Day 1 in Paris.
I’m writing this blog in the third person as an experiment.
This is the story of Maria. Once upon a time there was a girl who lived with her mother in a big city called Dubai. She had always dreamed of visiting Paris. At the age of 12 she promised herself that someday she would climb the almost 700 steps to the top of the Eiffel tower even though an elevator did exist.
One day this girl heard that she would be visiting Paris for a whole month. This was a great privilege and a blessing that God had provided.
On the eve of their departure the Muslim feast of Eid started. She returned home from the mall after meeting a Moroccan aristocrat. The girl and her mum took a taxi to the airport and departed for Zurich at 01:35 in the morning.
The French couple who would be granting them accommodation met them at the airport. Two kisses where given, one on each cheek. The girl possessed some broken French, but not conversational French. She knew survival phrases only, which made the next hour very hard.
The Muslim-French family was very friendly, large and noisy. They explained everything in the house at least twice. And after 30min their niece arrived, they had “summoned” the girl because she could speak some English.
After 2hours of muddled French and English, broken sentences, but good comprehension the girl and her mother were alone in the house. The family had left them meat and salad for lunch. They had made extra keys and had been so friendly that it was surprising.
After dreaming about Paris for over 10 years, getting off at a station in East Paris, Chatelet, did not fit the girl’s expected picture of Paris. The city of love. The people weren’t French, they were only from French speaking countries mostly from North Africa.
The second day was the Christian Sabbath and the girl decided to visit Notre Dame for the Mas service. Of all her memories she would probably never forget the sound of the organ playing through that ancient church. The only part of the French sermon that she comprehended was that the pastor said the apostles served the people so well they did not rest. The time for kneeling came and the floor was cold, hard stone beneath her knees. As she prayed the stone became harder.
In the queue to get into the wonderful old church she had bought a bunch of Eiffel tower key chains, that way she had something for everybody in Dubai. After Notre Dame she returned home and only by severe self-will did she stay home and sleep her Jet-lag off.
The street that the girl was living in was an hour from the city, at the one end was a supermarket and at the other end a train station. “What more do you need?” she asked.
Interlude: It is currently 21:13 in Paris and the sun is shining in through my window and reflecting off of the empty glass bottle on the desk. The sky is turning a faded blue-grey with orange tinged clouds and a soft breeze.
Day 3, current day. An appointment had been made with a “Paris Greeter”, a free tour guide. A French person who showed her and her mother around a part of Paris which he loves. The name of their greeter was Steve. A man met them at a central station in Paris. He talked for 2hours about stuff within 10 minute radius from the station, but she found it quite interesting.
The tour guide left them at Sacre Coeur church. The girl payed €6 and climbed the 300stairs to the top of the church tower. “Would the view from the Eiffel Tower be any different?” She mused. The view of the flat city of Paris stretched out before her and her eyes were drawn to the only tall building in the sky line, the Eiffel Tower.
After several photos and several hundred step down she reached the bottom of the tower and walked to a stall selling caramelized peanuts. She asked if the man spoke English, he answered “Toilettes are straight on the right”. Giggling she explained that she wanted food, not a toilette. The man wrinkled his nose at the mention of the restaurants where most tourists ate and directed her down another 100steps to an apparently good restaurant.
The girl found the street, but not the restaurant the man had spoken of. She continued down the non-tourist street and sat down at a corner café. It felt like something from a movie. Ordering French soup, merlot wine and the Wi-Fi password. The food was acceptable, the wine good and the Wi-Fi inaccessible.
After a long lunch she wondered down the streets. Bought some earring and asked the shop assistant for directions to the Eiffel tower. Bus 30 was the best way to get to the tower.
The bus stopped next to a beautiful park and the girl hopped off, thinking that she would rather walk through the park then ride on the bus. She asked a man in French “Where am I?” wanting to know the name of the area or street or some way of locating herself. He helped her, but even so she forgot the name. Soon after entering the park she realised that walking to the Eiffel this way would take more than an hour. She re-entered the bus.
The next stop was Arc de Triomph. Walking around it the girl thought about her trip to Italy and saw the similarity between this arch and the one in fort of the Colosseum. There were obvious differences, but they still seemed to resemble each other in shape and size and meaning.
She assumed that the Eiffel tower should be very near by now and asked a few people how she could reach it. Finally a young man in a suit stopped, when she said she wanted to walk there he replied “that’s quite ambitious!” and advised her to take the train. He was quite right, it was 3 or 4 metro stops before she reached the tower.
She walked passed it and around it. Scrutinizing it. Was this it? The tower in a thousand photos and pictures, the tower she had dreamed of climbing? What made it so special? Or was it not special at all? Perhaps only famous?
Her feet began to give way, it had been hours that she had been walking. A coffee was ordered and served by a French waiter at a Brasserie near the Eiffel tower. The girl asked the waiter about places to visit and things to do. At first he suggested the normal, “big” stuff, but then he ended up writing a name down on a piece of paper, he’s favourite part of Paris, without tourists.
The girl was on her way to follow the piece of paper when she realized how far she still had to travel to get home. She folded it carefully for the next day and found the train home. On the train she thought about everything she had heard or read about snobbish French people. Where were they? Everybody so far had been decent, friendly and very helpful. Was it the fact that she spoke some French? No, they had been friendly to her mother as well, who spoke no French.
As the orange colour faded from the sky the girl finished writing her blog for that day and hoped that the next entry would be as fun to accumulate as the first.