September 2, 2009

Initial Impressions

Well, I’ve arrived! I had a seamless flight from Toronto to Paris, and my plane landed at 5:10am local time. Unfortunately I got little to no sleep on the plane. It was even still dark out when we landed. I got through customs just fine, and I passed the time in line trying to pick out who was French and who was not.

After passing through customs, I walked out to baggage claim and both of my bags were on the carousel right as I got there! It was perfect timing. Waiting for bags is always the most stressful part of my trips, but this time it wasn’t the waiting, it was the pulling. Before I left in Toronto I made the remark to my mom that I felt like a mule carrying all of my luggage. I had a giant travel backpack, a giant suitcase, a very heavy carry-on suitcase, and a messenger bag. All of them were filled to capacity, and they did not make for a very light load. In fact, it was about 100lbs. Ok, back to the Paris arrival. I got my bags, strapped them on, and wandered to the RER (aka suburban metro that goes in to Paris). I was basically guessing everything from where to go, which ticket to buy, and what train to get on. I got very lucky and bought my ticket, got on the train, and… AH! My luggage got stuck as I was trying to heave it from the platform to the train (the train was about 2 feet above the platform). I was already sweating so much from pulling my luggage, and I was so out of sorts. Luckily, a friendly guy on the train came to my rescue and helped push my bags onto the train. I don’t know if I could have done it without him! I said "Merci."

Then, during my 30 minute train ride into Paris, the sun rose. It was a lovely greeting, and definitely made me smile. On my departure from the train, I was having a bit more difficulty with my cumbersome baggage, and the girl who sat across from me came to my aid and helped me get my stuff from my seat to near the exit. I was so surprised as to how helpful everyone was being. I must have looked really scared or pitiful. Either way, it worked. I got of at the Chatelet-les Halles stop and maneuvered my way through the station to the Rue de Rivoli exit. It was like a maze trying to find my way out! Luckily, they had escalators the whole way. The worst part of it all was trying to get out of the platform. There are gate-like structures that open for a second and close after you assumedly go through to get out. The French, being so thin, have very skinny doorways. They were about 2 feet wide… and my giant suitcase is about 2.5 feet wide. So I got stuck in the doorway. Yup, it closed on me. I had no idea what to do or how to get out. I was wearing a giant backpack, carrying huge suitcases, and I was stuck in an automatic doorway that had shut on me. My life was ending before my eyes. Then, when a young French man entered his ticket to exit, the doors opened! He then proceded to push my luggage really hard so that it would get through, and I was very thankful. Finally I got to the last upturn towards the street, and after so many escalators… they were stairs! It was not going to be an easy task carrying all 100 pounds of my luggage up those stairs. Literally, I had 100 pounds. A semi-sketchy man was walking near me at the time, and no one else was around. He was looking at me funny, and saying a few things that I couldn’t understand. Finally, when I got to the stairs, he reached out his hand as if offering his help. Did I really want to put my luggage in the hands of a random sketchy-looking person whom I don’t know? Probably not, but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him help me. I kept a close eye, but he kind of chuckled when we got to the top of the stairs and handed me my luggage. He said something else I couldn’t understand, and I said Merci. The French have so far been overwhelmingly helpful!

Getting out of that metro station was like being born into Paris. I walked outside, after getting very hot and sweaty while pulling my luggage, and the fresh air welcomed me quite nicely. My host family gave me perfect directions, and I walked straight to my door. Sidenote - I walked past two pet shops on the way, both of which had very cute puppies. I might just have to go play with them. So I get to the door, buzz the intercom up to my host family’s apartment, and my host mom let me in. I wandered to find the elevator, and let me just say that it’s the smallest elevator I’ve ever seen. I would say it’s 3x3. Yeah.. so me and all of my luggage crammed in to the elevator, and I had to maneuver about 3 times before the door would even shut. I really don’t think more than one person can fit in this elevator. Much less one person with 4 bags. It would have been a nightmare for anyone with claustrophobia.

My host mom greeted me at the door, and we kissed on both cheeks. She is very friendly, and immediately helped me with my bags and gave me a tour of the apartment. She showed me my room, which is complete with a bed, a desk, a dresser, a whole wall of corkboard (for me to “make it my own” said my host mom) and a view of the Eiffel Tower!!! My window looks right down to the Seine and just to the right I see the Eiffel Tower. It’s amazing, and I think I can get used to this.

I can’t believe I’m really here. I can’t believe I have a corkboard wall. I can’t believe that I got volunteer help from at least 4 Parisians. I can’t believe I can look at the Eiffel Tower whenever I want.

Right now it’s about 4am in my brain, but it’s 10am in Paris. That means it’s naptime.

A bientot!


Lisa said...

guradian angels everywhere! sounds just like the typical trip to Paris with lots of luggage. Glad you are there safe and sound. Thanks for the update! Love you, MOM

Katie said...

Oh, I should have warned you about that. It was like me leaving paris thorugh the metro, while the trains were on strike. All that luggage, and only a little bit of time.

Luggage first through those things.

so happy that you like your place so far and that you have a great view!

Bonne Chance!

mary said...

KELLY! I'm so glad you made it... gosh arrivals are so overwhelming! Can't wait to hear so much more as we adjust together!!! lots of love and thoughts from Lyon!!!!!

Vincent said...

I can't believe you got stuck in the door. thats my favorite part of this story