Day One in Paris
July 31st, 2016 was my first day in Paris, France. Boy, was it a bit of a culture shock! The flight took about 8 hours (since we lost time), we were served dinner and breakfast, distributed blanket and pillow, and movies were in abundance for a long flight. Landing in Paris went well. We landed, got off the plane, and headed towards baggage claim. I stood in a long line waiting to show my passport, only to realize, I was in the European line. A man working at the airport informed everyone where the Non-European passports go, and I moved! Once I relocated to the primarily American line, I felt that I could talk to people around me and ask if they had ever been here before. When it was finally my turn to show my passport, the law enforcement agent greeted me with a very friendly, “Bonjour!”
After he stamped my passport for admission into France, I headed to baggage claim and found my suitcase fairly quickly. After I found my luggage, I prepared myself to go through customs. I walked through a series of hallways and came to a translucent doors that said “enter”. No one else around wanted to go through, so I led the way. The doors opened automatically and behind the doors was a huge crowd of people with a number of policemen holding a red line of tape yelling at people, and supposedly telling them to get back. My nerves skyrocketed — when law enforcement people are yelling at you in foreign language for an unknown reason, it can be a bit intimidating. Still not knowing what was going on, I happily complied and moved to the other side of the red tape. After moving through the crowd of people holding signs and yelling in French, I made my way to the outdoors and breathed in some fresh air (as fresh as it could be).
I quickly learned that people in France smoke cigarettes A LOT more than Americans do. I observed my surroundings as fast as I could to see if there was a general direction I should be walking in. After making an assessment of the area, I concluded it was basically a block party. No one was going anywhere, people were chatting on their cell phones, smoking, doing essentially nothing to change location. So, I took it upon myself to find someone who spoke english and give me a sense of direction. This is where I met my first friends from France, Hubert and Muriel. I greeted them with a friendly, “Bonjour! Parlez-vous anglais?” This translates to, “Hello! Do you speak english?” They were a lovely couple that took me under their wing, and Hubert spoke english almost fluently. They had lived in Paris for over twenty years, but now lived about three hours west in the countryside. They were also here to pick up their daughter, arriving from Hong Kong.
Once we covered the basics, police and military members were having the crowd move away from a certain area again. I asked Hubert and Muriel what was going on. Hubert told me, “Because of the recent attacks here in the last year, whenever a suitcase is missing or unclaimed, they evacuate the area in case it is a bomb.” Lovely. During the alert, I made good friends with Hubert and Muriel. We swapped stories about traveling, family, American politics for a brief moment, and good places to eat! They also gave me advice on pickpocketing and traveling in the city. I had a small notepad with me that Hubert wrote down the address of a fantastic restaurant, the manager’s name, and even their phone numbers if I needed anything during my stay in Paris. He also wrote down directions on how to call. After about 40 minutes of waiting for the luggage to be found, the alert was cleared — I’m not sure if they found it or not, but I was glad to be moving again. Once everything was all clear, they reminded me of where to catch a legitimate taxi, the approximate fair, then we said goodbye with hugs and kisses on the cheek. I love the culture here. :)
I caught a taxi, which was a Mercedes Benz, and the driver brought me straight to my hotel. Along the drive I saw hostels, stores, people, and markets. I fell in love with the city almost instantly. After about a 20–30 minute drive, we reached the Hilton in Paris La Defense. The hotel and area are BEAUTIFUL! After some trial and error of finding the receptionist desk, I checked in to my room. I unloaded my things, explored my room, plugged in the electronics to charge, and took a six-hour nap. Yep — you read right, six hours! I set my alarm for one hour, but that failed to wake me up.
After a good sleep, I woke up and called my parents. They already knew I was safe and sound, so we just chatted for a while. After talking, I took a quick shower and went to explore the area around my hotel. Here there is a lot of art and BIG buildings. I found a cute bistro across the street, where I ordered a water with gas (sparkling water) and a Monte Cristo. It came with a delicious salad, french fries, and French bread on the side. It was DELICIOUS! I enjoyed my meal, people watching, and learning a little more French. After dinner, I went for a walk around the area and found more beautiful art. It is wonderful. The culture here is very different (as expected) and I am excited to start class!
All is well so far, I woke up at 5:00 this morning, and could not get back to sleep, so this is blog entry number two! I am going to head down and grab some breakfast before the day gets started. Stay tuned for more entries! :)
~Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.~