Little Me, Back From Paris!

April 3, 2017

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This past weekend I left early, skipped my Friday class, and went to France! Not only did I go to France, but I went to beautiful Paris (as you could probably tell from the title). Several weeks ago I asked Evan if he wanted to do something this weekend. We explored locations, I found cheap bus tickets to Paris, and pronto...we met in Paris! But let's take a step back...

I prepared all week and got all of my work finished in order to leave for Paris on Thursday. I had to miss class on Friday in order to go, but I figured it was well worth it to do so. Most of my Thursday went entirely normally...I packed late per usual, but I unfortunately had to miss meeting with my host family.

My bus left at 10:30, so I had to arrive by 10:15 in order to be on time for boarding. I'm always unusually punctual/early, so I, of course, got to the bus stop much earlier...thus, I was one of the first people to board the bus. As the bus started in Berlin, there were already people all around. The first empty seat I found was right in front of the on-board restroom (ugh!), but it was empty so I took it. Little did I know that I was sitting behind Satan himself.

My first interaction with Satan was after the bus started running. Before we had made it to our first stop (I believe it was Münster), he had dropped his coat that he was resting his head on behind his seat. He kept looking around frantically and I saw that it was under his seat, so I picked it up and handed it to him. He was NOT happy about it. He must have thought I stole his coat or something (I definitely didn't, psht) and he snatched it out of my hand and gave me the nastiest look I've ever seen. It was really strange. Of course, everyone around me is asleep so they don't see the craziness of Satan. Next, he proceeded to lean back his seat as far as possible and when it rammed into my knees he turned around and gave me another really nasty look. He proceeded to jam it back over and over until he finally gave up, gave out a big audible sigh in apparent annoyance, and switched to his other seat to do the same (effectively trapping me in the innermost seat). To make matters worst, when he slept he snored really loud and I just wanted to kick him in the face.

Well, when we finally got to Münster, some ladies in a seat over got off and I quickly snatched their seat away from Satan for the rest of the ride. Satan then noticed, gave me a nasty look, but then looked very satisfied and jammed BOTH of his seats backward. That'll show me!? However, sweet sweet redemption soon came. These old people got on the bus, sat behind Satan, and asked him to put his seat up and one of them sat beside him. HA! Sucker. That'll show you to be a jerk. And Satan wouldn't dare be mean to old people. Sweet sweet revenge (kind of...more karma than anything).

Eventually, I fall asleep and wake up around 5am. Not much happens in the next period of time, but I stay awake and just watch out the window until I arrive in Paris at our bus stop. Now the fun begins.

I text Evan and he seems to still be a far ways out. His plane had arrived around the same time my bus arrived, but he still had to get from the airport on a bus which would take a considerable amount of time. So, I was on my own. I was in the Southwestern portion of Paris, right by the Eiffel Tower, so I decided to head to the Eiffel Tower, then to the Arch of Triumph, and then walk to my hostel to waste time. Both monuments were fine...I didn't stay long as I figured I'd see them again later. However, I suppose I didn't realize how enormous Paris is. My walk from Southwest to Northeast Paris took me almost two hours, and I believe I had nearly 16km of walking in that first day I was there. What a workout! All the while, people think I'm French all over the place? I guess that's kind of a compliment? Yeah, people are always asking me questions in French and then laughing when I tell them I don't speak French. Oops. Jerks.

I get to the hostel (eventually!), check-in (my room was ready, yay!), and go to buy a lock from a nearby store. It was surprisingly difficult to find a lock. Kind of annoying. The hostel is super nice and I really enjoy it. Once I finally arrive, I see Evan checking in and say hi (in a very bro-ey way) and we chill while he checks into his room. We hang out for a short period of time, and eventually we go to Notre Dame as I noticed it was close on my walk to the hostel. We didn't want to wait in line or pay to go up in the bell tower, so we just went into the church proper. When we went in it looked like a mass was going on, so we had to be quiet and take in the beauty relatively quickly. There was so much care put into building the cathedral and the gothic ceilings seemed to reach to the heavens. Notre Dame was probably my favorite part of the entire trip—it's that beautiful.

At this point, we're a bit parched so we decide to stop by a bar and get a drink. We head all over Paris until we eventually find a place that has beer listed as 5 Euros. Not entirely unreasonable. We get to the counter, order a beer...and are asked if we wanted a small or large. Well, apparently the large was double the cost (or maybe that's the tourist tax) because we ended up paying 10 Euro for some crappy French beer. Never again.

From this point, we head to the Pantheon, see the Eiffel Tower, and notice the vast amount of history in France. It's just absolutely ridiculous. All of the walking and the traveling from earlier, however, has us very tired...so we walk back to the hostel and take naps (for about an hour) until we're ready to meet Maddie (a friend from Denison...she lives in Paris for the semester) at a restaurant that she highly recommends for dinner. The restaurant is wonderful, the carbonara that I have is delicious, and I don't even mind the wine that she orders (usually I hate wine). It was surprising to eat Italian food our first night in France, but I wasn't complaining. Maddie had things to attend to that night, but she recommended this really cool whiskey bar that we should head to. It's a bit difficult to describe and still do it justice, but I'll try.

The premise was simple: they tried to mock the US's prohibition era speakeasies. When you walk into the bar, it looks like a normal Italian restaurant. Plenty of light, pizzas all over the place, and people slurping pasta like an homage to Lady and the Tramp (no meatball nudging though...). This was just the tip of the iceberg. When you look around, you notice a door on the back wall that looks like it goes to a storage room...and you'd be right at that assumption. As you walk through the door, you're met with storage of food supplies, freezers, and cleaning supplies in random places. However, the magic happens when you open the door on the back of the "storage room". You open up the door and you enter The Moonshiner. As you step into the next room, you feel like you're entering the 1920s and alcohol suddenly becomes a taboo topic on the outside and this dimly lit speakeasy is the only place you can truly sit back, relax, and have a drink. The decor is fine, the atmosphere is great, the separation of smoking and non-smoking is unusual in Paris (but surely welcomed), and the alcohol is...well, not really worth the price...but I suppose you're paying for the atmosphere. We spend an hour or so at this bar before heading back and going to our hostel to prepare for our first full day in Paris.

The next day I have breakfast with people from the hostel that we had met the day before. They were Americans also studying abroad and seemed nice enough. Evan took a while to wake up, so they were gone by the time he had gotten there...we then decided upon our plan for the day. Our first stop was at the Louvre. We were a little skeptical about going to the Louvre because everyone we had talked to had shit on it, but we decided it was kind of something we had to do while in Paris...so we went! Technically only residents of the EU should get into the Louvre for free (if they're between 18 and 26)...but Evan and I were able to convince the people working there (who didn't really care in the first place) that we were from the EU. All it takes is a fake accent and a residence permit that looks like an ID!

The Louvre is just incomprehensibly enormous. It's just...well, huge. Evan and I were in the Louvre for nearly 4 hours and during that time we didn't even see a fraction of the section that we were in. In fact, it took us nearly twenty minutes to find our way out of the section we were in without even looking at any more art because we wanted to see the Mona Lisa before having to leave. Whilst there, we saw some pretty cool art. Many of the art was just "meh" but we did see that cool meme guy that points and some Monet, which was nifty. Eventually we had to leave to meet with Maddie again.

This time, Maddie took us to this cool old-fashioned France hill "butte" thing. She was very excited about it (as she seemed to be about most of Paris) and told us all about it. We ate at this nifty restaurant, got a ham and cheese sandwich (which wasn't too bad considering I hate ham) and talked more about France. It's kind of overwhelming how much Maddie loves Paris. While in the butte neighborhood thingy (I'm sure it has a name and Maddie would kill me for not calling it by that name) we went to the oldest vineyard (and last, if I remember correctly) in Paris, we went to a church on the top of the hill, and we got some gelato which was definitely needed. Like, vitally. It was an adorable little neighborhood, exactly what you think of when you think of France, but it was also incredibly touristy. Still, it was neat finally seeing people playing accordions in Paris like you'd expect if you'd never been there.

Picturesque, eh?

Maddie didn't leave us here, however. She next showed us the Champs Elysees (where she repeatedly said she wished she lived) and a few museums around the area. Of course, we're all poor college students so we didn't buy anything, but it was still cool to see all of the life in the city. I still prefer New York and Chicago though *shrugs*. We continued to walk toward the river, got a picture, and eventually Maddie left us alone to do our own thing. We, at this point, didn't know what to do with ourselves now that Maddie was gone...so we went back to our hostel to figure out our lives. From here, we decided to walk along the street our hostel was on to find a place to eat dinner because it tended to be cheaper. We found a reasonable place to eat and walked in—the waiter spoke English, thankfully, and he wasn't super rude about it like most Parisians seemed to be. I had a hard time eating a portion of my food...I wasn't very hungry apparently, because it was delicious. Evan also had trouble finishing his entire meal, but for a different reason—namely because he ordered a dish that was basically raw meat. He claimed to have enjoyed it (or at least not dislike it) but I think he found it disgusting... YOU CANNOT FOOL ME EVAN. Also, there was a very adorable child running around, which was fun to watch. But I digress...

Finally, to end the night we went to go grab some drinks. Keeping with the trend, Paris was very expensive and so were drinks. The bar wasn't that great and was extremely full. Evan told me all sorts of interesting stories about times he was high and how he reacted though...so that was fun. I love high people stories...they're usually pretty funny. We got back to the hostel around 1am and prepped for our last day in Paris by getting a good night's sleep.

The last day we're in Paris we wake up (relatively late) and eat breakfast. From there, we take a 15 stop metro ride to the Eiffel Tower (I can't believe I walked that entire distance the first day) and basically chilled there most of the morning. Got some incredible photos and Evan got the Snapchat video that he was foaming at the mouth the entire trip to get. It involved Kanye's "Ni**as in Paris" and some rapid zooming action. High quality, for sure.

Soon enough, we realize that we're being lazy bums and probably should actually do something while we're in Paris and we get up and head to the Musée de l'Armée that Maddie had talked about the day prior and that we passed several times. It was free for students (huge plus) and we got to see a lot of really cool things. From medieval armor to artifacts from the French Revolution, there was a lot to be seen here. If you went outside, you could see modern military equipment alongside some really old cannons that looked totally badass. It was a good time. Perhaps the coolest part of the museum, however, was seeing the burial place of Napoleon. The building where he was buried was unbelievably enormous, his entire family was with him, and you could tell that Napoleon is vastly important to the history and the people of France.

Even after spending plenty of time in this museum, we couldn't seem to burn away time fast enough. We went to the American Embassy. Didn't burn much time. We went to the Pantheon again. Didn't burn much time. We walked through the Louvre gardens and went to a Starbucks to use the restroom. Still didn't burn much time. But eventually it became time to meet Maddie for the last time before I left. Maddie wanted to take us to a crepe restaurant, which was pretty good, but she kept talking about sharing food and stuff (and I don't share food...idk, I'm weird) so I lost my appetite. The crepes were very good, but also very expensive (like most things in Paris).

When we were done with crepes, we said bye to Maddie for the final time and continued to randomly walk around. Before my departure time drew too close, I made sure to tell Evan that we needed to go back to the hostel so I could grab my stuff. We went back, talked a little bit, but eventually we hugged it out (a bro hug, don't worry) and went our separate ways. I'm not entirely sure what Evan did that night, but he has a knack for getting himself into trouble when he's alone...I'm sure things went well for him.

I, on the other hand, hopped on the metro, pretended to be a French person with unlimited confidence in navigating the city, and stopped by a grocery to get myself some water for the long trip ahead of me. That interaction was pretty flawless, too, and by the end of my trip to Paris I think I did a pretty good job of blending in. As I traveled back to the FlixBus stop, it seemed like I was doing my original journey in reverse. I saw the Eiffel Tower and Arch of Triumph again...and eventually arrived at the bus station. I was there a bit early, but I didn't mind because that meant I was going to get a good seat on the bus (and I did!).

I hop on the bus, prepare for my 10 hour journey, and an old moustach'd man sat beside me after asking "Ist das plätz frei?" in a really terrible accent. I responded "Ja." and he sat right on down. We didn't really talk, but over the duration of the bus ride I came to realize that this guy spoke like 5 languages. He knew English, obviously at least some German (he also made a phone call in German later on), he knew French and was visiting his children in France, he knew Spanish (he called what I guess is his wife and talked to her in Spanish) and his phone was in Spanish, and he also knew some Italian (I could tell from the accent he used on YET ANOTHER phone call). That was pretty cool to notice. He might have known even more that I didn't get to experience during our time together. In fact, he was rather fluent in the language of snoring. *rolls eyes* During the bus ride I ate too much sugar and didn't get nearly enough sleep. Typical.

But yeah, Paris was fun and I highly recommend. It is expensive, but it's fun for a short few days. If possible, have a native speaker with you. Things will go much better!

Au Revoir!