We throw keys at the reception guy, pay for the shuttle, double check that we have everything, and apologize profusely to everyone. Once we're in the car and headed toward the airport, it hits me: I'm going to Paris. I have wanted to go to Paris for my whole life. I'd dreamed about living in France. And I'd planned it as the last stop, because I had to save the best for last. Paris. Paris!!!
As it had been throughout the whole trip, we arrive at the airport with about an hour to spare and have to wait around. We wait and wait and wait until, about 20 minutes before the flight, they tell us which gate we'll be boarding at. They board us late. We sit on the plane.
And, by the way, we weren't actually flying in to Paris. It was much cheaper (gracias a Ryanair) to fly into Beauvais, which is outside of Paris. The flight isn't long, and in fact I have no recollection whatsoever of the flight itself. I either blocked it out because I was too excited for normal brain function, or I was too asleep to actually pay attention. Either way, we make it to France, and everyone on the whole plane is in shorts and tank tops since we've just come from sunny Spain, and it's freaking freezing in France. We have to exit the plane onto the tarmac, and then wait as weird security doors open and close for two people at a time, and everyone is huddling into each other and screeching at the bursts of freezing wind cutting across the runway. Once inside, there's a line the size of Texas at a ticket counter and a kiosk for bus tickets into Paris. We wait at the kiosk, I run into the bathroom to change into pants (warmth!) and three people before us, the machine stops accepting out of country credit cards. So, it's back into another line to wait to buy a ticket from an actual person. Backpacking is so glamorous.
We're let out of security into a small waiting area, with a handful of restaurants. I realize I'm dehydrated and extremely hungry, so we head to one of the little restaurants. I order a small olive bread and a water from a lady at the counter, completely in French. I'm speaking French in France! I almost throw up, I'm so excited. She says something conversationally at me, which I totally don't catch, so I just smile at her stupidly. She probably thinks I'm a little crazy, but she immediately assumed I spoke French (one point for me), and the rest of the conversation went okay, so who knows.
Outside, there's a short line and a few buses waiting, so we hop on one for the hour and a half ish ride into Paris. I manage to go a whole twenty minutes before falling asleep. I'm too tired and cold and hungry to take any photos. When we pull into the bus station, we immediately stalk off in the direction of the Metro, which turns out to be even more complicated than the Underground was when we first arrived in London. Having learned about the RER in French class, and having read that it would take us to Gare du Nord (which is the closest train station to the hostel I'd managed to book in Spain), I'm convinced this is the train we need. We end up asking someone who says it will take us nowhere near where we need to go, and I have yet another exchange with the ticket lady - in French! - about which lines we need to take to get to where we're going. It never gets old. As much as I have to think about what I'm saying, I'm still doing it, and it's really exciting.
The Metro doesn't take long, and explodes into the Gare du Nord station, which itself is huge and sprawling. We walk out onto the street, and breathe the air, and we're here, I'm in Paris. Finally.
|First thing I saw in the Metro! Eee!|
Since mom wasn't arriving til late evening, we checked our bags in at the hostel, grabbed a map, and headed back to the metro to explore. Of course, having seen the stop for the Louvre marked on the metro line, this was where I chose for us to go. I just wanted to do a little exploring, you know...not see anything important until mom got there, but we couldn't just sit at the hostel for six hours! So to the Louvre we went.
So the thing is, is that I have a problem with self control. My innocent wandering became a full blown "I need to see everything right now" as soon as we stepped off the Metro. I realized I was probably going to lose it. We come out into the mall near the Louvre and take some stairs up to ground level. The buildings are old, the sky is blue, we walk through an archway and there's the Louvre, the glass pyramids, an arch, and I realize I've stopped breathing. I'm so excited and happy to be here, and then Noah hits my arm and says, "Ashley. Look." In the other direction, just peeking out above the trees is the Eiffel Tower.
I know, I know, I'm one of those people apparently, but I tear up and nearly start to cry. The freaking Eiffel Tower!!! I'm really in Paris!
|vraiment beaucoup des chiens!|
Feeling really surprised that this is actually the first encounter we've had with them, we continue along the walkway. In front of me, I watch a woman walk up the stairs, bend over and touch her fingers to the ground - where nothing is - and then turn around as I walk passed and say, "Excuse me!" holding a ring in her hand. I laugh and yell over my shoulder, "Already happened, lady!" and she just walks away. Yeesh.
Scammers vanquished, we finally make it to the street and there's the Seine, just across the way. And one of Paris' many bridges, Le Pont des Arts. This one happens to be the lock bridge, where lovers lock a padlock onto the bridge and throw the key into the Seine. It's beautiful. Parts of the fence are bent and hanging precariously over the waters, the weight of all the locks too much for it to handle.
|I love you already, Paris.|
|I immediately and completely want to live here.|
Walking away from Notre Dame toward L'hôtel de ville, there is a long line of souvenir shops, and a sandwich shop with quite a line (or rather, a giant mass of people kind of clumped around the display case. There isn't much order to it). I decide I want to check it out. Inside the shop is the most absurdly grand display of macarons and baked goods (palmiers the size of my torso!), there's a whole wall of freshly baked breads, and outside, hidden by the crowd of people, is a whole case of sandwiches. I notice that one says "vegetalien" and nearly start jumping up and down with excitement. Food I can eat! Real food! The place is called Huré, and I end up eating here almost every day I'm in Paris. The bread is ridiculously good, and the sandwich is stuffed full of artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and rocket. Europeans may not eat kale, but they freaking love their rocket. Starving and happy, we make our way off the island and down some steps on the opposite side of the Seine. There's a lovely little park area with block benches, and I choose a spot right in the bright sunlight, a cool breeze blowing off the river, and eat my sandwich in view of the boats going by, waving back at the other tourists and their cameras. I want to do this every day for the rest of my life.
|creepy pillars watch you around L'hôtel de ville|
Feeling accomplished, we headed to the train station to retrieve mom. It was kind of a novel experience, checking the arrivals board and waiting behind the line, watching all the trains arrive. It was a touch late (something I was getting used to), but it arrived, and there was mom, and now we were all in Paris and the next few days were going to be fantastic!
I was extremely excited to see her (as I usually am), and I had to recount to her all the things we had done since arriving this morning. We walked her back to the hostel to dump her things while I rambled on about needing to head back out to see everything we had just seen. She needed to get caught up!
We take the metro back in toward the Louvre, planning to do the same walk from earlier in the day. I'm very excited to surprise her with the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Louvre pyramids. The mall around the museum has closed, so we come out at a different spot and have to reorient just a bit. It's early evening now, and the sun is just starting to go down, bathing everything in a rose colored light, just as it should be in Paris. I point out the tower to her and watch her face do the same thing mine did. I can't say it enough, because it was just repeating in my head for at least the first 24 hours: "We're in Paris!"
I had already told her about the ferris wheel, and we had already decided we needed to ride it. It was free to wander into the fair, and not too pricey for the ride. Plus, it was the most lovely time of day for a ferris wheel ride! We walk up to get on, and I have my camera in one hand. The attendant holds out his hand and asks in French to see my camera, and then just reaches to take it out of my hand. He asks if I'd like him to take a photo of us, but I'm so alarmed by the fact that I am in the ferris wheel carriage and he is not, and he has my camera. He asks again in broken English and I realize he's actually being nice, and I'm being paranoid. He takes our picture and then turns the camera around and takes a picture of himself, laughing, and tells us to have a good time.
The view is ridiculous. Just amazing. You can see Sacre Coeur, Le Tour Eiffel, all of the Louvre, and it's just clear as far as you can see.
|It's hard to not be happy when you're in Paris on a ferris wheel at dusk!|
|Captured the "holy god, that's good!" face.|
|Le barbe à papa!|
To be continued...