Saturday, May 13, 2006

April in Paris

Weeeee'll . . . I haven't written much lately. There are several reasons for that. First and foremost being the realization of my lifelong dream of visiting Paris. It was life changing for me, and I think I am going through reverse culture shock . . .
The trip far and away exceeded even my highest expectations. I was overwhelmed, to say the least.
There were so many things that happened to me on the trip. In order to help me remember and record them I wrote a daily group email and sent it to my friends. I will post it here for those of you who care to read it. The photo at the top was taken at the top of the spire at Sacre Coeur - my favorite spot in Paris. I thought the Celtic influence was interesting.
Apr 18
The people at the B&B where I am staying in London are kind enough to let me use the computer at the desk. I'm not sure if I will be that luck in Paris, so I will take advantage of the opportunity while I can.
The flight would have been wonderful if it had not been for a very loud spoiled toddler who screamed for three hours and then started all over again when he woke up in the morning. Good thing it wasn't reality tv - I know how I would have voted mid Atlantic. But I was one of the very few non- Indians on the flight. I was adopted in the terminal by the patriarch of a Sikh family. As it turned out we ended up in the same row on the flight. He was born in Kenya, lived there the first thirty years and then moved to London. They were all very nice. The food on the flight was Indian and amazingly good.
I am completely overwhelmed by London in the best sense of the word. I have been reading and dreaming about coming here for most of my life, and yet nothing prepares you for the real experience. I think more than anything it is the atmosphere. I wonder if that is what heaven is like? Everyone is very kind and helpful here. So far the only snag has been that here they use a smart card with a micro-chip, rather than a magnetic strip. All of the businesses still accept my old card, but I have not been able to withdraw cash. So far I haven't needed to. London has exceeded every expectation. It is all it is supposed to be and more. Red double deckers, red mail boxes, red phone booths! Red, red red - these are my kind of people - Ha! The choir at Westminster is on holiday - rats. Shopped at Harrods. Incredible. It lives up to its reputation. It actually does have stuff in every price range. Ate at a Lebanese restaurant for dinner, when I finally slowed down enough to remember that I actually need to eat . . .
Hope I can find access to a computer in Paris.
April 19

please excuse errors as the keyboards here are different.
Arrived in Paris safely yesterday. Card works in the ATM! Saw Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee. Thought London shopping was better.
But something unbelievable . . .
I asked the folks at the hotel to direct me to the nearest Metro Stop. They told me to walk north and take the second left. A half block from my turn I saw an Indian running a corner market. I then saw that the next shop actually sold Indian groceries and that the one next to it was an Indian restaurant. I turned the corner and found myself on an entire street of Indian and Sri Lankan businesses!!! I stopped to talk to someone and they informed me that I was in the Indian and Sri Lankan community in Paris!!!!! It smells and looks just like Devon Ave. Two blocks from my hotel! This is really too much! I'm using one of several of thier internet cafes to type this. Im not sure how much access I will have as they were closed when I returned last night, so if you don't hear from me don't worry. I seem to have a knack for navigating metros. The pickpockets came at me when I got off the train. I gave them a look that sent them flying.
I had my first meal in Paris last night! Wow! I ordered salmon, always my first choice when on the menu. It melted in my mouth like butter. Have encountered the infamous French attitude, but found that if I at least try to speak the little French I know the frosty exterior melts and is replaced by the warmest of smiles. I'm going off the beaten path today as I found that the touriste spots are mainly packed with Americans - we sure do know how to make ourselves obvious.
My love to everyone.
Apr 20
I am convinced at this point that God is my tour guide. I am seeing everything I want to see and then some, including a side of Black Paris that isnt in the tour books. The neighborhoods are the way to go. The people are extremely kind, helpful and welcoming. The high tourist areas are overwhelming to me in the worst sense of the word.
Yesterday I got off the train at a busy market I had noticed next to a Tati. I found myself in the middle of the African and Arab neighborhood. A lot of people from Senegal. FABULOUS shopping! Especially in comparison to tourist areas. I walked for miles and hours all over Montmarte, turned a corner and looked up just in time to read a little sign telling me I was standing in front of the former home of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo. Met the owner of a little shop who sells blown glass from Lebanon. Could not believe the prices! He told me no one from Paris shops on the Champs Elysee. The shopping is good in the hood.
Saw Notre Dame this morning. Honestly I preferred the Sacre Coeur in Montmarte. But the exterior of Notre Dame was exquisite. Again too many tourist. I had a hard time praying there for all the noise. Sacre Coeur did not allow pictures. I found out at Notre Dame that is a good thing.
Right in the middle of the Indian neighborhood there is a Hell's Angels France Biker Club. Nice to know they're branching out.
Apr 21
Hey all! Is it really Friday already? Today I am slowing way down. After walking for four days straight I have to give my poor feet a break. Saw Musee d'Orsay yesterday. Incredible!!!! I started at the Louvre but it was sooooooooo hot and crowded I had to bail out. When a place makes you miserable it aint worth it. But I did get to see the mother of all chandeliers in Napolean's apartments. I am going to plan a trip back just to do the Louvre after Christmas. Hope Abe and Jonathan can come with me this time.
My only definite aim for the next two days is Versailles. I am not even sure I am going to hit the flea market. I found Prentemps and Galleries Du Lafayette yesterday and I'm really shopped out at this point. I might still try to go to Giverny tomorrow insted.
Only bad incident so far - I allowed a very pushy woman to get me flustered at Orsay and dropped the camera. It is fine, but I lost all my pictures .... Another good reason to come back.
The Metro here is incredible! It runs so quickly. I rarely walk into a station and have to wait for a train. There is usually one right there. And when it pulls out another is right there behind it within a minute or two. In fact it runs so well that there have been times I have hopped the Metro and come back to my hotel just to use the bathroom or drop off packages! It really does run that well!
I haven't had the same experience with food that Corey and Stacy had. Everywhere I go I get huge portions and feel guilty about leaving all that food behind as I have no where to keep it. The Kabobs at the Turkish stands are wonderful.
Gotta go.
Apr 22
There should never be a last day of vacations. They are too bitter sweet. You should just be able to skip from next to last day to home. Just when you get to know the people in the hood and remember all of the French you forgot you have to come back home. Ces't la vie . . .
Got lost yesterday. It was fabulous! Ended up in St. Germaine en Laye. Right by the train station there is a gorgeous chateau that is now a museum. Going to try to go back today. Also has beautiful gardens and a great view of the city. Ended up taking a joy ride through the suburbs on the bus. I didn't worry because I knew that as long as there was a train station at the end of the route I could get back in the city. Passed some of those ruins of arches I had wanted to see. Passed a suburban mall that was Massive!!!!! The suburbs have a much different feel than the city, just like in the states.
Had a great breakfast this morning.
Determined not to leave Paris without eating a crepe, I ordered a Grand Marnier Crepe thinking it would come with a nice orange sauce laced with a little Grand Marnier. Little did I know that they pour a bucket of alcohol on it AFTER it cooks . . . Oh well, Bon Appetit!
The saddest thing about Europe is that her churches are full of people but no one comes to worship.
Well, I guess this is it. I start towards home first thing tomorrow.
God Bless.
Apr 25 For those of you I haven't already seen, I want to let you know that I made it back home safe and sound.

Also, I wanted to share a couple of things about my trip. Ruth had asked me what God was showing me on my trip. During the course of my journey it was very clear to me that God was with me every step of the way. For example, I like to do needle work and on my way into Paris I was wondering if French women do needlework and if so where they buy their supplies. In search of a teddy bear, I wandered right into the needlework dept in Printemps in Paris. This happened to me over and over again on the trip. Time and time again I would have a desire to know or see something and it would just happen without my trying to make it happen - God was giving me the desires of my heart and showing me that He is with me. And even though I went on the trip alone, I have never felt less alone in my life.

Also, just when you think God is finished . . .
The flight home was incredible. We flew on a 747 and I had a window seat as well as being alone in my row, so I was able to lift the arms and stretch out. But that was far from being the biggest blessing of the flight. On the way home we flew over the tip of Greenland. The sun, of course, was out for the whole way for the return journey. As we neared the tip of Greenland I looked out the windows and began to see patches of ice floating in the water. I then began to see scattered streams of ice flows. This then turned into an ocean entirely filled with ice flows. We then crossed the tip of Greenland. the barren landscape consisted of soaring jet black mountains peeking through the snow. It was one of the most stunning things I have ever seen in my life. Isn't that just like God? Just when you think He is done blessing you, you turn around and He is pouring more on.
Run to win.


Christopher said...

"Hell's Angels France Biker Club. Nice to know they're branching out." funny. wow, cool beans.

voixdange said...

Thanks Christopher. I was quite a surreal experience to be standing in the middle of Paris watching the Indians come out on the street to stand around and watch the Hell's Angels tooling around with their bikes. . .