Sacré Bleu! Je suis en France! Part 1

The title pretty much sums up the only French vocabulary I have.

Okay, not really, but needless to say my French is a sorry comparison to the other languages I can speak. Heck, even tonal Chinese comes out of my mouth better. 😉 But we’ll get back to my French abilities later. Probably much later, because this is going to be long.

Okay, so I headed out to Ferihegy Airport around 12:30 for a flight that was scheduled to leave at 16:10. I stopped and grabbed a chocolate and vanilla cinnamon roll from Tesco and leisurely rode tram 47 to Kalvin ter, connected with the metro, then hit the bus. All was good…except that people were staring at me wondering why I was wearing a raincoat on a sunny 70 degree day. I was not about to try to fit that thing into my laptop bag, which is the only baggage I carry on short trips. That laptop bag, which is exactly the size of my laptop (15 inch screen, etc), carries — with some skillful packing — my laptop, a book to read, a pencil, power adaptors, an MP3 player, headphones, two thick fuzzy socks, a change of clothes/nightwear, a hairbrush, a belt, the cord and power pack for my laptop, two cameras, a camera case, a Sony block camera charger, a money pouch, a cell phone, and a folder containing boarding passes/etc. And it is still not over the size limits of even the most restrictive airline, WizzAir.

Anyway, I got to the airport earlier than planned due to being able to catch the bus immediately upon entering the station. Normally, the wait is about 20 minutes. But I got to the airport with a lot of extra time to spare, so I sat in the wifi lobby and charged my computer after I went through security, which was a breeze as always. On the way through the screeners, I helped out a foreign girl (as in not from Budapest) as she had never flown before. Finally, I sat down at gate A3, about an hour and half before the flight was scheduled to leave, which means about an hour before boarding.

Ah…I’m the only one here. Listen to this wonderful sound — the sound of nothing. Beautiful silence. Then, this happens:

http://youtu.be/yvc4CnArhVI

Okay, that would bother anyone, right? It went on for the whole hour. It was a jackhammer outside the window about ten feet from me. Sensitive ears or not, I’m sure you know how I felt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDGQTHuKGJ8

Although I would have preferred that nice tropical music. 😉 So, once I’m finally on the bus that’s taking me to the plane, a guy walks up to me and points to his American passport. “Which state are you from?” And thus began a friendship that lasted past the airport and into Paris.

Eventually I discovered that his name was Zack (or Zach, he didn’t say how to spell it). His brother studies in Paris, and he was here for a visit. I didn’t say much to him on the bus, but of course irony would have it that I sit next to him on the plane. So we strike up a conversation about how he had just finished visiting Budapest, what he saw, where we’d like to go, travel itineraries, etc. Although he did fall asleep on the plane. In a not so…graceful…way. But I won’t bring it up in public. He probably doesn’t even know. 😉

So, after a pleasant EasyJet flight, we arrived in Charles De Gaulle airport. Zack and I went out together since we would also be taking the RER B and both needed tickets. Getting the tickets wasn’t as much of an issue as I thought it would be (we happened to hit the one ticket machine in the airport that accepted American Visa cards). After that, we just had to plan out how to get to where we were going. Let the fun begin.

He figured there was a shorter way to his destination than he originally planned, so he was going to ride the RER further than I. I had a sudden change of metro stops for my hotel right before the flight, so I suddenly had to find a way to Strasbourg-Saint-Denis instead of Bonne Nouvelle. No problem, as it appeared that they were both easily accessible by the same line. Or were they? Zack and I talked about it, and I suggested that I should probably get off at Gare du Nord and just wing it from there. As I reached to pull out my itinerary, a (literal) fountain of blood exploded from my finger before I felt the pain.

I swear, in all honesty, that that was the worst paper cut I have ever gotten. It would NOT stop bleeding, no matter what I did, and the blood was copious — down my finger, across my nail, everywhere. It looked like I stuck my finger in a cup of red food coloring. And it does kinda look a bit worse than a normal paper cut that you can’t really see.

Image

We had to catch the train and couldn’t hang around waiting for my hand to stop bleeding, so we headed out. And might I mention also that finding the RER B was infinitely easier than finding the Leonardo Da Vinci or Sabina-Fiumicino train in Rome. There were actually signs this time.

Once on the train, we got out our little pocket metro maps and verified our routes with each other one last time. By now, Zack and I had been working together for about four or five hours. A woman next to us (who later said that she had been on the same flight as us) saw our maps and asked, in a thick French accent, if we needed help. We verified our itineraries by her, too, and she said that we would be fine going the way we planned. She was quite talkative, but she was also very kind and helpful — most of it wasn’t just idle prattle. She visits Budapest every year and used to live in the French coutryside, apparently.

When my stop at Gare Du Nord came up, I said goodbye to Zack and the nice lady. Zack told me to be careful traveling alone and wished me an enjoyable trip. Then, it was doors open and into the mass of people at GDN, one of Paris’ busiest stations. Soon enough I found a sign for my metro, prayed it was going the right direction (I later learned that it is automatically, for reasons I will discuss soon), and got on.

Sidenote here to say that I rather enjoy the ticketing process in Paris. No ticket checkers — if you don’t have a ticket, you can’t get into the metro building. Or out. Period. And the little suction things that take your tickets are sweet.

So I arrived at Strasbourg-Saint-Denis with no problem, and finding the hotel was similarly easy. The roads were all very obvious, although the hotel itself appeared a little dubious at first — you had to be in the entryway before you could see Hotel des Boulevards. I knocked and was greeted by the friendly desk guy. I wish I could be around to eat any of the breakfast foods that he has, but sadly both breakfasts are too late for me. 😦

I quickly dropped my stuff in my room, gathered together what I needed to go back out, and zoomed back to the metro station. I wonder if I’ll know when I’m in the right place, I thought as I disembarked many stops (and transfers) later. By now, it was about 9:10PM. I was a little concerned that I might be out late enough that the metros would close, but I figured I’d cross that bridge if I came to it, which I was going to do my best to ensure that I didn’t. So, how would I know where I was once I exited the station? Maybe because I was greeted by this as soon as I came to the top of the steps.

Image

Needless to say that, when looking for the Eiffel Tower, this makes it remarkably easy to find.

I went in the general direction of the glimmering tower and found it quite easily. I took a few quick snapshots before dashing into the line, which was longer than I’d hoped it would be. Still, I was quite surprised at the speed with which it moved — at about 9:15 I got into line, and I was at the top of the tower by 10:15. That includes standing in the original line, buying a ticket, going through security, going up a slow loft with a line waiting for it, getting out at the second floor to change lofts with another wait, and going through another line. I’d say that’s pretty good considering that this is the Eiffel Tower that we’re talking about and that I bought tickets on the spot. I didn’t want to dilly-dally, though, not only because I’m not one of those kind of people in general but because I was concerned about how late I’d be out. I spent quite a bit of time at the tower, though! And it’s also where I did my Paris vlog, because there did end up being only one — mostly because I just didn’t have anything interesting to say at other places. The vlog intended for in front of the Eiffel Tower is…something else. Don’t worry, it’ll be posted, it’s just not a vlog any more.

Anyway, the view from the top was great. I’ll be honest, I debated for a long time about whether or not to go all the way to the top. It is significantly more money to go to the top than it is to go only to the second floor, and I’d heard many people say that the view from both the top and the second floors are virtually the same. After having experienced it, my personal opinion is this — what the heck are you talking about? I would have been so disappointed if I only went to the second floor! It looked like a city, nothing more. But from the top, it seemed more coherent. Let me show you. Second floor —

Image

That’s great. In fact, that’s beautiful. Until you get to see this from the top —

Image

To me, that’s so much better. You can really see why Paris is called the City of Lights. So if you asked my opinion, I would tell everyone to go all the way to the top. Another tip — if you go to the Eiffel Tower at all, ever, be a bully. If you’re not willing to, you’ll never get any pictures. Let me revise that — be a bully to the people who need it. There are a lot of teens that will be obnoxious and stupid, doing stupid things that keep you from enjoying your time. Try “pardon” or something, but don’t be afraid to body tackle through them. It works.

Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to get back to the hotel and the metros were still very much open and lively. It was around 11:30PM when I was heading back, and I hadn’t eaten anything since around 1PM. I was hungry! And wouldn’t you know it, a cute little crepe stand just appeared before me!

This trip to Paris is similar to the one to Rome in that it will be souvenir-less; the only souvenirs I’m collecting are food. There are multiple reasons for this, which I may blog about separately sometime in the future. For now, though, just know that crepes were on my list of foods I’d like to eat while in France. Cheap and convenient, I picked up a chestnut crepe and headed away with it. After the first bite, so many unique colors and ideas flooded my mind.

Image

I’ve never had anything with chestnut creme before, but it was delightful in a new sort of way. Smooth and earthy but with a small jolt of sweetness at the sides of the mouth, it’s difficult to describe. When I bit into it, I actually saw a color as the best way to understand it — the color amber. Warm, with a resonating timbre. I rather enjoyed that crepe.

Anyway, after arriving back in my  hotel, I didn’t get to bed until around 1AM! But that’s okay; the next day ended up going well as well. But ah, that’s a story for another time. For tomorrow, specifically. I can write it while I’m on the plane. 🙂

So yeah, stay tuned for tomorrow, since it’ll be way more exciting blog-wise than today was. You know, ninja-ing into lines, speaking French (for realisies!), stabbing people in the back (also for realsies), all the fun stuff. I need to sleep so I can get up early to catch my flight. Oh, and watch my vlog if you haven’t. The correct one, now that I’ve fixed that little blip in the radar. 😉

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