Just a few shots of the neighborhood around the Hotel Lincoln, where we are staying. Really easing ourselves into this trip and taking it slow. Tomorrow we hit the ground running and hitting up Lincoln Park.
Settling into our suite with our complimentary bottle of wine.
It has been a while since I have gone on a trip worth blogging about. Correction, this the first trip in a while that has involved a destination I have yet to visit and thus felt compelled to share it with you all out there in the interwebs.
So here I am in the Windy City ready to experience it in all of its glory. Even more exciting is that I have two special guests tagging along. My friend Aja and Mini Hash-tag from Instagram’s “Traveling Hashtag”, are my partners in adventure this time around.
Let’s see where this Windy City blows us…
Finally, I am making it to the last destination on this journey, Paris. The United Kingdom has been a most gracious host, but it was time to move south. As I waited in the Eurostar waiting area with the rest of passengers for our boarding notification I noticed to prevalence of French on signs and in the conversations of though around me. I had a moment of sheer panic. I’m not sure why really, while my French was rusty, I had been to Paris before and had little problems and this time I had a friend. She was French. I would be fine.
CDG - Paris, France
Fate would have it that I would be seated next to a woman who was born and raised in NYC and now lived and worked in Paris. She told me this after telling me it was refreshing to hear my accent. After exchanging pleasantries we went our seperate ways once we reached Gare du Nord. Having no way to contact my friend Gabrielle I hurried off the train as fast as I could. We had been held outside the chunnel (tunnel that crosses the English Channel) due to traffic. How a train encounters traffic in a tunnel I am not sure, but it had delayed us by 30 minutes. I dragged myself and my lugguge down the platform to the exit, fearing that I wouldn’t be able to find her. That was unnecessary as I saw her as soon as I made it through the gate. I gave Gabrielle a big hug, it had been a while since I had seen her.
Gabrielle looked at my luggage and asked if I wanted to take a taxi. I said “yes”, my luggage was comically large at this point. We got into line for a taxi and Gabrielle outlined potential plans for the night. We could go out to dinner with her friends or stay in and order take away. We decided that I would get to her apartment at get settled first. Our taxi driver put my suitcase in the trunk and said something to me. And I just smiled and shrugged since he spoke to fast for me to understand what he had said. Gabrielle asked me if I understood him and I told her I didn’t. Apparently he asked if I had a body in my suitcase.
Gabrielle lived in the 12th arrondissement near St. Mande and Place de la Nation. She lived in the East at the complete opposite end of many of the major tourist haunts and monuments like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. It was a part of Paris I was unfamiliar with as I hadn’t made it to the east of the city last time I had spent time there. It was a quiet neighborhood but a short walk to a Metro stop and several bus routes. It was nice neighborhood, I liked it a lot even though the first time I saw it was in the dark. The taxi dropped us off at her apartment building and we went upstairs. Gabrielle had two roommates, one of which had two friends visiting from Italy. The roommate had met them in Chile. So all told, French, English, Italian and Spanish were being in one apartment at various times of the day.
My first night there, Gabrielle and I decided that we didn’t really feel like going out. So we ordered pizza and Gabrielle began the arduous task of finding a show on tv that could be dubbed in English. Beauty and the Beast was the only option and we watched an embarrassing amount episodes and ate pizza. One of her roommates came home to see us on the couch watching a crap show and headed to her room after introductions. Gabrielle followed suit soon after and I decided after a while to head to bed too. Mostly because I was starting to get invested in that show and I was feeling an immense feeling of personal shame.
Gabrielle had things to do during the day so she left me her key and me to my own devices. I slept in to 11:30 am. This is something I would do the for the rest of my trip. Only when I got back home did I realize my over sleeping and general lack of appetite was because I was actually sick and not jet lagged. However, I think the fact that I thought I had jet lag was only reason why I was able to go about my trip with much thought.
On my first official day in Paris, I eventually got myself together and headed off. I walked around her neighborhood to get a feel for the area and orient myself. After a while I headed to Place de la Nation. I got my visitor’s pass for the metro and I headed west. My first stop would be the Arc.
I would wander up and down the Champs Elysees window shopping the upscale shops that litter the street. Eventually I would settle down to a street restaurant and each lunch and people watch. People watching is a national past time. In fact most cafes and restaurants have sidewalk seating with chairs facing towards the street in rows, much like what you would see in a theater.
This is how I would spend my days. Since I had already been to Paris once before and did the major monuments and tourist things like cruising down the Seine, this allowed me just to amble. I would get up, get dressed and pick a neighborhood and just get a little lost. Take a back street or winding alley and see where it would take me. Gabrielle would give me ideas of places to go, like she sent me to Galeries Lafayette which is this huge upscale department store. One day I loitered around the Jardin des Tuileries (Tulieries Garden) and then in the evening we met at Angelina a popular tea and dessert room for pre-dinner sweets and my first macaroon (chocolate for the win). Another day I went to the Trocodero and sat on a bench eating a croque monsieur (grilled ham and cheese) and looked over at the Eiffel Tower. In the evenings I would head back to Gabrielle’s apartment to meet her. Nights were filled with acostic guitars and french singalongs, wine and cheese and nights that that continued into the the early mornings. Sometimes they would slip back into their native tongues and I would sit there and watch the spectacle. I was always amused because they were unabashedly stereotypically French and I was allowed into this exclusive club. Observing the French in their natural habitat. Gabrielle would roll her eyes and comment on just how French everything was. Days were spent wandering and nights were spent with wine and good company.
My last night was spent having a Shabbat Eve dinner with Gabrielle and her parents. I participated in the Jewish dinner and joined in on the dinner table conversation. It was a nice way to end my stay, I was welcomed into her home just like I had been welcomed into the country. The next morning before dawn I would say my goodbyes to Gabrielle who woke up to see me out and her roommate who had just stumbled back in from a night out. I took my lugguage and dragged it to the bus stop to catch the 351 bus to Charles de Gaulle. I would pick up a drunk Frenchman out of the street only to see him stumble around and fall into another one. My bus ride would take an hour and I was guided by a nice woman heading to her job at the airport. My flight would be smooth and full of free and unintentional perks like free whiskey and extra leg room. I would say “Bye Bye” to France, to Europe to the people and places I had met and seen and “Hello” to the world I had always known. I was thankful to my tour guides/hosts Mike and Gabrielle for welcoming me into their cities and homes as well as into their lives. Without them this trip wouldn’t have been as successful or as meaningful.
So when fate gives you the opportunity to go, just go.