As you might have seen from earlier posts, I'm spending my first week with visiting a few cities around Europe with my brother before I begin my volunteer program. I landed in Brussels from Reykjavik in the early hours of Minnesota's morning, which was around lunch time in Belgium. A few weeks earlier, I had booked a train ticket from Brussels to Paris but I was particularly nervous about this step since my train was not departing directly from the airport. Thankfully, I found a woman from my flight who spoke English (an American expat, actually) and she helped me find the station. After I bought my ticket at the counter, I asked her how long she expected Customs to take; as it turns out, we had walked through it already. This surprised me since Customs is always cracked up to be a huge deal. I guess I didn't really mind that my bag wasn't searched, but I did really want a stamp from Belgium in my passport.
It cost 50 cents to use the restroom at the Midi/Zuid station so I decided to get my money's worth by using the facility to change my outfit, brush my teeth, wash my face, and put on a little mascara. Needless to say, after flying all night I felt like a total scrub so I didn't mind taking the time to freshen up.
I had a few hours to kill at the Midi/Zuid station so I went to an internet cafe and bought a yogurt and a chocolate chip waffle. While I nibbled on the waffle and browsed online, I struck up a conversation with a guy from Cape Town who was waiting for a train to Amsterdam; this was enriching in part because I don't think I had ever heard a South African accent before.
We stopped for pizza and ice cream in a little hole in the wall cafe. I can't complain about the food. I left Anthony with our luggage and explored a few shops on the block for a minute. To be completely honest, I was so thrown off by the jet-lag that I'm not sure how much enthusiasm was possible, notwithstanding the heavy luggage and nasty weather. I really just wanted to sleep somewhere but seeing as there was nowhere to go but the airport, we decided to go the the Eiffel Tower, first by train and then by foot.
|As an overall enthusiast, the presence of these beauties in the fashion capitol of the world thrilled me|
...what? By this time, it was around midnight and we were stuck in Paris with no knowledge of the language and no public transportation to where we needed to be. (This experience had no semblance to Owen Wilson's adventure whatsoever. Boo).
We want a taxi.
None of us speak French.
None of us know which number to call.
We are tired.
A big French guy approaches the three girls while Anthony is trying to communicate with people getting into a taxi.
He says he is an off-duty taxi drive with a car who is willing to drive us to the airport.
We don't know if this is a scam.
We remember the movie Taken.
Anthony walks over and questions the so-called driver.
He offers to drive us for 40 Euro.
We all refuse and cross the street.
A helpful security guard (not all French people were mean to us) calls a cab for us.
We get to the airport.
We say goodbye to our Mexican friends.
We look around the airport for places to sleep.
It is eerily empty.
We set up stuff on chairs and a girl tells us that there are empty beds upstairs.
We find a room full of 100+ cots and many sleeping people.
We stake out two cots and stow our luggage underneath.
Sleep is my only wish.
I notice that the snoring sounds like lawnmowers.
It won't get any quieter.
Across the room, a French guy gets up and kicks a snorer's bed.
There is a pause.
The lawnmower revs up its engine.
I know I won't be doing much sleeping.
I wake up every 30 minutes to check if anyone has taken my luggage.
5:00 am comes too soon.
I HATE PARIS.
So. That's the Paris fiasco. In retrospect, Anthony and I didn't get the worst deal; we did get a free (if miserable) night in the airport and we made it to our destination (Rome), which was a glorious adventure. Also, Paris only ever factored into our overall plans except as a rendezvous (hey look! French!) point, so it's not like we really missed out. I do have friends who love Paris and have had enriching and romantic experiences, so I shouldn't completely dis the city. It was just quite disappointing to see the setting of Les Mis fall so short, but I suppose these things happen. Italy and Slovenia have been so much better that I won't complain anymore. Plus, I'm really really tired and need to get sleep. More soon, I promise.