May 15, 2014
Here’s what happened.
(Standing under the Eiffel Tower. Casual.)
My journey to Paris began in London at King’s Cross St. Pancras—a tube stop that is attached to an international train station. My friend Ruth and I got there super early, because train ticket prices sky rocket once you hit prime rush hour time. The train station itself was a new experience for me. I’d never been to a train station that had terminals and security checkpoints like airports. It was a lot calmer than an airport, though. Security was pretty low key. I didn’t have to take off my shoes and rings, and they didn’t obsess over liquids the way they do at airports.
The train ride was super chill. There’s something so calming about trains. After making full use of every single mode of transportation during my time abroad, travel by train is by far my favorite. The motion of the carriage rocking as it hurtles down the tracks is soothing; you have more leg room than in an airplane (even for poor college students like me who cannot afford first class); and it doesn’t feel like your eardrums are about to explode—usually.
The train to Paris was actually an exception to that last rule. As soon as we entered the Chunnel (the tunnel that goes under the English channel into France) my ears popped, and kept popping the deeper we got. I thought that only happened with rapid changed in altitude, but maybe going that deep underground does sort of the same thing. If there are any scientists reading this, please, enlighten me!
Ruth had given me the window seat because she’s a goddess, so when we emerged from the Chunnel, I was greeted with a breathtaking view of the French countryside. The most exciting moment? When I spotted a store’s sign—and it was in French! Amazing how signs are written in French in France. Whoever made that decision is really clever.
Our friend Aster met us at Gare du Nord and after squealing and hugging for a good five minutes, we ventured outside to find food and alcohol. We drank mimosas (cuz we are classy bitches) at an outdoor café, then crossed the road to a patisserie where we bought baguettes and a quiche. Then we proceeded to walk the streets of Paris consuming the aforementioned baguettes and quiche. Doesn’t get much more French than that, amiright?
Side note: So I thought the whole baguette-obsession was just a stereotype, but later that night when we went to a grocery store there was a woman walking the aisles casually nibbling on a giant baguette. I didn’t expect to step off the train in Paris and find everyone running around eating baguettes and quiches and screaming voulez-vous coucher avec moi? I just thought French people would be like normal people…except French…. I’m not explaining this well. But the point is—I was kind of startled to see this woman in the grocery store representing French clichés so completely. It was inspiring.
So after we ate our quiches and baguettes, Aster went to class and Ruth and I went off to find the Airbnb place where we were staying. We located it pretty easily—we only walked in the wrong direction twice and asked for directions from a measly four people. We weren’t set to meet up with the apartment owner until later that afternoon so Ruth and I chilled at a nearby café, sipping cappuccinos and basically just being the classy-ass ladies that we are.
By the time four o’clock rolled around, I was riding a pretty serious caffeine high and feeling like a badass motherfuckin’ world traveler. I mean, how sexy is this? From now on I can just casually drop into conversations that I’ve been to Paris. I can say things like, “Dude, this one time when I was in Paris…” or “Oh yes, I’ve tried crepes before. I ate one underneath the Eiffel Tower a few weeks back…” AMAZING. People are going to think I’m way cooler than I actually am.
We were greeted at the apartment by an adorable French woman who spoke near-perfect English—which reminds me…so many people in Paris spoke English! I kind of expected it, but it was amazing how many people were able to switch back and fourth between the languages. I passed a homeless man on the street who asked me for money in French. I told him I didn’t speak French and he immediately repeated the request in perfect English. Just goes to show—don’t judge a homeless dude by his grimy, toothless exterior.
So anyway, the adorable French apartment lady showed us around a little then left me and Ruth to settle in. The apartment was actually owned by the sister of the woman who showed us around. She and her boyfriend are comedians, which I think was the reason behind some of the delightful decorating choices. Some highlights: a flashing Eiffel Tower statue on the bookshelf (classy), a giant red stiletto heel that was inexplicably dangling from a basket in the living room (intriguing), and a shower curtain covered with naked men bathing (sexy—if you’re into that sort of thing). Also in the bathroom was a selection of books to read while you…did bathroom stuff. Ruth and Aster were quite taken with a volume entitled The Little Book of Big Penis. I stuck with the comics.
We (ironically) made spaghetti that night. Ruth and Aster kept the mimosas flowing, while I focused on hydrating—all that caffeine had drained me like a raisin in the sun. Ruth was very excited about going out to some Parisian bars. I wasn’t really feeling it, so after taking some selfies with my devastatingly gorgeous friends, I snuggled up in bed with Netflix.
The next morning I woke up and discovered a couple of interesting things. The shower curtain rod had been yanked down, there was a broken champagne bottle in the toilet, and there were shampoo bottles strewn everywhere. My first question wasn’t, What the heck happened last night? (That was my second question.) My first question was, How the fuck did I sleep through this? Thank god for the gift of sound sleep.
I thought about cleaning up but then decided I didn’t want to, so instead I rounded up my two hungover friends and forced them to go sight-seeing with me. Aster led the way to the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame. It was mind blowing to see these iconic structures in person. It didn’t feel real. The Eiffel Tower especially just took my breath away. How many times have I seen its façade in books and movies or plastered on posters and cards? Everyone knows the Eiffel Tower. But it was something special to round a corner and suddenly see it there, looming above the treetops, not just a famous picture in my mind but an actual, tangible structure that I could touch, and stand under, and fangirl over.
We had dinner near Notre Dame in a little restaurant with some of the most inspired interior decorating I’d ever seen. They brought us a fresh baguette—obviously—but what was interesting was that they didn’t give us any oil or butter to go with it. I didn’t miss the toppings. The French definitely know how to do bread right.
(Me and Aster standing over the Siene River with Notre Dame in the background)
That night we went to a lesbian bar. Real talk for a sec: Being at that bar was an unexpectedly intense experience. It’s strange to walk around every day and only see expressions of romantic love between a man and a woman. It’s not that it seems odd or wrong to me—it’s always very sweet—but it doesn’t move me in the way that seeing two women together does. It was a powerful experience to be in a room full of women who loved women, because that is what feels natural for me. I kept thinking, They understand the way I feel. They feel it too. It made my chest go tight and then I started getting all mushy and introspective. Luckily, before I could get carried away, a Beyoncé song came on and my friend Aster and I started rocking out.
After the lesbian bar, I headed back to the apartment while Aster and Ruth went back out. I once again got intimate with Netflix, my one true love, and passed out. I woke up at around 7:30 the next morning and realized Ruth wasn’t in the bed we’d been sharing. I could also hear music coming from the living room. I walked out of the bedroom and froze. In one corner of the room, Aster was dancing, while Ruth sat at the kitchen table. Scattered around the room, perched on any available surface were not one, not two, but eight extremely attractive French men.
I was still half asleep and honestly toyed with the idea that I was dreaming, or maybe hallucinating. It was like I stepped into an Abercrombie catalogue. I mean these guys were just pretty. I pressed my forehead against the doorjamb and blinked a few times, but nope, this was really happening. One of the guys jolted up and actually bowed at me, apologizing for…something. I was sleepy and his accent was thick. A few of them made noises about leaving but I waved that idea away. “I just have to pee,” I announced, and walked across the room towards the bathroom.
When I emerged, Aster was down on one knee in the middle of the floor, proposing I think. One of the French guys had removed his shirt and tried to seduce me with a belly dance. “You like? I know you like,” he said, pointing to his washboard abs.
“You’re not my type,” I told him.
He was bewildered. “Oh no, come on. Touch them!”
“I’m really, very sorry, man, but I’m all about the ladies.”
He looked confused for a minute before one of the other guys jumped in to help. “Lesbienne,” he explained, which seemed to clear things up. The room immediately erupted in cheers. I will never understand why being a lesbian is such a crowd pleaser in a room full of straight men. It’s like, I literally just told you that you have no chance of sleeping with me, and yet you’re acting like I handed you a thousand dollars in cash. This sort of thing never happened in all those chick flicks I used to watch. I may never understand the complex mating rituals of heterosexuals.
(Heyyyy, sexy ladies!)
After bidding adieu to my new friends, I promptly went back to sleep and slept for another five hours. When I woke up, Ruth was passed out next to me and Aster was snoring on the couch. Rousing those two party animals was pretty difficult. I started stressing out because I thought Ruth and I were going to miss our train and I couldn’t find my shoe and we couldn’t leave the apartment as messy as it was.
By the time we made it to the train station, I had experienced a few meltdowns: one at a metro station; one inside an internet café; and one outside the internet café. Travel is stressful, okay! The good news is that French people are adorable and sweet and when a woman found me sobbing on the sidewalk outside the internet café, she immediately volunteered to help us figure out how to print our tickets. She and Aster started conversing in French, while Ruth and I started laughing hysterically about the fact that I’d just had a breakdown in a Parisian internet café. You know you’re at the end of your rope when you can go from sobs to guffaws in all of three minutes.
Long story short—we got the tickets. (Praise Beyoncé!) After parting with Aster (a total tragedy—I almost started sobbing again), we hopped on our train and slept our way back to London.