I woke up and felt so good that I forgot I had swollen feet. I quickly realized as I struggled down from the top bunk bed that I couldn’t flex my right foot. The half of my foot extending from my ankle was raised and an ugly blue-purple color. After taking a shower, I ate the first real breakfast I’d had since landing outside of America’s borders. I could get used to croissants, cereal, yogurt, orange juice, and coffee for breakfast every day.
While in London, Paige and I became acquainted with the people who make money on the metro. Some people would set up in the middle of the train station and play guitar and sing or play violin. Others would pay the fare to get on the train and then walk throughout the entire coach, leaving cards that asked for money on the seats. When the train reached its destination, the person would come back through, pick up the cards, and accept any money people offered. Paige and I had only experienced this once in London. Our first day in France brought us face to face with another opportunity. A lady came through leaving a card on our seats. Of course the cards were in French. I picked up the card already knowing what it was for and flipped it over where I was surprised to see English words also. Paige and I were both curious about the English version, and Paige began to compare the French to the English, hoping to pick up a few more French words. But because we were holding onto the card when the lady came back through, she expected us to pay her. We each gave her a euro, but we really wanted to keep the card. It didn’t occur to me at the time that those cards are the only way the lady makes her income. I’m glad we gave the card back to her!
Our first stop once we finally made it back to Paris was the Notre Dame. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and now I have a desire to immerse myself in it. We walked through the entire chapel. If it hadn’t cost money to light a candle and pray, I would’ve wanted to. I did convince Paige to let us sit in the chapel and pray for a little while. I was really beginning to love the European culture by this time in our trip, but the culture is spiritually dead in many areas, as it is in America too. I was beginning to feel the lack of God–not just from the culture–also from my own life. I had been pushing myself to see the awesome sights and “do England” and “do France,” but I hadn’t spent time with the Lord. I wanted to soak in the atmosphere of rest, solitude, and peace that I found in the places of worship, even if it wasn’t a “Christian” church.
On our way to Notre Dame, a cute French boy tried to convince Paige and me to take the river-boat tour of the city. If I remember correctly it only cost a euro or two, but I knew that Paige had no desire to go on the river-boat tour. However, she did allow the boy to talk to us without shutting him down. I found it humorous that she accepted his flier but wouldn’t let me go off with the Russian men.
Paige really wanted to see the Bastille. We eventually got used to the London street signs which are on the sides of the road, attached to brick walls or sides of buildings. The French street names are also on the sides of buildings but for some reason hid from us very easily. We ended up exploring most of the Seine River. We discovered the bridge of locks. If I had known I was going to see it, I would have brought my travel locks and locked them to the bridge. Paige told me that I had no love to lock away. But I do. I would have been locking away my love for the people and culture of both London and France, hoping that my promise to myself would come true–that I will move back to Europe one day for life. We did eventually make it to the Bastille. I knew what the Bastille was. I’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo, but I was expecting a monument or a museum of some kind. After asking a kind Frenchman how to reach the Bastille, we finally found it–a once-upon-a-time prison turned into an apartment complex. Its monument was across the street and rather tiny.
The next stop on our list was the Eiffel Tower so we hopped back on the train. Or we tried to. The exits (sortie) in France looked like steel doors that would need some special way to unlock them in order to get out. Paige and I stared at the door, unsure of what to do or how to get out. While we stood in confusion, we saw another confused individual who decided to hop over the entrance in order to exit. We laughed when we discovered that all you had to do to exit was push the doors open.
Paige and I got on our first double-decker train and went to see the Eiffel Tower. I was two feet from the ticket booth when it started to pour. I was soaked to the skin by the time I got my ticket, and I ran for the shelter of the security system. I was so distracted by the rain that I hadn’t paid attention to what I was supposed to place on the conveyor belt. The worker was yelling at me in French; I tried to ask if I was supposed to put my jacket on the conveyor belt, but she just yelled at me and yanked my purse off my head. The exit was blocked by families with young children who did not want to go back out in the rain. Paige had already gotten through security and was waiting for me on the other side. I hate pushing through people, but I did not want that lady yelling at me again so I did. We got on the lift that took us all the way to the top where it was so windy I was afraid to take pictures lest the wind blow my phone away. The sun had come back out by the time we got to the top, which was obviously a huge blessing, but we were almost frozen solid by the wind blowing our rain-soaked bodies. Paige was impressed by how long the Eiffel Tower has stayed in commission since it was originally built to last only for the world’s fair. I was just glad after she told me that bit of information that we made it up and down alive.
After seeing the sights on top of the Eiffel, we decided to go eat French pastries. I asked the lady at the information desk where the best place to eat pastry was. I’m amazed now that she didn’t laugh at me. All she said was, “What’s a pastry?” She directed us to a place half an hour away from the Eiffel Tower called Rue Mouffetard. This street (rue) was filled with cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, and produce markets. It was 5:00 when we arrived and hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We decided to eat supper at a Parisian cafe. I’m amazed it was open now that I know the French supper time is 7:00. 5:00 is drinking time. But the cafe did have a bar, and people were drinking. We came inside, and the waiter asked me in French something that Paige thinks was, “How many?” I told him that I didn’t speak French. The other man in the cafe asked me in English, “What do you want?”
“Can we eat here?”
“Yes. How many?”
The waiter refused to talk to us in English; I don’t think he knew English. I ordered French onion soup with German sausages, butter, and dill pickles. Paige ordered ratatouille. Soon after we had begun eating, another American couple sauntered in. The guy was rather humorous to listen to. He was apparently suffering from jet lag, and nothing in life was good. How are your potatoes? Eh. Will you eat them? Probably not. The girl had obviously been to Paris before but still had no problem being “that American” who asks for ketchup when there is no food on her plate that needs any. Being embarrassed for our country’s sake, Paige and I didn’t talk for the rest of the meal. And the meal lasted a long time. I thought the waiter would bring us our check when he saw that we were finished eating. He cleared our plates away but never brought the check. I asked the English-speaking man when he walked by if we were to pay at the bar.
“Okay–you want beer?”
“Sure. I mean no! No thank you.”
But the man still didn’t bring us our check. Only when the other American girl asked for her check did the waiter bring our check over too. After our meal we decided to walk up and down the street and peek in all the shops. Paige found one store that she loved filled with purses, jewelry, and scarves. She bought one scarf that day, and I bought a ring. I hadn’t brought many euros with me, and I had already had to withdraw more money in order to pay for the train tickets. I didn’t want to have to withdraw anymore. Now I wish that I had. I saw a skirt in one store that was pale pink and looked like it had been made out of a fishing net. I also liked a pair of knit pants; they kind of reminded me of a baby diaper because they draped down closer to the knees, kind of like Aladdin’s pants. But I didn’t want to pay for them and not have enough money later in the week.
Still having some time left, Paige and I decided to walk to the Arch of Triumph. It took us fifteen minutes after finding the Arch to figure out how to get over to the Arch. We had to walk underneath the street in a tunnel. But actually accessing the Arch cost money, which I didn’t want to spend. We agreed to only do one more thing that evening. Five minutes away from the Arch was a place called Foch. We didn’t know what it was, but we decided to go explore it. It turned out to be a park with grass on one side, gravel in the middle, and the road on the other side. We walked along the gravel road for a good while before returning home.
Even though we had done a lot of walking, like we did every day, for some reason I still found my time in Paris more relaxing than my time spent in London. I think it may have been that London was my stepping stone into Paris.