Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We're really quite terrible at this...

This is for those of you who have asked for an update. Sorry it has taken so long to write about France…which we visited in January. But Geneva was all but inspiring and London has been nothing but.

After a week spending time with friends and family (for me at least), it was time to return back to Europe to prepare for school. Yet, how were we going to spend New Years Eve? After chatting with my dear friend Lauren who lives in Cognac, France, Jonathan and I decided to spend NYE in Paris.  Lauren planned to join us as well, so Jonathan and I met in Paris on December 30th and intended to meet Lauren on the 31st in front of the Lourve.

(I wrote a brief message for the blog while sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight to arrive. I included it below so you can get a feel the pain I felt while waiting in the Chicago airport…

December 29th, 2010
“So maybe global warming does exist.”

It’s December 29th, 2010. Three more days until 2011. I’m currently sitting in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, listening to, what I’m guessing is, a 3 month old crying from across the room. If you know anything about me, you would know I’m not a baby person.

How did I get here you ask? Some of you may know I came home for Christmas. Because I have some time (approximately 4 hours until I leave this god-forsaken airport – I’ve already been here for 5 hours), I’ll BRIEFLY fill you in on my adventures in the States.

I said goodbye to Jonathan in Krabi on Sunday December 19th. To make a long travel story short, I took a plane from Krabi to Bangkok (1.5 hrs), from Bangkok to Tokyo (6 hrs) and Tokyo to Atlanta (12 hrs) to make it home for Christmas. It was long. Very long.

I arrived home, greeted by my parents who picked me up at the airport. My adventures included seeing Harry Potter 7 (Part 1) with the parents; lunch with my Mari and a wonderful surprise visit from Alyssa; beer and queso night with the book club (Jenna, Heather, Katie, Cathleen) – then coffee, ‘cause I missed them that much J; shopping with mom; beer and queso night with the book club plus the crew (which also included Mari, Richie, Nick, Amanda, Brandon, Erin, Kristie, and Corey) ; coffee with Ali, Ronald and Jess (separately); Christmas Eve/Day with the fam; visits from family friends; visiting Jonathan’s families to say Happy Christmas and deliver presents; a night with my three best friends growing up – Mari, Lauren and Alyssa – where we discussed the recent ENGAGEMENT of Alyssa to her beau Kevin – lucky guy, CONGRATS!; and Harry Potter 7 (Part 1) again with the book club. HA. But I did manage to pack and relax a little, too. (I go into detail because I want everyone I mentioned to know I’m so glad I got to see them! Shouts of love to you all!)

So now, here I am. In Chicago. Waiting. Again. I leave at 9:55pm to head to Warsaw where I will AGAIN switch planes and head to Paris. Let’s hope the global snow storm will allow me to land on time in Warsaw and Paris. But, of course, I’m soooo excited to be in Paris tomorrow evening for 3 main reasons: 1) visiting the Lourve is on my bucket list – it’s a priority while I’m there; 2) I get to see my dear friend Lauren Beckett who ran away from America several years ago to live in the only place outside of the US I would allow J; 3) I get to see Jonathan again! So sitting in the airport sucks but I can’t wait for the adventures that await me. Until then, I will be reading Notes from a Small Island, given to me by the dearest Miss Jenna; trying to learn SOME French, which I have stored on my iPod; and sleeping, if this screaming child close to me will allow it.

-          Brandy)

So not to bore you, I’ll skip my terrible plane experiences, although I do have to say that I almost missed my plane FROM Warsaw because my flight TO Warsaw was over an hour late. Anyways, once I landed in the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I headed straight for luggage and was greeted by Jonathan who had literally been in the airport all day. (He had travel issues, too.) We grabbed our stuff and headed to the train that would take us downtown.  The directions I found online of how to get to our hotel were detailed and easy to follow. Good thing, too.  We were both practically asleep by the time we walked in the door. Of course, I have to mention two things.

One: we were on the 4th floor. There was no elevator. We each had our 23kg bags with us. Thank god Jonathan has patience. He brought both bags upstairs and by the end of it, we were both cursing our hotel. Two: the one thing Jonathan asked for from home was a Sweetwater 420. I bubble wrapped one, hoping it would make it to France. Conveniently, it did. “Well done with those bags, honey! Here’s a beer!” Minutes later we were both asleep.

Our first full day was a long one. We woke up, making our way down our hotel’s winding staircase, and began walking towards the river. Breakfast at a café included croissants and coffee, of course. We did the Parisian thing by taking our time in the café but soon it was off to find Lauren. We told her we would meet her outside of the pyramid at the Lourve. Poor choice. Jonathan and I arrived and the first thing we noticed was the people. There were literally thousands. Apparently, these people had the same idea we did: go to Paris for NYE. Not to mention, it was going to be nearly impossible to find Lauren. After about 30 minutes of wandering in the cold, looking for my little Frenchy, we began to pace the place, thinking it would be easier to find her if we were warm. Eventually, we did! After a quick chat about how we were, we decided another coffee was in order.

After the coffee break, our little tour guide took us around the city. We visited the Arc de Triomphe, down near the Opera where we saw the last of the Christmas lights, had a quick bite to eat and then it was time to part to begin the annual “getting ready” for NYE. A quick shower followed our day out and getting ready didn’t take nearly as long as it should have for me. We had planned earlier to meet at the metro near the Latin Quarter considering good restaurants and bars were to be found there. 

A little place with a name I can’t remember served as our dining spot. A clean 19.95 euros was our total each. Apparently, on NYE, restaurants create one of those fixed menus. Needless to say, it wasn’t bad. We left dinner needing to find a place to settle in for the festivities. An Irish pub two blocks from where we ate food? Done.

Unfortunately, Paris doesn’t celebrate NYE quite like we do in the States. There’s no count down. If you’ve lived in America for an extended period of time, or have even BEEN in American for NYE at all, you know that the countdown is the most important part. The Atlanta peach drop is the NYE icon of my childhood. Paris. has. nothing. No countdown at all. So we weren’t very aware of when it actually became midnight but we chose a moment and made cheers to each other. We then carried our own festivities out into the streets, as did the rest of Paris, and popped the cork to a bottle of champagne Lauren brought to bring in 2011 – across from Notre Dame, I should mention. 

After a few ridiculous pictures and yelling with the rest of the natives, Lauren suggested we head down near the Bastille to continue the celebration. Little did we know not much actually happened in this part of town past 2am. So we WALKED to the Bastille, singing and dancing the whole way (literally) and made our way into the center where life was calm for NYE. We found a small café that looked annoyed when we walked in, but regardless, we had a drink or two and then headed out to find somewhere slightly less boring. Yet, everything was closed. What now? Of course there happens to be a crepe stand right across the street. So yes, we stood for another hour or so to eat crepes and go on and on in all of our purely un-Parisian-ness.

Naturally, the most exciting moment of the evening happened right about here. A young and very bold, I might add, Australian walked up to us. Honestly, I’m not exactly where in our ranting this occurred, but occurred it did. One minute we were chatting about god-knows-what and the next, Lauren is being “swept off her feet” by this Australian…with a mustache. Now, normally this is…well…somewhat acceptable. Being approached by a daring and odd stranger with a mustache. But tonight, Lauren absolutely wouldn’t have it. She literally gave him shit for an hour. Yes, an hour. (And Lauren, I hope you read this because this was very surely the highlight of my New Years Eve!)

Poor Lauren. She got stuck chatting with this Australian, explaining to him how stupid mustaches were, and making very sure he knew she “wasn’t impressed”. Honestly, this time went by fairly quickly, especially considering I was hunched over in laughter about 4/6ths of the conversation.  And I also have to mention, this Australian (and his friend who stood nearby but didn’t commit much to the conversation for fear of insulting Lauren, I’m sure) took her “I’m not impressed” speech very well. They actually seemed to be quite impressed with the fluently French-speaking little American with a louder voice and bigger balls than either one of them had. Needless to say, they walked away satisfied that they didn’t win Lauren over yet still had a good laugh all the same.

So after crepes and insulting Australians, we decided to call it a night. Plans were to wake up the next morning and explore Paris for another day. Hopefully we would all be up in time to make that happen.

Conveniently, we were. Breakfast was the first thing on the to-do list (again with the croissants and coffee) followed by more tour-guiding, complements of Lauren. This time we made it a priority to see the symbol of Paris: the Eiffel Tower. So after a long breakfast, we made a mistake. We walked. 

By the time we got to the Eiffel Tower, the other NYE-Paris tourists were already there. Again, I guess we all think alike. We took some pictures and headed on (note: It’s a good time to mention it was still ridiculously cold in Paris…therefore, any inside time we could manage was appreciated). Down to the Champs-Elysses we went, followed by more coffee drinking. At the end of the Champs-Elysses, we discovered what looked like a Christmas market lining the streets. Honestly, I didn’t care what it was…it had crepes. So we all ordered our crepes and made our way down the market, looking in on stalls of interest and pushing past the hundreds of other people with the same idea. 

Eventually we came to the end, where we turned back towards the Eiffel Tower. By this time it was night so we took a few pictures and headed back to the metro to say goodbye to Lauren. We got her off on the train and made our way back to our hotel for an exciting night of nothing. Sleep was inevitable.
Our last day in Paris started with packing. Our suitcases had been torn apart the last few days so they were in desperate need of some rearranging. We (and I mean Jonathan) lugged our suitcases back down that ridiculous spiral staircase and packed them into a corner of the hotel’s first floor. One more thing on the to-do list before we left Paris: actually go into the Lourve. 

We only had a few hours but knew we couldn’t come all the way to Paris and NOT see as much of it as we could. So after standing in line for an hour and a half we finally got in and sprinted to the rooms we wanted to check out. We discovered later the Lourve is free to all visitors on the first Sunday of every month. Naturally, we went on the first Sunday of the month. Saying it was packed is clearly an understatement. After racing through the exhibits we wanted to see the most, we headed back towards the hotel to pick up our 23kg suitcases and bookbags and head to the train station. Time to head to Cognac to visit Lauren before we head to school in Geneva. The train was scheduled to have us there around 11pm…

-          Brandy