Europe 10/11…pt 1

Paris Day One
Paris for Free along with Australia

Overview
I’m currently on a 3 1/2 week trip to Europe.  Centered primarily around the Taize community in France as well as their annual gathering (which is Rotterdam this year) I’ll also be doing some sightseeing and reflecting/relaxing.  Here I hope to log my journey for any who desire to join, first in a several sentence summary (for the busy folk) and then in a more detailed form (for the interested).

La petite
After a whirlwind tour of NYC on Monday with my friend Mike Boyle and his wife Allison, I found out my flight was delayed from 11:30 pm to 3:15 am.  Arriving in Paris considerably later than I originally planned, I successfully navigated the trains and metro to St. Christopher, my hostel.  Being a light sleeper makes staying in a hostel an adventure, but I was too tired to give anything much notice.  Today I secured my Eurorail Pass and then went on a free walking tour of the entire city with a group that happened to be comprised almost entirely of Australians.

La grande
It was great to get the chance to catch up with Mike again, after not seeing him for a year.  Mike lived in Canton for a year as an anthropologist, studying the connections between Canton, its economy & poverty issues, and religious institutions.  I had emailed him when it became apparent that I’d be spending all day in the city where he now lives, and he thankfully had the day to spare.  Mike’s astute observations on culture, politics, religion, and people made for a great day of conversation as we toured around the city.  I got to stop at the headquarters of 2 of my favorite non-profits: Acumen Fund & charity:water and see them in action and then we sent the rest of the day hiking all over the city.  We managed to see Rockefeller Plaza, Times Square, Ground Zero, Wall Street, Trinity Church, the grave of Alexander Hamilton and the Statue of Liberty before taking a boat to Ellis Island.  Ellis Island was fascinating and well worth the $12 it cost for the boat.  We could have spent much longer there quite honestly, but it was late in the day and we still needed to get some dinner and get me to the airport.  Unfortunately, we got back to Mike’s apartment to find that my flight had been delayed because of weather conditions in Paris.  Mike graciously stayed up late to run me to the airport at midnight, with my flight now scheduled for 2:30.

Finally actually taking off closer to 3:30 am, I somehow managed to be next to a couple that took great delight in bickering with one another, all amidst professions of love.  And so I figured it was probably time to catch some sleep.

Landing in Paris after 4pm meant that I wasn’t sure if my hostel would still have saved my bed (I was supposed to check in at 3) and that I had to successfully navigate myself across Paris for the first time after dark by the time I got through customs.  Thankfully the metro is simple to navigate and when I got to the hostel, they still had a bed and they even complimented me on my French.  Obviously,  I hadn’t said very much.

Too exhausted to do anything else, I spent the rest of the night figuring out a plan of action and successfully locating the nearest ATM.  My room had 6 of us in it (the rest from Brazil) and jet lag knocked me out long before anyone else around 11.

This morning I woke up at 7:30.  I wanted to get breakfast, secure my Eurorail Pass, and make it to St. Michel by 11 for a free walking tour of the city that I had found.  I figured the tour would be a good way to catch my bearings and create an itinerary from for the remainder of my time.  Gare du Nord, one of the central transportation hubs in Paris, has got to be one of the more confusing buildings around, but I finally found what I needed, waited in one of the longest lines of my life (as I’m not much of a roller coast enthusiast) and finally secured a train pass for the remainder of my time.  I made it to St. Michel just in time for the tour.  

My guide, Daniel, is originally from Amsterdam, speaks 6 languages, and has been in Paris for a year and a half.  The majority my group of 20ish people were randomly nearly all from Australia. The tours are put on by a group who provide one free tour (reliant on tips) and three paid tours (which are quite reasonably priced).  In 3 1/2 hours we managed to see Notre Dame, le River Sienne, L’Institute de France, le Louvre, Pontiac Neuf, Palais Royal, the Paris Opera House (inspiration for Phantom of the Opera), Jardiniere des Tuileries, Musee D’Orsay, Place de la Concord, the Obelisque, le Grand set la Petite Palais, and (from a distance) Sacre Couer and the Eiffel Tower (pardon my likely poor spelling of everything :). We topped it off with a late lunch in a tiny cafe and I managed to make it back to my hostel just before it started pouring rain.  

My hostel is located on a picturesque river of sorts called la Basin de la Villette, which I have a fantastic view of from my new 10 person room that I’ll be in for the remainder of my time in Paris.

That’s all for today…I think some dinner is ahead and then figuring out what I’m going to see when over the next few days. Bien nuit.

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