Today after class, Alexander and I rushed to get pounds exchanged to euros, to pack our bags (I truly have not had time this week to pack for myself any sooner!), and then catch a cab to the train station after it turned out we were supposed to be there sooner than we thought. Originally, our seats weren’t even together so thankfully we noticed that in time to get it changed.
The train from London to Paris is amazing! It’s so fast! I felt like we hadn’t been on the train very long at all when suddenly the announcer said we’d be arriving in Paris shortly. I think it’s about a 2.5 hour train ride, but it felt much shorter! That was so much easier than dealing with airports!
When we arrived in the Paris station, I realized this was the first time I’ve actually visited a country where English is not the language. When I was in Mexico for a week, since we were white, people would speak english to us. Here, white doesn’t distinguish you much at all, and according to most people I’ve met in Europe so far I don’t look or sound American so nobody tries to speak english to me. And seriously, my two years of high school french aren’t helping me out much at all over here. Thankfully, Alexander lived here for a year in undergrad and took french in college so it is much more fresh for him, and he helps us get around.
After finding the hotel (which was super easy from the train station, although not terribly convenient to the center of the city where we want to be) I took a shower and freshened up so we could go out on the town for my first night in Paris. I also realized I left my dress shoes back in London so I have nothing to wear with the nice clothes I brought. The only shoes I have with me are my cozy, green Jack Purcells which are perfect for lots of walking, not perfect for looking remotely fashionable or dressed up. Alexander is convinced we will be able to find me some size 13s in Paris tomorrow so we can dress up for dinner tomorrow night. We’ll see 😉
Anyway, we headed out initially intending to walk but after getting confused a few times, and then realizing the walk was a lot further than we thought we eventually caught a cab. My intial impression in the neighborhood where our hotel is was that the drivers in Paris are a lot more mellow than London. I don’t fear for my life every time I cross the street! However, the sidewalks all had bike paths and I almost got ran down by people on bikes a few times when I happened to gradually sway over into the bike lane. Luckily, no bike lanes to fear in the city center area where we eventually ended up 😉
We got dinner at this cute little cafe and sat outside. Alexander convinced me to try escargot (not bad! not something I am dying to try again, but not as bad as I imagined ;)). But what was definitely amazing was the crepe I had— it was a crepe with cheese, chicken, and tomatoes and it was sooo, sooo good! Sadly, I could only eat half of it because I filled up on bread (dipping it into the garlic butter from Alexander’s escargot) before my crepe came. I need to stop filling up on bread! Ahhh! Leaving dinner was a little awkward because we didn’t know how much we were supposed to tip (in the states it’s 15-20%, in London apparently you don’t tip at pubs which is one of the cheapest places to get food and where we usually go if we go out for dinner, and here it turns out it’s only 5%. So apparently we left our waiter a very good tip!).
After dinner we strolled down the street and looked at a few shops before stopping at another cafe for coffee and dessert. Yum, yum, yum! They have so many cafes here with outdoor seating and they’re all so cute! The only downside is people in Paris seem to smoke like it’s going out of style (um, hello, it is out of style people! boooo lung cancer!). I’m used to being in L.A. where smoking isn’t allowed pretty much anywhere. Not my favorite thing to be sitting outside and have people smoking at literally every table around me. I want to be like “seriously? did you guys miss the memo on how nasty smoking is?” C’est la vie. It’s still amazing 🙂
We then stopped in a little bar that Alexander and his friends frequented back when he lived here because it was a local hang out where you can speak English! I think it was the first time I spoke to anyone besides Alexander the whole time we’d been here so far (a wopping 6 hours or so ;)). It was a very fun little place, and reminded me of a smaller scale Henry’s (in the Pearl in Portland). Oh, and I also had one of the craziest experiences of my not-well-traveled life! A bathroom that was for men AND women. It was slightly awkward to walk into a stall while a man was standing there at the sink washing his hands. I’m pretty sure we don’t have bathrooms like that in the U.S.
After Alexander talked for a bit with the one guy there who he recognized from when he was last here–4 years ago!–we caught a cab back to the hotel. I was so tired on the way home, but now I’m sooo awake! I don’t even know what time it is in Paris because my computer is set to Pacific Coast Time. I think Paris is 9 hours ahead of PST… So maybe it’s 12:40am right now?
Anyway, I need to get to bed because tomorrow we’re going to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and several other amazing things. It’s supposed to be sunny and warm tomorrow! *crosses fingers*
Here is one picture I took tonight of a street we walked down. More pictures will follow when I have more time to sit here cross posting them 🙂