Paris, France. July 1, 2001. & Bern, Switzerland
Date: Wed, 4 July 2001 12:39:40 (PDT)
From: Stacy Poulos
Subject: THE EAGLE HAS LANDED EROPE 2001
THE EAGLE HAS LANDED in EuROPe, and the eagle has very, very, very, tired feet. :0
wHERE DO i START<<<? fOR ONE <<<<i^M NOT ON DRUGS, iM a dyslexic, on a Swerland computer, which is in a German language, yeeks! With all these extra ¸®$£‡ÈË!?` stuff where something else used to be. So I can^t find some keys? Bare with me here. I apologize for the extra e^mails. I`ve used Yahoo for years but never tried to `cc anyone. Anyway….
We landed in Paris on Sunday, I lived through my fear of flying gracefully. The plane was full of people from Tahiti, who also spoke French. So I got warmed up on the ride over not understanding anything. I have learned to point to a map, and act out what I want, or draw it. Ice for instance, after three tries with the waiter today, who happened to speak Spanish (as well as German and French), I pointed to the water he brought me, that I did not order, then
as he intently attempted to understand me, I drew a cube on my place mat and pointed to my coke. He finally got it. “Yellow!” he said. (‘ice’ in Spanish, actually ‘Heilo’). It’s a game of charades getting what you want, and where you want to go.
I finally know what it feels like to be a foreigner. Leaving Paris, I gave it another shot to call home to let my mom know I was alright. I bought a prepaid phone card and tried several times to call. I even had a man help, show me what to do, then another woman, then with the pressure of our train leaving to Swerland soon, I finally yelled out in the train station: “Does anyone speak English, so I can use this ËËÈing card!?” Two brave French women who spoke a little English helped me, then they got frustrated and went away as well. So I had to leave without calling again. When you pick up a phone in “The States”, as they say here, i.e. USA, the per-recorded operator gives you a choice to press “1” for English and “2” Spanish, they say the options in English, and then in Spanish. Here it^s just a prerecorded French operator that says something I don’t understand. That’s one situation where you can`t draw pictures or mimic what you need.
So what was the city of Paris like? Paris is beautiful. The buildings are 5 to 8 stories high and no more, unless it’s a monumental building of some sort. Every corner you turn is a 8 story long BLOCK of buildings with not even a crack between each other. Our first night out we were out longer than the metro and walked the streets home. At that time of night, I had a sense of “Gothem City” in the movie Batman. It was very strange to be there, somewhere so different and so far away from home.
We have been so busy hitting landmarks, catching metro^s (i.e. BART^s) We did not get to see the ^Eiffel Tower^ until our last day. I would have been too embarrassed to report back without seeing that. It’s very tall. It was built for the world’s fair. The French actually didn’t like it.
French people spend a lot of money on burring dead people. Every major street leads to this monument, “Arc de Triomphe”, where they honor the solders who protected their city. Facing that monument on the other side of town several miles away, is Napoleon’s Tomb. Also a huge building surrounded by beautiful sculptures and paintings. What I like most about the French is that they honor Art and Artists. And everywhere you turn you are reminded in some grandeur way.
Fortunately, we met a very kind woman named Sarah who spoke English and French. She was from “The States”, Florida to be exact. She helped plan some of the hot spots and volunteered to be our guide before she left. The one that I liked most was going to this area ‘Montmartre^’ that overlooks the city. You could see the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre (a world famous Museum that holds many treasured arts such as, The Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s works, all who I got to see, and many more). From the view point you can also see Notre-Dame (famous in my eyes from the movie The Hunchback Back of Notre-Dame.)
Before you get to the view, you have to go through the crowded streets of cafes, street artists, restaurant’s, etc. It is like a summer street festival that has the ambiance of tranquility. I wish this was something I saw on the first day. I just cannot explain. This is where many artist paint “store front french cafes” and “restaurants.” I believe this is where Vincent Van Gogh was inspired to paint Vincent Cafe, A Night Cafe Scene in Paris and Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec. Other artist like Dali, Picasso, Erik Satie, Mistinguett and Dalida also lived and/or worked there. Here is what the cafe looks like today [click].
On this particular night I split up from the girls to meet them later. It just so happens I bought a very unique cool bottle of Evian water (From the very near French Alps) that I wanted to bring home. It was uniquely shaped like a woman’s figure, the lid had a loop on it, for sort of a handle. As it got darker I went to walk home, or to the Metro before it closed. There were these birds flying wildly around those Paris looking tiki type lights. I thought it was odd that they would be flying around at night, maybe there’s a special Paris type bird that stays out late like the French? As one came close, it dawned on me that they were bats, at the same time I had that thought, one swooped down attacking me. I gripped the loop on the water bottle and swung at the attacking bat, the handle stayed griped in my hand, as the bottle flew off into the sunset. I started running away and did not look back. They hung around lights because that’s where bugs hang out. Every once in awhile, they like to entertain themselves and watch tourist run for their lives, like I was.
After these 3 days of walking, standing, and taking the maze of the metro everywhere, my feet were tired. Soooo very tired. I just wanted to get to the Metro before it closed and back to my pad without missing my train and ending up stuck with the bats. Trying to find my way home with French street signs I could not pronounce.
In Paris people don’t just point you in the right direction, they walk you in the direction. Several blocks. On our first night out, one man followed us for at least 20 Paris blocks. They also walk fast like they are on a mission. Deana kept up with our guide while me and Nachelle tried to keep up, as we wonder why we are following this man we did not know?
I thought it was just that night with Deana and Nachelle and that guy particularly. When I was on my own and a little freaked out about the bat situation, I didn’t mind that some man walked me 6 blocks to the Metro.
When we first arrived in Paris off the Train from the airport, the girls were tired and frustrated because we got off the wrong exit. But I was soooo happy and excited I was levitating, it was like a dream. (Luckily I had a refrigerator strapped on my back (my backpack) to hold me down). Here I lived through a long flight, which I am scared to death to fly, and I’m alive and …in Paris!
We had to walk many blocks to our hotel, but I was enjoying every minute of it, tapping my feet all the way. When we finally got to our “Hotel Notre-Dame,” all 3 of us could not get in the elevator at the same time with our back packs. When we open the door to our room, we all laughed. The beds were so small they looked like children’s beds. There was just enough room to walk around the beds. Deana got on one of the beds and said “This is two doubles… (as in the AD she read when she booked the room) notice the dividing line between them.” We cracked up laughing.
We went cheap, we were determined to pay only $60.00 US dollars a night, $20.00 for each of us. Deana made the reservations in the US. We had 42 days to pay for hotels. It ended up being 1,230 French franks (Approximately $176.50 US Dollars) for 3 nights. When I went to sign my credit card bill it said “Montant: (Amount) 1,260,00 FRF… Signature Du Porteur” Meaning when I get home I’m going to have to pay this off… 1,260 FRF! That I do not quite understand? Deana assured me it was OK. I was reluctant to sign the bill. To cover myself and understanding what I am obligated to, I put on all my receipts “Apx. the amount I thought, sooo… (In this case I put apx $162.75 US). That way if I had a dispute this, this is what I signed for. It’s very unnerving to sign for such an amount when you don’t quite get the exchange thing. I went through the same thing getting cash. Do you want 5,000 10,000 20,000 franks? etc.? It’s not good to stand at a ATM machine at midnight with a calculator in your hand like me and Deana did. Yeeks! That will be 8,500 for that Happy meal! “…Bono petite.” Most of the time I sat there like when I was in the Cayman Islands looking at my change as though my hand has transformed into this ugly hairy arm. The wise thing to do before you buy something is to do it with authority, like know just about what something is going to cost before you go up, not give the –the deer in the head lights look, hold out all your money so they can take what they need.
The toilets were similar to the USA except for the flusher. It was more of a large button than a handle. And nothing spit water at you like I had been told. The most frustrating thing that I ran into was about the electricity situation. I was to bring the blow dryer, and Nachelle the transformer. She brought a converter, which our US plugs, plug in the back of -converting the plugs… Not! Transforming it! A transformer changes wattage. Their 230 watts in to our 110 watts. Watt’s of electricity is what powers things, and kills people who get the electric chair. Science question: What happens to an American 110 watt maximum capacity blow dryer when you plug it into a European wall. A plug that belts out twice as much electricity then it needs, 230 watts of raging electricity? Answer: It lights up like a Christmas tree, smokes like a fire before it pops and never works again.
The worst part is that I bought a $3,000.00 camera that I need to charge the batteries for and couldn’t the 6 weeks we were there. Without the batteries the camera is worthless. You can not get a transformer in Paris either. We looked in many locations. You can get the plugs that will allow you to blow up your equipment, but not the transformer. This created a lot of stress. Especially when Deana was not happy with her hair.
NOTES: July 4th, 2001 better known as the “Fourth of July” in America. We are safely on the train, together with everything minus one blow dryer. I’m wearing my gray Old Navy tank top with the American Flag on it, pondering over the French country side from the window of the Euro train. I’m excited to be moving onto my next destination, Swisterland. I lean over to Deana and Nachelle and say “Happy Forth of July” and smile. “I guess they don’t celebrate the Forth of July over here.” No. Especially when we probably kicked their butt. (So I was wrong it was the British, what can I say I slipped through the cracks in school) I realize at this moment that there are other American traditions and holidays they don’t celebrate. Somehow, I feel as though I am being woken up about the world around me and the traditions I have known. Like Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. It’s a time to see my family and pig out on Turkey.
As I ponder out the train window –I realize, have really made it to Europe!