My continuing series on that time I dropped everything and moved to Paris. Part 1 can be found here. So sit down with a pain du chocolat and a noisette and get cozy.
I arrived in Paris to warm sunshine. It was the beginning of September so the weather had cooled off slightly, but left the city still aglow from summer. The first setback I encountered was the ride from Charles de Gaulle airport to the city itself, like an idiot I thought it was close to Paris, but no. So a chunk of my money had gone to the taxi ride before I even arrived at the hotel.
Welcome to the big city, girl.
The hotel was small, but inviting, and I wanted nothing more than to set my stuff down and go exploring. It was still early afternoon and I was a ball of energy waiting to be unleashed on the poor, unsuspecting, French citizenry. I practiced saying, “Ou est La Closerie des Lilas?” a few times out loud. Yes, some of the greatest artists and writers had drank within its walls, but the café where Robert and Mireille would meet for a kir featured prominently in many segments of our French in Action tape. That would be one of my first stops. On a high school trip to Paris a friend and I successfully asked for directions there, so I wanted to recreate our shining moment from that trip where we actually understood a bit of French and got our friends to the café. As excited as I was to see the café, my very first stop would be the Eiffel Tower. Then I’d be off to La Closerie des Lilas for a drink and people watching.
I dragged my luggage up the stairs to my room that looked out over a small, but lovely, courtyard filled with flowers and small trees. It was magical and I was already in love with everything. I called my mom to let her know I was alive and set about finding the metro and Paris maps my friend had bought me as a going away present. Years later as I was checking the Hopstop app on my phone in New York City I remembered those early days in Paris when I carried a map around like a weirdo. I unfolded the maps and proceeded to plan out my route to the tower.
I walked out of my hotel and attempted to find the nearest metro stop. Now, I’m not going to brag, but in the car, I have a great sense of direction. I know where I need to go and how to get there. Walking, however, is a whole other ballgame. After a few wrong turns, eventually the metro sign appeared ahead and I was officially ready to start my new Parisian adventure…
by trying to figure out how to buy a metro card.
It seemed easy enough, you put money in the machine, and it gives you a little white ticket. Everyone was putting in money, getting a ticket, and going along their merry way. Alright, I’m from DC, I got this! I did not got this. It took a few tries, a few swear words, and a few looks over my shoulder like “Modern machinery, right?!” to the poor people who just wanted to get home. Luckily I finally pressed the right amount of buttons and was gifted with a metro ticket before the people waiting in line made me walk to the tower. My first Parisian triumph!
I made my way down to the train platform and waited. The train arrived, and as luck would have it, the doors stopped right in front of me. Triumph number two! Take that, Paris! I JUST MIGHT MAKE IT AFTER ALLL….I was thinking in my head as a tall French man elbowed past me to open the train door and step inside. While my head was alight with my triumph, I failed to realize that the metro doors do not open automatically like in the states. You have to pull a lever to open them So while I was busy throwing my hat in the air in my mind, everyone was impatiently waiting for me to just open the damn door.
I found a seat and noted that the car didn’t smell like an armpit. I think the French got the memo on that one. The city whizzed by as I checked my route on the metro map. It was a trek from my hotel, but I could manage. As my stop approached I waited patiently by the doors until the car came to a stop. Lost in thought about all the awesome pictures I was going to take, I noticed that the train had started to move again, and I was still on it.
PULL UP THE LEVER, ANGELLE!
Omigod, I did it AGAIN. Once, fine, we can all let that slide, but twice? Get. It. Together. I got off at the next station and retraced my steps back to my connecting stop. I was getting to that tower today come hell or high water, because I’m an AMERICAN and WE DON’T GIVE UP!
Oh damn, I missed my stop again.
After a few mishaps, one lever that refused to budge, and countless looks that said either, “Damn tourists”, or “Is she insane? She might be insane. Stay away from her or she might talk to us about Jesus”, finally I managed to get the hang of opening the doors. It was like trying to jump into a game of double dutch and waiting for just the right moment when the ropes were open. Now I was a total pro.
The Eiffel Tower awaited…
I looked at the map after leaving the metro stop and tried to figure out where I was in relation to the tower. The map made it look petty close. I started walking in what I assumed was the right direction and quickly realized that all of the streets look the same. They all looked THE SAME. No differentiation at all. So I kept walking…
Until I found a Starbucks.
I ordered a latte and kept walking
Until I found another Starbucks
and kept walking.
It went on like this for another hour and a half. I was exhausted, it was getting late, and I knew it was time to get over my fear and just ask someone where the damn tower was. I stopped a older French woman who could not have been nicer and spoke English. She directed me to take the metro to the Trocadero stop where you could take the best pictures. She was also nice enough to give me directions to the nearest metro stop.
Twenty minutes later, I walked up to the busy plaza full of people and street performers and stood in awe. There she was keeping watch over the city. Too overwhelmed and exhausted to take pictures, I sat down as a tear or two slid down my cheek. I was here. I was FINALLY here…
but my adventures were just beginning.