I don’t like to call the first day Day One because it’s not a whole day so it doesn’t really count. Like most people I don’t usually plan activities for the day you land because you never know how tired you’re gonna be, or if there’s some delays in travel, or whatnot.
The flight over was ghastly. Traveling has become so arduous these days that it amazes me anybody takes the time. I didn’t come from the US, and that was the only good thing about it. I didn’t have to take my shoes off, or my coat or the handbag I forgot I was carrying. I was waved through security like nothing. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not trying to bomb the plane or something.
On the first leg of the journey I was accused of smoking in the lavatory. Except for an attempt to be cool when I was 16 I never smoked a cigarette in my life. I didn’t think the lavatory smelled like smoke when I went in but I hadn’t been in there 30 seconds when the attendant banged on the door and demanded that I open it at once. “Are you smoking in there? There is no smoking allowed on this flight.”
My pants were down around my ankles so I didn’t open the door and the woman continued to bang on the door the whole time I was in there. Bitch, I’m trying to pee. Can you please get lost?? There were two stern-faced attendants waiting for me when I finally opened it. They asked about me smoking and looked around in the lavatory for some kind of evidence. I just kept shaking my head. Eventually the fasten seat-belt sign came on and they told me to return to my seat. I don’t think they believed me, but when the captain says fasten your seat belt you’d better fasten your damn seat belt. The crazy thing is that the little corridor outside the lavatory did smell like smoke.
I landed at CDG around noon. Collecting my bag was easy. I only brought one mid-sized case and a shoulder bag. I hate to be bogged down with junk when I travel. I figure if I forgot something I’ll just buy it. I did get stopped by customs enforcement. I guess I had this dumb deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. Douane (who was kinda hot) was actually quite nice as he asked the standard questions about carrying more than 10,000 euro (man, I wish) or cigarettes and alcohol. Bitch, ask me one more time about some damn cigarettes.
After purchasing a museum pass and a metro pass, I called Joseph, my apartment manager who would meet me to give me the keys to the apartment. Suzanne answered instead and we could hardly understand each other. This is my greatest fear about traveling outside English-speaking nations, not being understood or not understanding someone else when it’s important. We did manage to make arrangements to meet. I got a proper taxi outside terminal 2 and away I went.
I think it’s amusing that Europeans ride around in Mercedes for taxis. In the US, people work their whole lives for such a car. Everyone think it’s the pinnacle of luxury and in Europe, it’s a fucking cab. I think that’s funny.
My initial impression of Paris was not what I expected. It’s a gloomy day, overcast and grey. The city is quite dirty and far more modern than I expected. Everywhere is tagged up. Seriously, it looks like LA with all the graffiti everywhere. We passed a tent city full of homeless people. I mean, I guess Paris is a city just like anywhere else and you kind of get a rosy-tinted view and don’t realise that everywhere has it’s problems.
The taxi driver was a maniac, but most cabbies are. He missed my street and ended up on a one-way. Instead of going around like a sane person, he simply threw the vehicle into reverse and backed that bitch up for about half a mile. He also drove up on the curb to avoid the bollards that prevent vehicles from driving on certain streets. I was amazed he did not hit anybody because he did not actually look where he was going.
After cheating me out of my change, he dumped my bag onto the street and blazed off. Apparently, you’re not supposed to tip in Europe but shysters will scam you out of your change because you’re American and they know you’re used to tipping. That’s okay. I got something for the next person that tries to keep my money. Y’all know how I am about my money.
It wasn’t Suzanne that met me, but Shan, a guy from Sri Lanka. He showed me the codes to the outer gates and the entry door. Such security! I was led up some shoddy looking steps to the apartment. It was not what I expected. Maybe I should have got a hotel. Upon closer inspection, it really isn’t that bad. It suits my needs. I rented through Vacations in Paris. The rate was well within my budget, only a grand US for 11 days. I wanted a place with a kitchen and a washer/dryer. I have very little civilian clothing so I’ll have to wash every few days if I don’t buy anything. Plus, I’d like to make my own breakfast daily.
There’s a window but it looks out into a …. I’m not sure what this is. Not an alley. A little enclosure with industrial looking things, like maybe the air con unit or water heater or something. Oh well. I don’t have a window at all in my current living situation, so I guess I’ve improved. And this place is not fit for two people; I don’t care what the advert says. You would have to be truly boo’ed up to share this little space, or maybe make a rule that you can only be in the apartment when it’s time to sleep. Otherwise one of you would have to stand in the kitchen sink and the other in the bathroom just for some breathing space.
Shan was thirsty as shit. After showing me the apartment and orienting me to my surroundings he asked to take me out for coffee. I was a little taken aback. Who does that? I guess he tries to hook up with every single female that rents a place. Who knows? He’s not ugly and he has a good body (he said he was a personal trainer part time). I said yeah sure you can take me out for coffee. Matter of fact, show me where the metro is and the nearest grocery store. Two can play this game. I was not worried that he was going to do something shady. The street here is full of fucking people, and if he wants to keep his job he better act right. Other than being thirsty as hell he proved to be an okay companion. At the very least, he can be a dinner companion or go to the club with me.
Rue Montorgueil is exactly what I wanted for Paris. A cute little street with cafés and wine shops. Shan showed me the highlights then we walked to Jardin Nelson Mandela and the Louvre. I was blown away by the Louvre. I mean, it is just magnificent. And so huge! I didn’t go in yet. I have that planned for Sunday. We took a selfie in front of the pyramid then I insisted he take me back. He had another guest to meet anyway.
But they weren’t joking when they talked about the scammers. My God, we were approached no less than four times. Twice someone asked if we spoke English. Twice more someone came up to us with some pamphlets asking us to sign their petitions. Shan told me to just ignore them. Good advice. They’re not pushy and they’ll move on to easier prey. They are pickpockets and thieves. Their trick is to get close to you by asking if you speak English and please sign this petition. While you’re reading the petition or answering their questions, someone else is either digging in your bag, picking your pocket or slicing the bottom of your bag to get your valuables. They’re never violent but who needs their credit card stolen while on vacation? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I went to a Fanprix, a grocery store to stock up on things. I was mad dehydrated from all the wine I drank on the plane. I also bought fixings for breakfast. The French can get by on a cigarette and coffee for breakfast but I need something more substantial. I bought les oeufs and some vegetables for an omelet. It’s such a treat for me to make my own food. I am dead with the DFAC and their half-cooked omelets.
After dumping these things off in my apartment I ventured out again. I stopped for another coffee. It’s hard not drink my coffee on the go. Actually, it’s hard just sitting down and taking the time. We Americans are so rushy. We have to be on the move all the time. I’ll try to break the habit, though I don’t know how successful I’ll be. The French do not walk around with cups of coffee like Americans do. In fact, they don’t eat on the go at all. They sit their asses down like normal people and enjoy their food and good company. I need that in my life.
Thankfully I remembered something I read on TA. If you want a cappuccino don’t order a cappuccino. It’s not the same thing. A cappuccino in France is just foam and water. Instead order cafe creme. I sat for awhile, people watching. I was happy to note many French people, as opposed to tourists. Familiarity is nice but I didn’t come all this way to meet other Americans, or even Brits. I’d like to meet French people.
Next I went to a wine shop. The apartment had given me a complimentary bottle of red, but I feel as this is my first night in Paris I must celebrate with champagne. I asked for something sweet and was promptly informed the French do not drink sweet champagne. The shopkeeper was good enough to suggest something not too dry. I left the shop with a bottle of bubbly tucked under my arm and headed a few doors down to a thai place I had seen.
I also stopped into Stohrer’s. This was suggested to me on TA. What a pleasant surprise that it should be right here in my neighborhood. I bought a lemon tart because I am fond of things that taste like lemon. I also have to note here the importance of speaking to the shopkeepers when you enter. Maybe you don’t do it at a huge department store but these little shops, I think it’s the thing to do. Another aspect I have to get used to. If French people seem rude I think it’s because we tourists are rude first. When I entered Stohrer’s I forgot to speak and they were content to let me stand there until I said “Bonjour.” Even if your French sucks like mine, bonjour is not that hard to say or remember.
I tried my best to stay out so I wouldn’t go immediately to bed but I was travel weary and smelly from the plane. Time to relax. I headed back to the apartment to unpack and get situated. After a hot shower, I popped open the champagne and settled in for the night.
The pad thai I ordered was just okay. I got it from Monthai. I forgot to tell them to make it spicy so it was a little boring for me, but the chicken spring rolls were pretty good. Anyway, I just needed some food on my stomach so I could drink the champagne without being sick. I also cannot drink alcohol in my current living situation and I went way overboard. And by overboard, I mean I finished the bottle. Seriously, it was an excellent bottle of champagne and I love how mad cheap the alcohol is. It is NOT a game. I mean, I can be drunk for about 5E a day. That’s what vacations are for, going overboard. If you’re not driving or performing surgery it’s perfectly fine. C’est la vie, non?