You know, it’s easy to draw conclusions about people and places before you meet them or see them. I think it is human nature to do so. I delight when I am proven wrong, and my cultured opinions are proven foolish. People everywhere are capable of kindness, even the French.
I was completely exhausted upon my arrival to Paris yesterday morning. D.C. was crowded, and yelling matches broke out in the 1.5 hour long line to check baggage. The attendant was arguing for a good 10 minutes with the woman in front of me who didn’t want to pay the astronomical baggage fees (but in the airline’s defense, she did have 5 suitcases, each weighing 60+ lbs). I was nervous when it was my turn, and being a European airline, they made me weigh my carry-on luggage as well as my checked bag. I was told that because the camera bag was 2.5 kilos overweight I would have to check it and pay an extra $100, but a sweet smile and soft voice from me fixed that… I think I might have been the only person in line who did not yell at that man, and it could have been through mere surprise that he winked and made an exception for me.
The flight was jam packed and the seats were tight and tiny. I enjoyed plenty of conversation from my neighbors– Emeric who was on his way home to Liberia to see his family, and the exquisitely beautiful Halima who was on her way to the beach in her native country of Sierra Leone. We ended up taking selfies of the three of us at 1am, so glamorous! Oh, and the very flirtatious flight attendant who called me his sweetheart and checked on me 10 times. Needless to say, I did not sleep a minute of my 7.5 hour flight, and by the time I arrived, I was exhausted.
So, tired me decides to get a taxi to the hotel instead of trying to figure out the metro. Midtake #1. Oh my gosh, there goes my dinner for 3 nights. As soon as I arrive, the hotel manager tells me I’m in the wrong place… Although I figured this out as soon as I walked through the door….it was way nicer than I paid for. The hotel I needed (same name, but not a chain), was in some corner of Paris, on the completely opposite side of the city than where I was. The hotel man was so kind, and spent several minutes highlighting a map of which metros to take.
So, through a series of events, I eventually made my way to the proper place. I felt like people were so willing to help when I asked, and tried their hardest to speak English with me. I had this presupposition that all French men were kind of dirty (like no showers), and smelly and rude. Ummm, I found that a great deal of them are actually incredibly handsome, and smell just fine. And they practically fell over themselves to help me… I had someone show me how to swipe a metro card, someone translate the machine for me, and one guy in particular who helped me carry my bag up three flights of stairs out of the metro station. He bought me a coffee in the corner cafe, and we had a hilarious time trying to talk. No French on my part, no English on his. He took me around the corner to the salon where he works and let me connect to the Internet while he did a haircut. Then I threw up in their bathroom and decided it was time to make a less-than-graceful exit.
My hotel room is little more than a bed and sink in a closet, toilet is down the hall, showers are downstairs. I kind of like it, adds to the sense of adventure. I was the one and only guest who stayed in last night, being stuck in my bed. At one point, I got bored, and went downstairs to talk to the hotel manager. He is a kind man, who gave me free snacks (for the stomach), and a few lessons in French.
My summary of yesterday, really, I wish I could write at the top of the page. I found myself a bit lost, sick (and oh my, I am a pathetic sick person), and projected way out of my comfort zone. I had a dreamy expectation of what Paris would be like, and had negative expectations of the French. But right where I was at my worst, I was met with kindness, generosity, and concern at every corner. I guess that is one of the best benefits of travel, breaking down prejudices and allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable. I found that I am far more capable than I give myself credit for, and when absolutely necessary, I can survive food poisoning without someone to wipe my fevered brow.
Today was much better, after I slept off sickness for 18 hours. A few photos of the day, which I took slowly and easily. One nice thing about traveling alone is that I can set my own pace, and I am a pretty slow tourist. I like to take in the sights and smells. I sat at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and drank a Cafe au Lait from a street vendor for a very long time today. Later this evening, I sat at a street cafe, under the awning with the heater on, and drank champagne, wrote for awhile, and watched everyone walk by on the glistening cobblestone street in the rain. Perfect, lovely.
I had a “New Year’s” post written out, but will have to wait to publish it until my computer is running again. I um… Caught my converter on fire which in turn broke my charger. How, I have no idea. But I am grateful for the iPad that still has some charge from the States, and will have to find the Apple Store here tomorrow. It’s not so bad being mostly disconnected, I ought to do it more often!
Bonne Annee! Happy New Year!