Monday, August 5, 2013

If we had blogs in 1998: City of Lights

In this episode from my 1997-1998 study abroad journal, I went to Paris for the second time. It was excellent.

Spelling, grammatical, and factual errors have been preserved.

8 fevrier 1998

Long train ride from Paris today. We missed the earlier one and had to take an indirect route with transfers in Nancy & Thionville. This morning we left the hotel (The Palace) after 10am, got croissants, and went to the Tuileries and walked around. We walked from the Louvre to Burger King on Champs-Elysees. I ate twice at Burger King & twice at McDonald's this weekend. It was horrible. But I got to eat at Chili's, which totally made up for it. Really? REALLY? A real hamburger. You have to understand that every now and then I just need a burger. And they don't do them well in Europe, at least the places I went. I still have this problem. When I lived in Beirut, I craved burgers from time to time, but it was tough to find a good one. There was a TGI Fridays and a Chilis, but I refuse to go to American chains these days. Even in America. Well, except I did satisfy my Beirut burger craving twice by going to Hard Rock Cafe. Oops. So we took the 12:38 to Lux on Friday and ate at McDonald's. Ok, so blah. But then we had awhile to kill, so we (Andrea, Matt, and I) took a bus to the centre and walked around and ate sausages together. It was quite a fun thing. We finally killed enough time to catch the train.

After four hours of not getting any work done, nous arrivons a Paris. We hurried to our hotel, The Palace, and then we went to Sacre Coeur and looked out over the city. J'ai pense que je puisse habiter la. C'etait tres magnifique. Nous avons marche et regarde pour un restaurant a manger pour Andrea, qui etait malade. Pauvre Andrea - c'etait son premier temps a Paris. Translation: I thought that I could live there. It's magnificent. We walked and looked for a restaurant to eat for Andrea, who was sick. Poor Andrea, it was her first time in Paris. So we got to Sacre Coeur and walked up the million steps to see the city. The best was le Tour Eifel across the city.

It was a clear night, and above the smog one could see the moon and the stars. The moon seemed to be offering its light to me as I stumbled around the night wondering how I got there. Here was one of the biggest cities in the world, and one of the oldest, and one of the most famous, and I felt like I was standing on top of it. My lungs embraced the february air as if it were May, and my life was once again renewed. All I needed at this point in my life surrounded me, and a tear found its way down the worn path embedded in my skin. I've finally overcome the jungled past that has consumed my every thought and action, and as I looked down at Paris, I was secure in the thought that things would never revert back to how they had been. My life was free to fly, and soar I did, over the city of Paris, over the whole damned world. I had been unhappy at Miami, bored, sick of the sororities and fraternities and the business majors and the superficiality. I wasn't getting what I should have been getting out of college. I wanted to learn; everyone else wanted to get drunk and screw and skip class and find a husband. Europe made me happy. Europe cured the boredom, showed me that there was a world out there and that life did not have to be as dull as it felt in Oxford, Ohio. I marveled at how I, a nobody from nowhere, got to be in Paris and all of the other places I got to go. I never took it for granted.

Ok, so back down the steps, back through the catacombs the metro takes us, up to McDonald's where fatigue overcomes me, and my brain shuts down. To be honest, even NPR thinks McDonald's in France is edible. Now I wouldn't go there if it were the only food in the city. I remember Steph's clicking, Andrea's coughing, Matt's grinding, and my tossing and turning as I struggled through a night of sleep. Waking up took a long time, but waking up on a february morning never is a smooth process. Me and Steph went and got breakfast from the grocery down the street. Then Matt & Andrea got into a discussion about the Olympics. I think Andrea has a slight American bias. Matt roots for the underdog. I agreed with Matt in that the economics of a country plays an important role in determining which countries receive medals. Opening the eyes... The Olympics is going on now - I wonder how the US is doing. I feel so out of it.

For some reason I can't remember much from Friday night in terms of what people said. Steph always remembers that stuff. So up to Saturday morning when we finally left. We went straight to le Tour. Andrea was really feeling shitty; we all wished we could have helped. She seemed to want to wander around alone, but we kept tagging along. It was so smoggy that we could barely see the top of le Tour, and it was raining and cold. But all was incredible. We stood looking at the Tour at noon. Then, much to my delight and guilt, we got to eat hamburgers at Chilis. It was awesome. I hope nobody was mad at me for making them fork over $11 for lunch (but we ate at BK twice & McD twice, so at least I got some real food once). Then Steph had a cow about the tip. She can't understand that this isn't America. You don't need to leave 15%. Especially for lunch on a Saturday. Oh well.

Ok, so Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, then onto Notre Dame, which was better than the first time. But there were too many people. Andrea really liked it. The architecture is incredible. She knows so much about art and music. Have a question? Just ask her. I don't think that Matt & her make a good pair. Their interest in literature is the only similar thing, and even that differs - Victorian vs. modern. I thought things would turn out bad, being in Paris and all. But even Matt commented on the lack of tension between them. I wonder what that was all about. I don't understand the whole situation. Andrea was throwing out questions at the trains station on Friday that I did not want to answer and really didn't. Anyway, so Paris did nothing for the situation.

Notre Dame, halfway through a cleaning
So - Notre Dame - ok, well, we got pushed out because they had 6:30 mass. So we walk around for food, but then decide to go to the Tour Eifel. 59ff was well worth it. The funniest thing was the fact that Steph had to go to the bathroom. So there we were, standing on top of the world (with a bunch of other people), billions of lights below, billions of stars above, Steph had to go, and all the while having this mind boggling feeling. I accidently said too loud to Steph "Where are the two love birds?" and Matt overheard. I wonder what he was thinking about that time. I had the strangest feeling grab we while I was looking out to the farthest twinkling lights, as if my memory was trying to remember something it could not recall. I'm thinking Las Vegas from the desert, but there is no memory there, just a feeling. I had been to Las Vegas as a child but didn't remember it. Something on top of the Eiffel Tower sparked some sort of distant memory about it, for whatever reason. Probably the lights. I'd never seen so many.

We were up there for quite awhile, for when we got down, Steph could barely hold her problem. We set our sights on a bathroom, but ended up at BK on the Champs-Elysees. We had walked from the Eifel Tower, a good, brisk, breath-squeezing walk, across our own little walking bridge over the Seine, past pont de l'Alma and Di's death site, past some stores for rich people, up the Champs-Elysses to BK. I was starved. It was there we saw a guy fling a hamburger back at the cashier. It was rather funny. We ate, exhausted, went to the Disney store, went home & slept. So not enough sleep later we woke up, took a long time, went to the Tuileries, ate at BK, and the whole train thing. And the sad thing is, we won't travel together for at least another month.

The Notre Dame thing is funny to me. I returned to Paris in 2010 and took a lot of great photos of carvings, not remembering that the first couple of times I saw the church it was filthy. I wonder why they let it get that bad. This is my favorite photo from the 2010 trip. The September shadows captured good and evil perfectly.

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