In my last post, I wrote about how my dreams of France were/are coming true. Here’s where I’m supposed to continue that, tell you that I made it just fine! I’m a real jet-setter, a seasoned pro. No big deal.
But um…that would be an enormous gigantic lie.
As well as pretty boring.
So I will tell you the truth: getting here, to where I am right now, in my cozy hotel bed at a quarter-after-midnight Paris time…was a nightmare.
And in some ways one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my life.
The story starts at Charles-de-Gaulle. I was tired and had that Twilight Zone-y feeling you get from passing through time zones, but other than that, I was just glad to be on the ground, and happy that I had just completed my first flight alone (and an international one at that) with no mishaps. It was stressful, but rewarding. I found my luggage, went through customs (which was very lax and not a big deal in the least), and was ready to get the heck out of there.
That is where the trouble begins. I’ll spare the details, because it’s complicated, but to make a long story short, I could not find the bus I was supposed to be taking. Here are some of the things that happened: I could not find the correct terminal and bus stop. For an…embarrassingly-long time. I accidentally bought a train ticket instead of a bus ticket; I boarded a bus, feeling relieved…before I had to quickly get off before I was stranded somewhere. Wrong bus. Et cetera. Get the point? It was 4:30 am, home time. I barely slept on the plane, so I was exhausted. I was hungry; I was sweaty; I was shaking from stress & being overtired to where I could barely hold a pen, and I realized after I noticed people staring at me that I had the previous day’s eye makeup all over my face. As I lugged 85 lbs of luggage around the biggest airport I’ve been in– around and around and around, knocking into people; sweaty, dirty, and losing energy by the second–, as my phone died and I had no one to call for help anyway, as I asked directions en français but only half understood them, I felt as helpless as I have ever been. Helpless, sick, and miserable.
Finally, finally, I found the right bus. A couple of Americans onboard helped me find where I needed to stop, and after about an hour ride, I hopped out, so happy & relieved to see that little “Gare de l’Est” sign. All I needed to do was lug my bags to the hotel and I could crash. I’d nap for hours, shower shower shower, leisurely unpack, maybe curl my hair a little before dinner. Cool; great. This would have happened, except for one little problem: I could not find the hotel.
Talk about pathetic. Here I was, a sweating & lost American girl lugging around said 85 lbs of luggage in a polygon-shaped trail of desperation near where the hotel was supposed to be, nearly getting run over by Parisiens on bikes & scooters. So I asked people. I looked at maps. I googled it. Nothing. As at Charles-de-Gaulle, I traveled around and around, this time over bumpy cobblestones & through busy traffic.
After countless calls of, “ohh, princesse! je vais vous aider!” I realized what a terrific target I was making myself, stumbling around bleary-eyed and lost, passing the same people again and again, raising the same eyebrows.
Finally I got in touch with Daniel, the program director, and he found me where I was– outside a cathedral only a few blocks from the hotel– and walked me to StayCity. Never have I been so grateful to see a familiar face.
After that, my day turned around. I met my really cool & fun roomie for Paris, Katelyn; and enjoyed my first café visit of the trip (and first glass of wine). Et cetera. But that’s another post for another day, parce que JE SUIS FATIGUÉE.
Just remember, it isn’t always la vie en rose, even in the City of Lights.
That’s okay, though. Bad stuff gives you stories, teaches you things, and makes you appreciate the good stuff so much more. I learned, for instance, that my dad is right: I have got to learn how to read a map properly. You win, Dad. Nicely played.
Plus, I’ve never appreciated things like a simple drink of water, the chance to chat in English, and a cozy bed nearly as much as I do now. It’s a nice feeling, realizing you’re truly thankful for the things you have and not lusting after things you can’t (an easy thing to do in Paris. Chanel, anyone?).
And call me a bit dramatic, but after today, I’m just glad to be alive.