Step 1: Reunion with the Euros
I haven’t seen my dear Euros in months, not since they very unfairly got on their airplanes and left the States in August. So what a lovely opportunity that some of them would be visiting Paris the same weekend as me. However, the snow falling in and around Paris seemed to have other goals in mind. (Cue: DUN DUN DUN! music)
French, Spanish, and ex-peer mentor were reunited on a busy street in front of the fountain at St. Michel. I first exchanged American hugs with Ouaffa and Maria and then we had French bisous all around for introducing Krista. We were to see Marie that night and Angel on Monday (the other French and Spanish).
The five of us spent the afternoon touring (the increasingly familiar) city of Paris. We drank coffee and hot chocolate and explored some little known shops. I found a low-level reader book in en français about Davy Crocket for 3 euros. Happy birthday to me!
We were supposed to meet up with Marie later that night but the snow prevented her trains from running into Paris. Luckily, our favorite American girl in Paris, Anna Marie, very generously opened her home to us again. Krista and I trudged through the slushy, wet streets and traversed the smelly metro and arrived to her and her friend Reagan’s beautiful smiling faces. Plans changed, but they were good changes. Spokane invasion in Anna Marie’s apartment!
Next day we woke to another blizzard falling in the Parisian streets. Pretty, but still not very practical. Instead of taking the train to Versailles that morning, Krista and I nursed our growing colds and decided Sunday was as good as any day to check out le Louvre.
After several failed attempts in the past two months, I actually made it inside this time. Krista, lovely girl that she is, is also an art/history geek and has been to the Louvre enough times to know what to expect from me during my first visit. So, playing the role of wise guide, she started us out in the right direction, lent me her camera, and let me go nuts, giving me gentle nudges to keep me headed on a semi plausible path.
Oh my word, was the Louvre wonderful. Most of my pictures are blurry because I couldn’t stand still long enough for the focus to set. We were surrounded by so much art! so much history! It was wonderful. A total mind numbing binge on culture. Every far off fantasy I’d had during hours of art and history and French classes came to fruition as I got to stare each piece of artwork in the eye. We cracked jokes about Napoleon’s superiority complex, marveled at the humor hidden in tapestries, and discussed how much making any of those valuable trinkets must have cost the monarchy. What cruel irony to have gigantic stone fruit sticking off the ramparts of the palace when you can’t or won’t even feed your starving peasant population.
After the Louvre, I traversed the metro system all by myself (and had tourists asking me in worse French than mine for directions, what fun!), navigated the Parisian streets by foot when my trains were canceled, and made it only an hour late to visit Marie, Maria, and Ouaffa. We checked out a very interesting bar called the Latin Quarter. A colorful assortment of bras decorated the light fixtures and very enthusiastic male servers danced in place as they took our orders. I accidentally bought a 7 euro bottle of Guinness. I should know better than to order a beer when I see all of the mixed drinks are served with lit sparklers. So disappointing to see a bottle brought to my table instead of a pint. Maria became the focus of the affectionate attention of one of the more aggressive servers, who spoke to her in Spanish and French and then, kneeling, offered her a paper napkin rose. Very smooth, Eduardo.
Afterward, we rejoined Krista and Anna Marie and Reagan at Anna Marie’s flat for the cutest little multicultural birthday party for Krista, Maria, and moi. Our birthdays are all curiously staggered on the days leading up to Christmas which makes for convenient celebrating. Anna Marie made the best chocolate cake I’ve had so far abroad and Krista and I got to blow out an embarrassingly bright assortment of candles. With the number of languages spoken and not spoken between the 8 or so guests present, we had some semblance of a good party vibe going.
The next day Marie, Maria, and I were supposed to get up at 8:30 am to meet Angel, the other Spanish Euro. But, at 8:30 in the morning, no one really wanted to get up. So I sent Angel a half serious text from Maria’s phone along the lines of “We’re still sleeping. Meet you at the Eiffel Tower. It’s in the center of Paris.”
For those of you who have never been to Paris, I think it may be the most confusing city I’ve ever stepped foot in. And it is huge. It’s been quite the experience getting to know the city over the last few months, and it’s especially fun the last couple times being able to text my Parisian friends to meet me at the Louvre or such and such metro stop as if I know the place. It makes me sound like I know what I’m doing, which is laughable, because I get lost anywhere and everywhere.
So, because Paris is so huge and confusing, especially to a first time visitor who doesn’t speak French (ahem, Angel), I would have assumed such a vague text message would have been taken as a joke by our Spanish friend.
Because I was still sick, Marie and Maria left me at the apartment and they went off to get Angel. But they couldn’t find him and couldn’t reach him by phone. Then they saw that I had sent that text to Angel… and were surprised? Well of course I had sent that text to Angel. Now they were worried that he took it seriously. I got a worried text from them that they couldn’t find Angel and then that they were coming back to the apartment.
When they came back, they knocked on the door, I let them in, closed the door, and asked, “Where’s Angel?”
“That’s a good question!” Maria responded in exasperation.
Uh-oh, I thought, guilt beginning to tinge my worry.
“But Jennifer, can you open the door?” she asked.
When I did there was Angel on the other side, little backpack and winter coat on, looking like the tired traveler that he was. I had shut the door in his face the first time. Whoops. However, it felt like a Christmas miracle to see him standing there after my sarcastic text.
We spent the day catching up and exploring the city. Eiffel tower, Christmas market, Sacre Coeur, le Louvre (which Angel, in his improving French, called “mignon”). All the while my poor bedraggled suede boots became more and more soaked from the slushy streets. I felt like I was walking in freezing swimming pools the whole day.
Meals were quite the experience between all of our languages. Between my English, Marie and Ouaffa’s French, and Angel and Maria’s Spanish, we had some interesting three way language exchanges at dinner. It was the first time I’d seen Ouaffa since the summer so I got to show off my improved French speaking skills. Obviously my comprehension of rapidly spoken French is still in need of work (as I will get into in a later post) but I can at least form decent sentences without having to pause and think about them for three minutes first. Another plus side? My French has improved enough to give me back my sneaky edge. If I want to keep secrets from the Spanish (Maria and Angel) I just have to say it as quickly as possible in French. Success! Now I just need to learn Spanish and then German and I’ll be all set.
Krista and I said a hurried and sad good bye to our Euro and American friends on Tuesday afternoon. Then we descended into the metro again and found our way to the Beauvais airport to get the heck out of France.
Next up: Step 2: Reconvene in Scotland.