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Arriving in Paris


After the panic and headless-chicken-running of the last morning in Aix-en-Provence, it was a relief to get on the TGV express train to Paris, even if it does lead to an encounter with the metro system of Paris. Since I don't remember ever taking public transport until sometime in my late teens, it's always a bit more difficult for me to handle subways and buses when I first arrive into a new city. Paris, surprisingly, was easier to get a hold of than London was, with more signs posted everywhere that show you exactly where you need to go. Many things are dumbed down and over-explained in this world (don't put your pets in microwave ovens, don't try to clean the lawn mower when the blade is turning), but public transport is one of those things that should be as plain as possible.

Anyway, I was, at long last, in beautiful Paris, still hauling the Trailer, with my U.S. bank account completely cleaned out and one hundred dollars loaned to me from Nick. But I was there, goddammit. I moved into the Aloha Hostel, ten minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower. I have no idea why a Paris hostel would be called the "Aloha" hostel; I wouldn't think Polynesian names would be the way to bring in the business. But they spoke English, since the staff was mostly Canadians, British, and Irish, with the occasional Antipodean accent floating around. And that's the important thing.

And, as far as misnamed hostels go, it was pretty good. The showers were maddenly lukewarm and, like everything in French hostels, ran on the frustrating timer system. You press a single button for everything, and whatever it is always runs out when you most need it. Lights go out before you can get the key into the door, the sink stops running before you can get your toothbrush underneath, and the shower kicks out the moment you go for the soap.

Also, as long as we're complaining about the hostel (which I want to emphasize was a good hostel--not Prince's St. quality, but cleaner, and they sell alcohol) they had an inexplicable policy with room keys. As in, there's only one room key for a four to six bed room, meaning that the first person there has to let people in (certain rooms can be left unlocked, others can't) and the last person out has to leave the key at the front desk. After six months at Prince's St., I was a bit unfamiliar with the whole concept of keys in general , and on my first night in the hostel, I walk out the door with the key.

It's not normally this crooked. That's just my inability to use the scanner properly. (Eiffel Tower. Duh)

They say it's ten minutes walk to the Eiffel Tower, but it's more like fifteen. But the Eiffel Tower was stunning, especially in the early evening of my first day there. The deep and spiritual calm I felt of being finally in Paris, despite my poverty, was only slightly marred when I reached into my pocket and touched the key. Pangs of guilt forced me to walk back to the hostel to drop it back at the front desk. By then I was too beat to actually walk back again to the Eiffel Tower, and decided to go back later.

Instead, I ate. A sack of croissants and pate of some sort. I'm not sure what kind of pate (probably safer not to ask), but it was good. Incidentally, what is it with the French tendency to reduce most everything from meat to cheese to the consistency of butter or paste? Is it similar to the British belief that if you boil something until it's gray then it is safe to eat? Do the French believe that pureed food is safer? Well, I guess it's harder to choke if your food is put through a blender first.

The only other problem that came from the hostel was Shelly, from Texas. Boy, was she from Texas. Shelley came back to our hostel room late that first night to find that the other resident of our room, a beautiful French girl whose English is as good as my French, was in Shelley's bed. Not a major problem except that Shelley rented the sheets from the hostel. Rather than wake Beautiful French Girl, Shelley decided to complain to management. She got a new pair of sheets, gratis (of course), but then, apparently in a particularly vengeful mood, made sure to insist that they charge B.F.G. for the sheets.

This all was explained to me at great length the next morning as I tried to get ready for my first day in Paris. Shelley made sure to let me know that she insisted that B.F.G. get charged for the sheets, and complained about the audacity of "that girl" for stealing her sheets. "Tempest in a teacup" kept flitting across my mind as I tried to appear interested while figuring out where I was going to go for the day. Not once did it occur to Shelley to tell B.F.G. what she'd done wrong, despite my urging her to do so...not so much so B.F.G. could apologize, but just so Shelley could have the catharsis and shut up about it.

It turns out that this really wasn't going to be a problem anymore, because Shelley got herself so incensed about the entire thing that she marched down to reception and changed rooms. How so very American. And, as you may understand, when I say "American" I mean all that Americans abroad stand for and don't seem to realize it. Canadians occasionally wonder why other nations occasionally laugh at them (in case they're wondering, it's because you all wear Canadian flags on your backpacks and say "eh" a lot). Americans (and I suppose I still have to include myself) on the other hand just haven't noticed the other countries laughing at us.

But Shelley was very American. You have a problem, you get someone else in authority to deal with it and make it go away. In the meantime, act passive-aggressive and avoid the problem. And if the problem gets too bad, go away yourself.

So I leave to spend a day in Paris. Parisians can't possibly be as annoying as my fellow Americans, can they?


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This page last updated on 4 July, 2002. And as this is about France it's my god-given right to be snotty about it!
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