Ah, finally some free time, for the first time this week. This week has been amazing. I don´t have a lot of time to really write, so this will be short. Pueblo Ingles has been a blast, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to everyone. Spending the entire day talking to people from all over the world is surreal, and I feel bad that I cannot think of a more interesting way to describe it. Not only have I learned so much about other parts of the world, but spending an hour with a new person all day every day forces you to really try to describe yourself. You realize that there are so many things about your life and your home that you end up repeating and thus thinking about in ways that you never normally do. I feel like I´ve described Vancouver, Canada, the Olympics, my job, my family, and my travels in ways that I´ve never even thought about before. I´m sure it´s the same for the other people here, too. I´ve only known all of them for less than a week, but it feels like months. This is like all the experiences of summer camp crammed into one week. I don´t know what else to say that wouldn´t degenerate into describing each individual that I´ve met, but there are over 50 of them and I would have to talk about each one. Maybe later! Anyway, I have realized how much I do miss home, but also how incredibly important it is that I see the world. This has given me new confidence and a new determination to see as much as possible and talk to as many people as possible and learn about their lives. *sigh* Je suis prets
So I’ve been in Madrid for three nights now, but it’s flown by. The first night I flew in, but hadn’t had my hostel booked, so there was one that I looked up on the internet, that looked like it had free beds. After I got off my flight and got into town on the metro, I realized that the station I needed to get off at was closed for construction or something (what is this, Vancouver?), so I tried a bus, and by this time it was about midnight. That only confused me more, so I finally just got a taxi, and actually got to the hostel at about 1 am. I didn’t really start to panic until I actually got to lie down in bed and suddenly realized, “wow, I was so close to being stranded in downtown Madrid in the middle of the night.” Alas, my resourcefulness won out. Anyway, the next day I made it to the hostel I had booked. It is lovely; an 18th century building, with lovely mosaic tiles on the inside of the common room. I’ve posted a picture on facebook. There, I met up with Nicole, from Chicago, who is going to Pueblo Ingles with me. We had an easy night, going out for dinner and pretty much taking it easy. The next day (yesterday), we did a walking tour of the city, which I highly recommend. I did one in Paris as well, and they are great for getting your feet on the ground (literally, I guess) in a new city. We walked through Plaza Mayor for dinner, and then did a pub crawl. We met lots of crazy, crazy people. A group from (we think) South America, a group from the Netherlands, a guy from Leeds, and, coincidentally, the three German guys that were also in my hostel in Paris. What a mad, mad, mad, mad world. They had flown in yesterday, and their flight arrived just after the accident. Apparently, they had to circle the skies for several hours, waiting to land. Crazy. I can’t believe that. A lot of people here have been talking about it in disbelief. I’m going to go google it now. Anyway, today, we have the meeting luncheon for Pueblo Ingles, then who knows!
I’m leaving Paris today, and am off to Spain. I knows it’s been a week, but I feel like I’ve been in Paris forever. I don’t know if it’s in a good way or not… hm. Anyway, I did like Paris, but it’s PARIS. You expect so much, you know? It was really cool, and I will elaborate later, but not quite that ‘*sigh* Paris…’ I was expecting. Oh well, I had fun. On to MADRID!
I’m on my last full day in Paris right now, and suffering through a bit of a red wine hangover. For that last few nights we had an awesome group in my hostel room, two Californian college guys, Ben and Michael, two Australian radiographers, one of whom lives in London, Lou and Claire, and another Canadian-Hungarian from just outside Niagara Falls, Attila. With yesterday being Michael’s birthday, we took in a nice leisurely French dinner (everyone but Ben, that is, as he was incredibly hungover from the night before) with all the classics: red wine, baguettes, escargot and creme brulee. After that, we did as we heard the Parisians do, which is buy several bottles of wine and an assortment of French cheeses and sit on the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian-only bridge from the last episode of Sex and the City, the one Carrie and Big are on when they get together at the end, with a bunch of other Parisians drinking wine and eating cheese. It was great! There were people playing music and we met two French guys named Frederique and Marc. We (me and the hostel group, not me and the two French guys) staggered back to our hostel afterwards and all got crepes. Brilliant!
Anyway, on the tourist side of things, I’ve been getting around. I’ve seen the following places and subsequently rank them on a scale of one-to-ten: Eiffel Tower (5), Louvre (7), Musee de Moyen Age (Museum of the Middle Ages) (6), Notre Dame (8), Hotel des Invalides, including Napoleon’s tomb (6), the Catacombs (9), la Pere Lachaise cemetary, with the graves of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Heloise & Abelard and others (9), Jardins de Tuileries (6), Chateux de Versailles (8) as well as Marie Antoinette’s estate that is on it (10)! There are still a few places left to see, of course, but I do have today and I do have a couple of days in October when Bri gets here. However, the biggest recommendations: drinking wine on the bridge, and anything associated with death, really.
Well today was interesting. I wandered around for a while, feeling exactly like a tourist. I know I stuck out like a gangrenous extremity. I made my way over to Notre Dame, which looked exactly like a postcard. I think the fact that it is surrounded by city on either side and seems sort of stuck in the middle of the rest of the world somewhat lessens the impact you think it should have. But that aside, it was surrounded my tourists, so this made me feel a little less like a Paris noob. The line to look inside was hideously long, I’m surprised that there wasn’t a wait time posted like at Disneyland. Needless to say, I didn’t bother. From there I wandered a little more, and took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower, which was also sort of anti-climatic. I think a took the wrong approach, however. The RER station I got off of was at the rear side, rather than up from the Champs de Mars, so rather than seeing the giant open park with the glorious tower behind, my first impression was a little bit of it poking through the trees, then suddenly, BAM: the base. The entire area beneath it was paved and hundreds of people were milling around. There were lineups for each set of stairs, lineups for bank machines, lineups for… the sake of lineups. No, forget Notre Dame, this was like Disneyland. It felt like it couldn’t have been the real Eiffel Tower, but a theme park replica or something. I didn’t really have that ‘Oh my god, I’m in Paris’ feeling that I was expecting. The other people I met in the hostel think I’m nuts for staying for a whole week. Apparently you can see everything you need to in a couple of days, so we’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll ditch out of here early. My hostel is good though, even though it does have a lock out time from 11 to 4, so it pretty much forces you to get up an at ’em. I’ve been really tired today; jet lag, I’m assuming. I slept through breakfast- a mistake I won’t make tomorrow. I almost nodded off on the Metro- a mistake I’m glad I didn’t make. I think tomorrow, the Louvre.
Sorry I wasn’t able to come up with a more original blog title, but I’ve been up for well over 24 hours and still haven’t crashed yet (but surely it’s to come). Anyway, despite my flight being delayed for over three hours, and my bank issues with my line of credit (I will not recapitulate that near-nightmare here), and yada yada yada, I’m here. In Paris. So far all I’ve seen from the ground, rather than underground- as in my adventure on the metro, is the one block from the metro station to my hostel and from my hostel to a kebab place. Anyway, I’m sure my jet lag will sink in sometime in the middle of the night (it’s nearly eleven at night here right now), and tomorrow morning I will have to be wrenched from bed with an oversize novelty spatula. I think tomorrow I might just have a wander. Or maybe see Versailles. Who knows?