This is an update of the amazing trip I took to Europe
last summer three summers ago. Slowly but surely I’m posting about every day I spent on that excellent continent. To read earlier updates, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And here. And here and here and here and here and here and here.
Sunday 5 June, 2011
I made it to Paris after being awake for 24 hours and traveling for half of them. It was a long day, complete with one flight that left early, one flight that left late, and one flight that had no in-flight entertainment for the entire time (7 hours). (Luckily I had a husband who loves me and bought me an iPad the night before my trip so I had plenty to keep me occupied. I felt real bad for the poor schmucks who’d been counting on their in-flight movies. BORING!)
Unfortunately, we (we classmates that is) are staying in a real dive of a place (wouldn’t be surprised if there were bedbugs here) which not only doesn’t have free wifi but also doesn’t have ANY wifi, even for ready money (not that I have any such thing but still). The only way to access the internet at this joint is to connect with a cable, which, if you’ve ever had (or held) an iPad before, you’ll know that this presents me with a very irritating problem indeed. You just don’t expect to need cables for internet in this day and age. Especially not in Paris, the city that boasts free wifi for all its citizens and visitors throughout.
Liberté and egalité my foot—I feel a revolution coming on.
As soon as I finally got into my hotel room (after hauling my luggage up and down the halls and elevators three times to communicate with the desk agent that my key card was, yes, STILL not working, by which point every other student had not only entered her room but also unpacked, showered, and arranged a lunchtime outing [was I surprised my key card was the only one not working? of course not]) I began to feel the bitterness creep into my thoughts:
“$3,000 for a class in Paris and we’re stuck in this dump? No AC, filthy bathrooms, smells like arse AND no wifi? What a croc.” Did I mention that my bed is actually a hide-a-bed pulled out of a couch? I was not impressed.
Now, lest you judge me for judging my room so snobbishly: I AM NOT A SNOB (very much). I do not turn my nose up at hide-a-beds—not when I’m visiting friends or family or couch surfing or hostel-hopping. When I’m trying to do a trip on a budget I appreciate whatever accommodations I can get, truly. But when I’ve worked hard all semester to earn the money for an extra fantastic summer course to Paris, and when I figure that 1/3 of the course fee went to plane fare and 1/4 of the fee to tuition, and when I also figure that NO meals are included with the cost of the trip and NO entrance fees to museums and also NO transportation within Paris, well then I’m wondering exactly where the other $1,500 went. Because this sure as heck ain’t a $1,500 joint I’m holed up in I can tell you that much.
I suspect embezzlement.
But the point of this post is not just to whine whine whine at you. Because I got over all that (can’t you tell). I got over the blisters on my feet and the fact that I stupidly removed my already-European-wired hair dryer (that I bought last time I was in Paris for just such an occasion) from my suitcase two minutes before I left for the airport (thinking that all hotels have blow dryers and I would just be annoyed at myself for adding unnecessary weight [but of course there’s not one in this hotel room and I’m going to look FUGLY for the duration]). Got right over it, all of it.
Because after I took a one-hour power nap (trying to beat the jet lag by staying up for 36 hours and then crashing), and after I sniffed out a grocery store and loaded up on provisions, and after I ate and showered and changed my underoos and my blister-building shoes, I rallied.
I am in Paris, for pete’s sake.
I packed a bag (lighter than the first) with all my essentials and descended the elevator once more, this time refreshed and ready to forgive this city its trespasses.
I walked for an hour, and then I sat and wrote in a park for about as long, and through it all, you know what I kept thinking?
Paris has a way of draining people.
But somehow it only drains that which is worth draining, and in the end it replaces all the bad with so very much good.
I am drained, yes.
But I am not at all empty.