08 August 2011


Have you ever seen “Everybody Loves Raymond?” If not, it’s your typical sitcom about a very dysfunctional family, and it’s hilarious.  Well, Brad and I were talking a few days ago about our group and how our personalities are all so different but still mesh together, and he decided that our HUE group is exactly like “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  It’s really funny to watch, but if you were actually in it, it would suck.  He wasn’t saying that our lives suck, because they don’t.  We’re in London, having the time of our lives.  But, the most ridiculous things, things that belong in sitcoms and comedies, happen to us ALL THE TIME.  And our Paris trip is the perfect example of this.
On Wednesday, we went to Paris for the day.  We got up early that morning to catch a train to Paris.   When we got to the train station, we changed some of our pounds to euros and then waited in the security line so that our bags could be searched.  You know how on every trip there is that one person that everything happens to?  That was me.  I was stopped at security because something suspicious showed up on the x-ray of my bag.  Security pulled me aside and asked me to open my purse so that they could search it.  I don’t know about you, but I feel like a little blonde girl who is carrying a stuffed hedgehog, three different kinds of chapstick, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a Disney Princess ziplock bag in her purse is really not a security threat worthy of being stopped.  But my opinion means nothing here.  Thankfully, I got through fine and then we all stood in another line to get a stamp in our passports!  It was very exciting.  However, I hadn’t had a stamp for two seconds before I was pulled over to a corner by security and asked where I was going and why I was going there and how long I had been in the UK, etc, etc.  And no, this didn’t happen to anyone else in our group.  Stephanie was amazing and stayed with me as they searched and questioned me.  After I was done going through the Spanish Inquisition, I decided that I deserved some hot chocolate.  Have I discussed Caffe Nero’s hot chocolate yet?  It is the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  It’s served with whipped cream and rich Belgian chocolate and I love it.  Anyways, while I was waiting in the line for my hot chocolate, we met a family from Texas who was also traveling to Paris.  They were from the Rice village area of Houston, further proving that is really is a small world.  We talked to them for several minutes while waiting on our train to arrive.  They had two wonderful daughters who were convinced that they were traveling to “Brussel Sprouts,” and we really enjoyed talking to them. 
It finally was time to get on our train.  I sat next to Lyndsey on the train, but for the most part I slept.  We arrived in Paris at one in the afternoon and immediately bought tickets for the Metro so that we could get around the city.  The Metro is the French version of the Underground Tube system, or the subway.  It took a while to figure out how to buy the tickets, and everything was in French so that made it even harder. And the people who were working at the train station knew English, but they pretended not to. This just goes to show you that what they say about rude French people is true! However, not all Frenchmen were opposed to Americans. As we were walking across the train station, trying to figure out how to get to Notre Dame, a group of soldiers armed with huge guns walked past us. I had never seen anyone carry a gun so openly in public, even our army at home, so I think I looked at a younger guy in the middle of the group just a few seconds too long. He made eye contact with me, and then he broke out in a huge grin. I kinda smiled at him, but quickly looked away…his huge gun really intimidated me. But before I knew it, his buddies in camo were waving him on and he was walking towards me! I nervously coughed and tried to look really busy, but he approached me anyways and in a very French accent said, “Bonjour!” I stammered a “Bonjour” back to him, and he asked me if I was American. I answered with what I hoped was a charming “Oui!” With that, I had reached the extent of my knowledge of the French language. After a short, slightly broken conversation with him in English, he rejoined his group and I rejoined mine. As I was walking to my group, all of whom were making fun of me, I got run over by a stroller. The group continued to laugh uproariously at me as we made our way to Metro.
We rode the rather rickety Metro all the way to the Notre Dame area. We got to see the beautiful cathedral (but no hunchback, unfortunately) and we spent a good deal of time in the church. The stained glass inside was absolutely gorgeous. I loved being in a place where so much history had taken place. After Notre Dame, we walked along the streets, occasionally spotting tons of soldiers with huge guns, and looked for a bakery to buy French bread. We came across the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which is quite famous and very cute. The streets were so quaint in that area of Paris, and it just really felt like we were in France. I know that sentence doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the only way I know how to say it. 
When we finished with that section of town, we went to see the Arc de Triomphe and then Champs Elysees Avenue, where all the major shopping and expensive stores are. There was a lot of walking, and I’m not going to lie…the Champs Elysees didn’t interest me very much. I’m sure some people would be absolutely appalled by me saying that but that is how I feel.
We made our way down the Avenue, and came to the Louvre and its Glass Pyramid. The gardens that surround the Louvre were pretty, even though it was winter and November. And the chill didn’t stop the stereotypical French couples from French-kissing all over the place, on benches and picnic blankets. By then it was getting dark, so we didn’t spend much time at the Louvre…in fact, we didn’t even go inside it. But next we went to Paris’s most famous icon: the Eiffel Tower.
What I didn’t know about the Eiffel Tower is that at nighttime it lights up and sparkles every hour. By the time we got to the tower, the sun had long set and it was very dark. The sparkling tower was so gorgeous. Our group went up into the tower, riding the elevator so that we wouldn’t have to climb the ridiculous number of steps up to the top. Once we were up there, we could see the entirety of Paris lit up. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I was taking some pictures with Brad when we looked over and saw a man proposing to his girlfriend on top of the Eiffel Tower. It was so precious and so beautiful. To top that off, as soon as she said yes, the Tower lit up. The pulsing lights made it feel like a dance club, and yes we did dance to music on my iPod while the lights went off. THEN, on top of all of that, it started to snow while we were on top of the Eiffel Tower. Perfection achieved! All of that seriously couldn’t have happened at the same time if someone had planned it. It was so beautiful.
Remember how I mentioned a sitcom at the beginning of this post? Well this is where the hilarity and chaos really begins. We all made our way down to the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, and we were sitting around taking pictures when we realized we only had 30 minutes to make it back to the train station and onto our train back to London. We gathered up our belongings and started to rush to the nearest Metro stop to take us all the way across Paris. Unfortunately, we then realized that Lyndsey was nowhere to be found. We desperately looked for her everywhere as time was ticking away when she appeared out of a gift shop. We grabbed her and frantically began our mad dash to the train station. Our group arrived at the extremely crowded Metro and we couldn’t all fit on the train. It was filled to its capacity. Thankfully we sucked in our breaths and pushed many disgruntled French citizens against the edges of the Metro and squeezed our whole group on the Metro. This is probably why French people are so rude to us haha. Anyways, our Metro ride was incredibly long as we wound under the streets of Paris to the train station. Finally, we arrived and rushed off of the Metro towards the platform where our train was going to take off. Of course, we were on the other side of the incredibly large station and had 10 minutes to get to our platform and go through security before we could board. And so began our intense run to the platform. Soldiers with their huge guns glared at us as we ran through the crowds, nearly knocking people over. Pigeons flew through the air as we interrupted their grazing time on the station floor. Suddenly, the station was deserted. It was actually really creepy. We continued our run when I abruptly got a cramp in my leg.  The day before, we had been to Greenwich and I had fallen down a hill, bruising and twisting my leg in a weird way. It had been kinda tight all day, and running on it didn’t really help. As we ran, and man running from a different part of the station joined our marathon to the platform. At this point we literally had 2 minutes to get where we were going, and we had been sprinting across the station for a while and I was frazzled and out of breath. So when the man started talking to me in French, I wasn’t too worried about manners. “I (gasp) SPEAK (gasp) ENGLISH!” I yelled as we continued to run to security. Thankfully, the man understood me and shared our situation because he too was American and late for the same train. And then, it stood before us:  security. Lauren threw her purse on a table and scattered pens out for the group to fill out their customs forms. Me? I was fully prepared to lie and say I hadn’t bought the 4 post cards and miniature Eiffel Tower in Paris. As I was running to the metal detector, I threw my purse on the conveyor belt next to it from 15 feet away and began taking off my coat as I ran, yelling at the security guards “DO I NEED TO TAKE OF MY COAT?!” Alarmed, they realized I was in a bit of a hurry and waved me through the metal detector. I made my way to the platform, tickets in hand, and showed my boarding pass to a woman who worked there. Seeing my bright red face, how hard I was breathing, and the rest of the group running behind me, she calmly told us we were fine. We had made our train. We all briefly rejoiced, and then found our seats and collapsed, pealing sweaty layers off as we drifted to sleep. It was honestly one of the most stressful and hilarious things that has ever happened to me. But it’s part of what made our trip unique and I loved it.