I am exhausted. I’ve been awake for 26 hours now, and it’s 2:45 p.m. in Paris so I still have another 9 hours to survive and beat this jet lag. I woke up at 3:45 a.m. west coast time, and it is now 5:45 a.m. the next day at home.
The layer in Vancouver, BC was horrible, as I had to maneuver through the maze of halls from the international terminal to the domestic terminal because apparently you can’t stay in the terminal if your connecting flight to Paris goes through Toronto. So I had to go through baggage claim, customs (even though I’d only be in Canada a few hours), and then back through security to the domestic terminal on the other side of the airport. I arrived at the gate as it was boarding, despite a two hour layover.
I was very impressed by the Toronto airport, however – the gates had counters with iPads everywhere.
The flight to Paris was seven hours long, but because we were flying ahead in time, we witnessed the sunset, nighttime, and sunrise by leaving at 8 p.m. and arriving at 8 a.m. The flight attendant even said we would be chasing the sunset and the sunrise, which sounded very poetic.
Once we were soaring above France, I could see the patches of green all around – I didn’t know it was rural.
After I landed, I met up with another girl on my program. We’d decided to split a taxi fare to our hotel, and after we jumped in we asked, “Parlez-vous Anglais?” and of course he said, “No.” Not sure if that was a ruse or serious, but we showed him the address of the hotel and went along our way.
I love riding in cars, so it was neat to see the different buildings – worn down, classic and some modern with US electronic company logos like Samsung and Toshiba. The absolute best part was when I happened to look out my window and was startled to find my view filled with criss-crossing
medal – the immediately recognizable bottom of the Eiffel Tower. Shocking – it made me smile. The taxi driver uttered the only word he said during the ride, “Eiffel!” and we laughed.
Fun fact: In Paris, they drive on the right side of the road – I thought it would be left, as I’ve seen in European films but I was foolishly wrong.
The hotel employees said our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our luggage and decided to walk around Paris with another girl from our program.
The first quest: food. We wandered around the streets, underneath a kind of rail platform, looking at various cafes. They’re everywhere! Every city block has like three, with wicker chairs pouring onto the sidewalk, filled with people smoking or drinking cappuccinos. While some parts of Paris do remind me of America (it’s not as big of a culture shock as I’d imagined), there are many parts that are so typically French. I literally saw a little child wearing a navy blue barret hat. A lot of the people are clearly tourists, though.
Anyway, we chose a cafe near the hotel that was serving breakfast, but we also asked for lunch menus. My first French meal: “petit dejeuner Francais” which included iced orange juice, chocolat, and bread with jam. It normally also includes a croissant but the employee said “croissant fini,” so I just enjoyed the huge chewy baguette that was sliced, lathered with butter and then my added jam.
From there, we decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower since it’s close to our hotel. We just followed its giant tip poking above the buildings until we reached the area packed with tourists and pickpockets and salesmen pushing metallic Eiffel Tower trinkets. The tower is beautiful from the ground – so tall when you look up to see it. But I like the view from the end of the park, at a distance, more.
Our last stop on this self-guided tour, if you will, was the Seine. We walked along a path and across a bridge that perfectly displayed the boats sailing below, a view of the tower, and palace-like buildings, all with window shutters and iron balconies, on the other side.
Even though I’m tired, I can’t handle picturesque the city is.