Friday, December 30, 2005

J'adore Paris. C'est freaking cold!

So today was Paris. J'adore Paris, which is saying a lot considering the day I just had.
In a nutshell-
Took the Thayls train from Brussels Midi (which in spite of being called "Mid-i" is not the same as Central. Took me 4 days to figure that one out.) to Paris Gare Nord. About 30 minutes into the trip the conductor informs us that our tickets are not tickets at all, and are merely reservations. So he just charges us 20 euros, and we're all good. And he tells us to buy a new ticket in Paris.
Once in Paris I split up from Deb and Tara. It was time for me to do a little adventuring and exploring for myself. As many of you know, I have a big State Dept exam coming up next week. My biggest fear is not in the taking of the exam, but in, what if I pass the exam? Do I really want to live abroad? Can I handle life alone in a foreign country? I've traveled plenty in Europe now, and experienced multiple walks of life here. But I've never been truly alone in Europe. Until today. So my biggest mission today was to see if I could just handle being alone in Paris without any assistance. I think I hacked it pretty well.l
I've heard horror stories about the Paris Metro system. I don't know if I'm just unusually talented, or really lucky, but I had no problems. I got on my first Metro and went straight to Notre Dame. Beautiful place. Loved it.
Then I decided to go for a walk. It was chilly out- actually freaking freezing, but nothing too difficult. A few blocks later it started to snow. Hmm... not so fun. So I saw a bus pass by right at that moment and decided to go for a little ride, to no place in particular. I got off on what appeared to be a busy street and went off to live out a few personal daydreams. My Paris agenda did not really include anything other than sitting in a cafe looking at the Eiffel Tower and writing. So I had to buy just the perfect Paris notebook. It took much longer than necessary. By the time I had bought a notebook and compared the chocolate in Paris to the chocolate in Belgique, I was frozen solid. So I kept on walking and ran right into the Louvre. To be honest, I had no desire to see the Louvre from the inside. But the Da Vinci Code fan in me really wanted to see the outside. And just as I got there (it is really hard to miss the Louvre- its only about 6 city blocks), the cold powdery snow turned into awful horrible miserable sleet and wind. I had no choice. I had to go in. You know how most art museums are quiet and almost reverent like? Well, the Louvre is nothing like that. Its loud, noisy, and out of control. I bought a ticket and went off in search of Mona. She was underwhelming. But it did strike me as odd that I was standing there looking at the most famous painting ever, while listening to REM "Stand" on my mp3 player.
It was in the Louvre that I completed the one task given to me by Big Brother. BB- I think you'll like it.
And then it was off to walk some more. I loved Paris. It was beautiful, and very reminsecent of DC. There really is no question that the same person designed both cities. I walked in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, in the snow, and freezing cold, and just enjoyed the day. I can't wait to post the pictures later.
And this is when and where the Real Erin Adventures take over. I decided walking was just not that fun, and I was freezing. So as close as I was to the Tour d'Eiffel, I decided to find a bus. Suddenly, my little bus stop had a visitor. He was a short little man holding a notebook and had a very drippy nose. He starts telling me that if he can draw my picture that he will be the next Pablo Picasso. Telling him "Non merci" really didn't get me anywhere. So finally I just gave in and let him draw my picture. So he makes me take off my hat, poses me, and starts a little pencil drawing, all while sitting in a bus stop. As most bus stops are, we were right at an intersection. Cars kept pulling up and watching as he "made me a beautiful portrait." Including the French Gendarmie- who proved to be just plain old typical men, and hung out of their windows (in the freezing sleet) and whistle and cheer at me. I felt so special. (How did I know it was the Gendarmie? It was clearly marked on the side of their cars.) So the drippy nosed man, finishes my "beautiful portrait" (that looks nothing like me), and his nose drips on the picture!!! He wipes it up, and gives me my drawing. He points me in the direction of the Tour d'Eiffel, and I got back to walking. I finally got there, completely frozen to the core. And the Tower is closed for bad weather. But I have to admit, its almost a relief, because it just looked too cold up there! So I found me the perfect little cafe, had a little tart, hot chocolate, and wrote several pages to what will surely be my personal masterpiece.
I can't begin to tell you how cold it really was out there. Suffice it to say, I've been indoors for 4 hours now, and my feet are still tingling funny. I never want to be cold again!
I have much more to say on this day, including a funny bathroom story, but for now, its 2 am here, and I've yet to figure out the train schedule for tomorrow. I don't even know which country I'm headed to tomorrow! Netherlands? Luxembourg? Stay home and sleep in?? Decisions decisions!!

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