04.11.2011 72 °F
Only four hours of sleep and we are up again. Paris here we come! We got ready and ate a little breakfast, then caught the shuttle at 4:30am sharp. Nothing exciting to report about the airport and the security checkpoints. At least a cavity search would make it a LITTLE interesting. The flight from Dublin to Paris was only a little more than an hour. This Ryanair travel thing sure is nice and really saves us a bunch of time. Stepping off the plain the crisp breeze just felt French! Though the air felt clean I was surprised to see smog off in the distance. As we step ever closer to the French customs line, my apprehension at the language barrier is growing. The french like their language and do not put English anywhere. The signs, the info, the instructions; all Francais. It's been way too long since French class in high school! So here we are faced with the true out of comfort, language barrier, situation. Since I'm the planner and anticipator of all things, this is not comforting. At least THESE customs officials are smiling at people! Thankfully bonjour and merci were the only two words I needed to find myself through customs and on a bus for Paris. We were both exhausted from the late night and early morning and ended up sleeping for the 70km ride. Since this is a couch surfing city, priority number one was figuring out how to get to our host's flat. We are staying with a 29 year old Frenchman named Nicolas. My language barrier apprehension is still churning as we search for the metro station. In Ireland it was a simple matter of asking someone if you were lost. Here the signs are in French and the ability to ask directions is nearly nothing. This is the first time I've felt isolated on the trip and longing to be back in Ireland. It's just Casey and I with the French vocabulary of an infant, while people all around are happily communicating while leaving us in the dark. Plus, we must look really foreign because I've never gotten so many looks in my life! Thank goodness for my iPod and Nico's (Nicolas) clear directions. We had to take two different metro lines to arrive near his flat. The good news is that tickets are cheap. The bad news is that we are still tired and edgy. So it didn't help that after we exited our first metro line, we made the mistake of exiting the station and had to buy another unneeded ticket just to get back in. My grandpa says it costs to get an education! We made it to our destination of Republique Station and I realized that somehow I had deleted the email from Nico with the rest of the directions. Go figure. Yay for McDonald's free wifi. While we were in there getting ready to call Nico on my iPod, a man came up to me and jabbered, "Blah, blah, toilette." Well, when you order food, you get a code to the bathroom on your receipt. I was able to decipher his intent and with a merci, my French buddy happily ran off to the bathroom for relief. It made my day to help someone address a dire need in their life. Back to the travels. Thank you Terry Forrester for the skype account you gave me so that I was able to call Nico through the wifi and make contact.
These couch surf hosts are a different breed of people I think. He left work to show us in to his flat where he promptly gave us a key and told us that his flat was our flat. He told us to come and go as we please. With that he left for the rest of his work day. Who does that? Hahah! We made away with his computer, some money, and some food right after he left. We are now in Switzerland. Just kidding. Made you think though eh? Casey and I really just ran for some dinner at the store and came back. Pizza with fromage and jambon. And let me tell you, frozen pizza here is better than most fresh pizza in the states. We had great aspirations to go out and walk around after dinner but instead spent the time journaling, blogging, resting, and sleeping. I feel like we are wasting time just sitting here but our bodies really need the rest. We basically just hung out until Nico was done with work. When he came back we went to the market to get supplies for dinner. At the market he explained to us that the French make sauces. It's an important culinary skill to make the sauce. Ingredients in hand we headed back. As we go, Nico is finally starting to open up to us. What a fun guy! He's tall and a bit gangly but very demonstrative. He told us that he works in movie and commercial make up and animatronics. He and a few other guys built their company from obscurity to one of the top work shops in France. He is actually a famous guy within his industry.
Before dinner we had an aperitif of white French wine. So good. I don't like wine and this stuff was tasty. He gave us a cheers and explained to us the importance of wine in the French culture. It's not the equivalent to water, but close; just much more appreciated. He made these crepe omelet things that were really good. During dinner we discussed the differences in how our cultures greet one another. They kiss the cheeks while we tend to hug or handshake. He said hugs are very very personal and only among close friends. Even more personal than a kiss! Also, the use of physical touch via hands is very personal and only among close friends. Dinner lasted three hours as we discussed a full range of topics. We had a very respectful discussion of how the french see us and how we see them. Very interesting. You'll need to ask me about it because it's too much to write! Just to let you know a bit though, I felt his view was very generalized. That ended our first night in Paris! A home cooked meal with wine, sauce, and excellent conversation with a real Parisian!