I joined her with a plateful of bread, ham, and cheese and a cup of English tea (forget coffee!). I was feeling quite ill with congestion in both my sinuses and chest, so eating seemed almost a chore, but I pretended not to notice. I have some wild infection now, but I regret nothing!

Since I literally had the whole day to myself with no one else's schedule to even consider, I thought the Notre Dame would be a great place to start. It wasn't too far, and I could easily walk wherever I wanted from there. I took the Metro, which I was getting really efficient at using finally and hopped off to a bright, beautiful morning filled with the sounds of tourists and French. I was unsure where to go, so I took a guess (which I'm apparently really good at). The ornate edifice crept into my view, and I hurried over. There was this great seating area, so I simply sat for some time and just soaked in the moment. I didn't go in as my shoulders were bare, and although I saw others going in without cover-ups, I didn't feel like fighting the line snaking half a kilometer back. I was content with just resting in the shade and staring at the exquisite architecture.

After what I felt was an adequate amount of time, I ran into an Egyptian guy. He offered to take my picture, so of course I accepted. He seemed nice enough, but clearly interested in more than friendship. Me being so passive, I just convinced myself he was just really friendly, so I allowed him to show me the palace nearby. It started to feel a bit claustrophobic as he asked more questions, wanted me to take his arm, bring me to lunch, and take pictures together in a lovey-dovey manner. This was my day, so I had to end it and end it fast. Quickest deterrent ever: "I have a boyfriend". I still feel terrible lying (thank the Lord, I'm going to church tonight), but it fizzled very quickly after that. Sorry dude, but I had a lot to see, and I really wanted a Me Day. It would've been counterproductive for both of us, and I didn't want to waste anyone's time.

Unsure what to do next, I thought "to hell with schedules and plans, I'm just going to wander around". What's the worst that could happen? Well, the worst that could happen was a perfect day. I ran into St. Jacques' Tower, the Louvre, the gardens, street dancing, the coolest Mexicans I've ever met, Arc du Triumph, and the Eiffel Tower. Being the curious weirdo I am, I calculated how much I walked. 14 kilometers (9 miles)! And that's just based on Google Maps! I know I walked even more in my aimless roaming.

My photography skills are on point. 
During this little journey, I would sit at the parks and gardens and just feel the breeze across my skin and the warmth of the sun. It was actually a fairly hot day - something I was hoping to escape after sweating constantly for six weeks. However, I didn't mind it; the shady areas were the perfect temperature to perch myself. I could contemplate life and the world around me. I think it was in these moments where all of my travels and learning would finally begin to sink it. Since being home, it all feels like a gorgeous dream that couldn't possibly have happened. Those small moments made everything real.

We even match.
When I met my two Mexican friends, it was kind of funny. I immediately noticed they were pretty attractive guys, and I sent them a small smile when they looked back at me. I figured they'd turn the corner at some point, but after about three lengthy blocks of passing and falling behind each other, I decided to say something. I noticed they spoke Spanish, so I looked up and said, "¡Hola!" Surprised, he replied back and asked if I spoke Spanish. Sí. Next came a jumble of Spanish that I could definitely not process fast enough. With nothing but a blank stare in return, he hastily asked, "English?" Yup. He then proceeded the conversation in perfect English. What?! That was easy! It gets better, though. As we're getting to know each other, he mentions he lived in San Antonio, Texas. Funny, because I lived there as well! I knew all the streets he talked about, and he attended the university I considered when living there. By the way, I lived off of Babcock and Huebner (I couldn't remember when we were talking). I guess it is a small world after all.

We headed up to the Eiffel Tower after checking out the Arc du Triumph. I loved getting to know new people. I feel like I could never do something like this back home. Or maybe I can, and I've just been too afraid. I've learned I really have nothing to lose because it may turn into something much more beautiful than a hello on the street. Though this one didn't, I'm still grateful to have met them; they were such kind people with great stories to share. Plus, we bonded over our Mexican heritage, which was cool.

It's a masterpiece.
After our huge hike up the Tower, we went out to dinner, and I ordered my first Parisian dish - a ham and cheese omelette for dinner. How wild is that? I suppose not so much in France, but it would be strange back home. It came out steaming hot, dressed with a small herb on top. I must say, that was the greatest omelette I've ever eaten. The guys' food was just as fabulous, and we even got some free wifi. We were ready to head back to our lodging afterward, so we parted ways, hoping to meet up again that night or sometime again. Unfortunately we didn't but my night certainly wasn't a waste.

Remember the Canadian guys I met? Well, I was supposed to go to the Louvre with them that morning, but thankfully I didn't wait for a response to my text because it was the first Sunday, meaning entry was free. The line was hundreds of visitors long, and I certainly wasn't about to waste an entire day waiting. Anyway, I met up with one of them at the bar that night, and we both happened to want to go to the Eiffel Tower at night. Well, the night turned out to be any girl's dream date: kisses on the metro, gazing at a sparkling Eiffel Tower on the lawn, walking around Paris.

No Canadians here...
It was great until we got back to the hostel. In short, he wanted more, and I didn't. There was no way I was about to compromise any of my values while he scoffed at them. Unfortunately, this was the one thing we just didn't agree on. A small squabble entailed, and the night went from magical to awkward in a matter of seconds. An awkward goodbye later and I was left feeling quite offended and just disappointed. Thankfully, we weren't in the same room; that would've been even more awkward. He was still one of the coolest people I met even though the physical aspect just didn't quite work out. He was off on another adventure the next day anyway, so I'm sure he could pick up another girl with no problem and maybe get lucky with her. I'm just not that easy.

I'd say that's okay, though. The next few days brought something far sweeter.

No comments:

Post a Comment