One of the things I tell our graduating seniors when we take them to dinner around the Pope’s head at Buca di Beppo – is to study abroad if they get a chance. I took out a loan for my experience, and honestly don’t regret it even though we are committed to living debt-free. One of the most incredible experiences of my life. I went with my roommate and dear friend Christie to Prague for five weeks, Italy for a week, and a couple scampers to Vienna and Paris in between. My roommate just re-posted this excerpt from our trip in the summer of 2005 and I thought I’d pass it along. You can read my version here.
“So, how was Paris?” Typical question. Atypcal answer: “I learned that I know how to survive.” Survival was the name of the game this weekend in Paris. From the moment our plane landed at Charles de Gaulle, we were completely on our own. No one to tell us where to go or what to see. We didn’t even know where we were staying. For the first time ever, we had 100% control over what we did, when we did it, where we went, how we got there, and where we slept. It was great.
We bought a 3-day metro/bus/train pass and used a map to get everywhere we needed to go. That map and the packs on our backs are what got us through 4 whirlwind days in the most history-filled place we’ve ever seen.
Paris was PB&J sandwiches on a park bench in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral and next to the giant statue of my buddy Charlemegne. It was Nutella and banana crepes from a little stand on the sidewalk. It was splitting meals – smaller budget, smaller stomach. Picnic dinner of sandwiches and dried fruit on the Champs-de-Mars lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, singing worship songs to the heavens. Wandering the streets of the Latin Quarter at 9pm on Friday night with no place to stay. We were planning on staying with 4 other girls from our program, but we couldn’t get a hold of their cell phone and didn’t know where their place was, so we decided to fend for ourselves. We walked around from hotel to hotel, telling them our story: “We just got in to Paris today and can’t find our friends that we were supposed to stay with and have nowhere to go. Can we stay here?” They were all really friendly and willing to give us huge discounts, and we finally found a relatively inexpensive place to stay, in the Latin Quarter, our favorite part of town. We walked up to our room and discovered it consisted of 2 beds and a sink; no toilet; no shower. We laughed. We’ve learned that things won’t go our way – go with the flow. We’ll get lost – keep trying and just laugh.
We went for a run Saturday morning through the little streets, past some important-looking buildings, and along the Seine River. We were on our feet for 17 hours that day. Exhausting but great. Saturday consisted of our run, a 3-hour trip to the Louvre, the Jardin des Plantes, the Champs-Elysess, finding a little shop off the Champs and talking the price of a skirt down 10 Euro (from 25 to 15) and then later fixing the problem zipper that had gotten me the discount in the first place (yesssss!), seeing the Arc de Triomphe, realizing that Maslow’s Hierarchy is actually true (you can’t aspire for higher order needs unless you’ve met the lower ones, aka – you can’t enjoy Paris when you’re really really hungry!), splitting a dinner of salmon and potatoes, dressing up Euro-style so Annie could do the Eiffel Tower, meeting a friendly Canadian on the metro to the Tower who works in the UK named George who escorted Annie up the Eiffel Tower, being hit on twice while I sat on the Champs-de-Mars when Annie was up there, standing by the peaceful Seine River at 12:30 at night wishing Brian was there, finding our way home, and sleeping oh so soundly from the longest but coolest day ever.
Sunday we saw the Tour de France. It was great. We planted ourselves about 300m from the finish on the Champs-Elysess, right next to the railing on the street, with friendly people. A husband and wife who were born and raised in LA, live in San Luis Obispo, and have a son who lives in Roseville. Who knew?! The man was an amateur cyclist, so he filled us in on fun facts, and he even got to ride a stage of the tour a couple weeks ago! The cyclists rode down the Champs from the Louvre toward the Arc de Triomphe, than back again – 16 times! We had plenty of opportunities to take pictures and video. Annie got some good shots of Lance and one of the guys with us got some great ones too, so we all gave him our emails so he can send us the sweet pics. We stood in one place for almost 7 hours.
After the Tour, we packed up and headed to our hostel for the night. We booked it by the airport. Little did we know, there are two airports in Paris. Charles de Gaulle is north. Orly is south. We were by Orly. We took a train to get there and found ourselves in the middle of a little French village. We had to ask people for directions on the street and cross the railroad tracks and cross the river. We turned into a residential neighborhood – kiddie toys in the front yards and all – and lo and behold, there’s our hostel. haha. Praise God. We survived the night there, spent 2 hours in Paris the next afternoon, then headed back to Charles de Gaulle to fly back to Prague.
I’d like to post more about what I learned and the good talks Annie and I had in Paris, so hopefully I can do that tomorrow, since I need to head to class right now and I’m still trying to process it all. Today is our last day of history class, then we have a few days to enjoy Prague and get ready for Italy! We’re going to a Marionnette Opera tonight called “Don Giovanni” which was Mozart’s first opera (?). Should be interesting. In 4 days, Annie and I will be in Venice, Italy. In 4 days, Brian and I will get to see each other for the first time in almost 7 weeks. In 4 days, it will be a new leg of this long European trek that I’ve embarked on. 4 days from now will be a very happy time. Until then, I will be enjoying the free time in Prague that most people would kill for, not letting it just pass on by as I anticipate the plethora of good times that lie ahead in the next 2 weeks.
God is so big. That has been the theme of my summer thus far, and He keeps showing me that in everything I do. Praise God.