Well I made my way back in one overly exhausted, extremely beat up, and with a smile that could touch both sides of the pond. My trip which I had very few concrete plans set in place before touching down in Shannon, Ireland turned out to be, as I’m sure it is for most, an absolutely amazing experience.
When I touched down in my obnoxiously green painted 767, it was only two feet into Ireland I heard a familiar voice. “Last Name” I heard shouted in my direction. (Now, obviously that’s not what someone yelled or in fact my last name, but if I put my last name you’d know my true identity. I do have nice short and quite unique last name that I have gone by since my Pop Warner days. Somehow my Sir Name, as it was referred to on the Irish Immigration form is still what a lot of people still call me in the office.)
I whipped my head around quickly to find the voice I knew quite well. I was still scraping the eye crunkies out of both eyes as I left NYC at 10pm and arrived at 9am the next morning. “Hey buddy, how the hell are ya? It’s good to see you.” Now I know this sounds like boring small talk for a friend I’ve just seen in a foreign country not more than 15 minutes since my arrival but I work with the guy and had seen him Friday in the office before he left.
No I would hold on too my big hellos for others, new people, old people I hadn’t seen in a while and of course the bride and groom I would see in one week for it’s their wedding that sparked the idea of this life changing trip.
My friend and I met his girlfriend who was traveling with him in a small airport eatery. They had already finish breakfast as they had arrived on the flight before mine by a few hours. We chatted a bit, “how was your flight? “how about the flight attendants outfits? (Outfits that must have been crafted and dyed by the same guy who decided to go with the shamrock / sea foam green exterior paint I noticed every time I glanced out of my window seat)
The three of us were flying to Paris in just a few hours. A trip I had planned, knowing they would be there as well. After all, I figured it would be nice to know at least two faces in a country filled with complete strangers (oh and strangers who are not real big fans of the good old U – S – of A.
Our flight was on RyanAir, the Southwest of Ireland. You know the type, no seat assignments, cheap fares. Oh, and seats that don’t go back, no tray tables and the safety manual highlighting where each exit is located and what it would it look like if there were to be a severe change in cabin pressure. Mind you all of this done by drawings a first year student at Simpson’s University could have done. It is plastered on the seat in front of you because the normal pocket that you normally manage to shove you book, iPod, newspaper, and wrapped up chewed gum (you know you do) into does not exist.
Now I understand keeping costs low so that these cheap fares get butts in these seats, but would it kill them to throw just a bit of comfort into them first? Nonetheless, with their bright and I mean bright blue and yellow plane they touched down in sunny Beauvais airport 5 minutes ahead of schedule. It was a quick process through Customs and then it was onto a bus to Paris. Much like Southwest, RyanAir tends to fly into nice clean little airports just right outside of the big cities. The ride was easy and even gave me a time to see the French country side. Outside of the steering column being on the wrong side (the right side) of the car and the driver driving on the wrong side of the road (the left side) the ride was easy as pie or crème burlee.
I was riding solo on the bus as my friends had arranged a car to pick them up. As we cruised into Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the back drop I got a little lump in my stomach. Unlike the lumps that would soon follow, this one was not due to too many espressos and cigarettes. (I don’t usually smoke, but you know what they say, when in Rome…)
The lump was this, I have no idea where I’m going to sleep tonight, I don’t speak the language and I am loving every minutes of this…it’s true it’s a very similar feeling I had when I first moved to NYC with no job and no place to call home. The feeling can only be something compared to that of an X Games athlete or sky diver. It’s absolutely petrifyingly thrilling.
I had my back pack, a small black roller bag, a shot of espresso and a newly purchased map of the city. Before I left I printed out the last correspondence I had with a girlfriend of mine I was planning on staying with…She gave me the address she thought she might be at, and two numbers she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to access. So with promising leads, what could go wrong, right?
As I continued to order incorrectly, trying desperately to recall vocab and tenses from my sophomore year in French II, I was trying to find the streets and numbers listed on my printed out copy of the all important email on the colorful map that seemed to continue to grow with every flip and fold. As I drank my second espresso, I managed to order some bread and marmalade dish that came with a cup of coffee. Classic I know!
After I almost literally jittered out of my seat I made my way for the Arc de Triomphe where I was hoping to find a Metro station (Thankfully metro means metro in French and English). I would have been quite surprised had I found out that metro translates into ‘place the French beat newly arriving Americans’ but like I said that didn’t happen as it was just like getting on the 6 train out of Grand Central.
One part of me was extremely proud of finding the subway and giving it a try when I had been in the city for little more than two hours at this point. I had managed to find the street that would hopefully be home to this weary traveler and the subway line that would get me there…after all, I live in NYC, we have quite the efficient public transportation system, if I can get my way from the Upper West Side to South Sea Port I can certainly find my way to the 20th Arrondesment.
As luck would have it I made it to the quaint little artist’s loft that my friend was living in for the summer. She (an “only in NYC” story) swapped her Park Slope (a very trendy area in Brooklyn) apartment for the summer with a couple of Paris. The place looked like it was right out of the movie Ghost. There was dried paint all over the hard wood floors, but in a cool way. The sun was shining throughout the entire apartments huge windows and sky lights and right in the middle of the floor were two air mattresses. I was definitely going with the ‘less is more’ mantra on this part of the trip.
As it was about 6pm Saturday night and I had yet to really sleep yet, with the exception of very prolonged blinks on my flight over, we headed out to experience, not see the city. The first café we stopped by was perfect, located on a busy street and the weather was perfect for outside seating.
I should mention that my friend spoke French as she was raised in that big loft above that great party (Canada). That definitely helped as we ordered our first two beers and sat in Parisian sun trying to make a plan for the night. As I asked our server for the “toilet” (I find that a bit obviously and blunt, I’m all for our American “restroom” term. I mean why don’t they just call it the “shitter”?
Once I returned to the table my friend had started chatting out a young guy sitting at the table next to us. As it turns out he was from the exotic place known as Minnesota. And I’m like “are you kidding me, the first person we meet in Paris is from Minnesota?” However, it was nice to get a little inside info from an American that had been there for a week already.
After my friend swapped numbers and email addresses with him, as she would be spending a much longer time in Paris than I would, she thought it would great to have a fellow explorer for the summer. We finished our beers and made our way yet another cute, picturesque street looking for a place to grab dinner.
We came across yet another beautiful restaurant with a huge outdoor patio so of course as it was about 10pm at this point and the sun was finally on its way down, we decided this should be the location for my first Parisian meal. (It was Italian, so I can’t say I made a huge leap out of my normal eating habits).
We drank, ate, took pictures, people watched, laughed, ate some more, drank some more and just simply enjoyed the night. As we started to leave a little after midnight, my friend started chatting up a young gentleman sitting at a table across from us. He was a good looking guy (Hey, I can say that I’m comfortable in my shoes. Although, ironically enough, I wasn’t that night, I didn’t pick the best pair to walk around the entire city of Paris as we soon would.), definitely European but it seemed as though he was with a guy who was obviously gay.
So as I came back from the restroom it looked as though this guy was going to join us for our evening’s adventures and his friend was calling it a night. I will admit I was not thrilled at this junction at first but later it proved to be the right move. His friend who turns out was not gay, was a priest. Classic again, I know.
As we welcomed our third member to the team, his name was Andre we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. It is supposed to be beautiful at night and is was just recently equipped with thousands and thousands of lights that go off every hour on the hour. (A new bell and whistle most of the Parisians are not thrilled with)
We walked along one windy street after another making our way across the city. We could see the enormous structure anytime we were in an area of smaller buildings and it looked as though it was just a few more blocks away, every single time!
Luckily for us, there are just a couple of other things in Paris other than the Eiffel Tower, like the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay. Now granted these places are usually must sees during the day because of their enormous collections for world renowned art but even in the evening they were amazing. Their size, their structures’ and the detail in which each were built is nothing but sheer brilliance. (I have some amazing pics I hope to post later today)
After we stumbled across the gems we so thankfully saw in the perfect Parisian evening, we finally made our way to the tower we had seen for so long not knowing the distance between us was so great. Very similar to the Washington Monument in, well Washington, DC the Eiffel Tower has a grand lawn that starts at its base and shoots out across the night. It almost seems like if either tower were rested on its side they could simply lay on the lawn like we found ourselves.
We were not the only groups of people experiencing the tower at this point. There were pockets of people every where, drinking their bottles of wine and smoking their cigarettes. Our new found friend turned out to be a great guy. He was from Corsica, an island off the south of France. (It sounds cool just saying that) He spoke very good English and really enjoyed speaking it, as it doesn’t get to do it too often.
As were continued to chat, debate, and probably laugh more than anything, we were approached by a couple of Parisian thugs. (It sounds funny just saying that) There were two of them, a smaller one, and a medium size one. The wanted some of our wine, they were very insistent on that, they were speaking French and even I could tell that…I was not scared or too worried as the smaller one was wearing a D&G belt. Nonetheless it’s not the most ideal situation you want to find yourself in while spending your first night in a foreign country.
As our two little locals continued to insist on trying our delightfully tasteful and nearly empty bottle of wine, Andre had had enough. He got to his feet (this is probably a good time to mention that Andre was built like a…how you say en Francias…a brick shithouse! This again may be a reason I was not too worried that this situation would escalate.
As he and the little one continued to argue and clearly smell each other’s breath as they were standing face to face I decided I would try and talk to the other one, should he speak English that is…well, he didn’t so we didn’t really have much to say to each other. However what he did say, and I fully understood it was a loud whistle which in all languages means hey was calling another buddy.
Ok, now at this point I may have started to get a little heated. I blame it on the red wine but I’ll let you think what you want. As the third now arrived he turned out to be an Andre too. However, of the Giant variety!
I once again reached out to play the role of Switzerland, but to no avail, no parle pas Anglais! “Shit, doesn’t anyone in the fucking country speak English!”
I, mostly because of the language barrier was unable to decided what was said or wasn’t said but luckily nothing much came of the scuffle in front of the Eiffel. Thankfully so, thankfully so…
It was about 5am Sunday morning and I was starting to feel a bit tired as I hadn’t slept yet so we rolled back into our humble abode. What a fucking night! And it was only the first of ten!
And on a completely unrelated note it turns out April is fake! I don’t mean she wasn’t as nice as she seemed or said one thing and meant another, I mean I made her up. It was my first attempt at fiction and I hope you enjoyed it. I certainly did! And although her appearance or personal qualities may be fiction, I would only be so lucky to find her in the Non Fiction section of New York City sooner rather than later!
Thanks for listening