Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Not About the Money, Part One: They Speak Spanish in Paris? -- Episode 1

Hello, and welcome to day one. For those of you who missed it and/or have no idea what's going on here, please find the introduction to this series here. To the rest of you, again I say welcome. Today I'll be talking about the start of our wacky adventures in Paris.

The first part of any proper vacation is the getting there. For our purposes, we chose EasyJet:

The flight itself was fine.
Actually reaching the plane... not so much.
Why did we choose EasyJet? It was cheap. Plain and simple.

Unfortunately, cheap travel isn't always the most convenient, and so our journey actually began several hours before we got onto the actual flight.

You see, Lauren and I are staying in Surbiton this semester, which is located in Southwest London. The city of London has three international airports. Why? I don't know, but apparently most of the budget airlines fly out of Luton airport, the one that was the most remote and out-of-the-way in comparison to our location. And so we had to make the trek to the north side of the city in order to catch our flight.

One would think that, after three or four months of living in a city, we would have figured the transit system out. Well, that's what we thought as well as we began our trek through the metro system to reach Luton airport. Unfortunately, it seems we still have a bit to learn (a fact that was made repeatedly clear to us throughout the trip and punctuated with a simple, yet exclamatory finale as we arrived back in London and discovered the limits of our Oyster cards; but those are stories that will no doubt be relayed in due time).

After finally reaching Luton, everything else went wonderfully. The flight took off on time. It landed on time. We got off of it without hassle or incident and we breezed through customs.

Then we realized that we were in an unfamiliar city within a foreign country where the native language wasn't English.

Naturally, we had a few questions. Where are we, exactly? How do we ride the train? Where are we supposed to go? What do we do when we get there? Where are we going to get money? Why is this European language guide so useless?

To save you all the headache and panic that we endured as we searched for all these answers, I'm going to tell you right now that we made it to our hostel without much incident. Soon we were navigating Paris like a couple of pros.

The front door to Friends Hostel.
Not pictured: the gang of druggies immediately to my left.

...except when it came to reserving accommodations, apparently.

Now, you might be looking at the above picture and thinking "Oh, that looks nice." And you'd be right. It does look nice. And we were abundantly relieved to find it after our six or so hours of travel. (For the briefest of overviews: we left the house around three or four in the afternoon to catch our evening flight. Flight itself was about an hour, but Paris is an hour ahead. We arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport around nine or ten and finally reached our hostel at about eleven at night.)

What you don't see in the picture above, however, is the rest of the street. Why don't you see it? Well, quite frankly, because I felt uncomfortable in regards to my safety taking a photograph of the dozens of night walkers loitering about the sidewalk just outside the hostel door. The picture above was taken during the daytime as we were leaving the city, and I felt wary about even allowing myself that much.

In short, it turns out that we were not in the best part of the Parisian neighborhood.

Gare du Nord train station.
During the day, quite respectable looking.
At night, on first arriving to town? Not so much.

So now we're here. We find an ATM. Withdraw money. Check-in and pay for our stay. The man at the front desk tells us where our rooms are and we head back through the dingy courtyard to where we're expected to sleep.

Wait, there aren't enough beds?

For a brief moment, it looks like the receptionist has put us into a full barracks. There are no fewer than a dozen bunk beds all shoved up against the walls, and most look like they've been slept in recently. After a cursory glance around the room and a brief exchange with the other residents, we're able to figure out that there are actually two beds still available.

Crisis averted. This time.

But think about that, for just a moment. Imagine that you've been travelling well beyond your comfort zone and things have been going... less than smoothly. You're relieved to have found wherever it is you're staying and you're looking forward to a restful night before allowing the excitement of touring your new surroundings to fill you upon waking in the morning. Yet just before you allow the relief to fill you, it turns out you don't actually have any place to sleep. The guy up at reception was wrong. You're going to have to go somewhere else. But you don't know of anywhere else. You're starting to wonder if maybe the guy was supposed to put you in a different room. Maybe he made a mistake. People make mistakes all the time, right? Right?

Yeah. It's like that. And that's just the start.

Whelp, here we are!

Join us tomorrow as we bring you episode 2 of the Paris adventures.

UPDATE: You can find episode 2 here.

1 comment:

  1. traveling is always an adventure...each day is a day of discovering what your trip will reveal to you as the day unfolds! We are excited to read part 3, 4, 5....Keep them coming! We are on the edge of our seat! Laughing out loud and loving the pictures...(I love food pictures:))Love, mom and dad