Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Paris, Saturday - Sunday

Ok! So the trip deserves more than a single post, so I'll start off with the first couple days, which were predominately spent in Germany, not France.

This will probably be more detail than you wanted. And I don't have hardly any pictures for the first day, because I was wandering around like a Zombie. And for most of the first 3 days I was taking video, not pictures.

The grammar is horrible. My apologies.

Friday, June 27 & Saturday, June 28

The airplane left at 4:30 PM, so for once in my life I was able to fly with more than 4 hours of sleep the night before. This was good, though, because I wouldn't be sleeping for a long time. Yada, true blue, cheerfully volunteered to drive me to the airport, which was really nice. I actually remembered my passport before this international flight, which was nice.

I've been real keen on packing light for trips less than 2 weeks. I lived out of a single school-sized backpack for 2 weeks in China (granted I smelled a little odd by the end) but I figured I could do 2 weeks in China out of 1 backpack, I could certainly do that for Paris. I managed to get more than enough in there, the major bonus being that I didn't pack a laptop. Laptop's do several terrible things to the traveling experience:

a) cause a major hassle at the security checkpoints because they always insist you take your laptop out of your backpack, and if it is really jammed in there, this can mean frustrating re-packing. In a line of grumpy people, and late for a plane, this can be stressful.

b) mean you can't be rough with your luggage. Or other people can't be rough with your luggage.

c) mean you will be constantly checking your email, just like normal, when you are supposed to be having fun. Or attending a conference.

Unfortunately, this didn't mean a lighter load because an object of the exact same size and weight (the conference program) occupied the laptop-shaped hole in my backpack. The flight to Detroit was uneventful, so I'm not going to say anything about it. Once I was in Detroit, I ate at McDonalds. I would be eating much, blissfully much better the entire following week. I sat down and waited for about 3 hours for my flight to board, which would leave around 10 pm and get to Charles-de-gaul sometime around 11 am.

I felt really artsy/cool with my totally hip poster/sketch roll-up canister thing slung over my back. Until boarding the flight for Paris, when I saw a bunch of other un-unmistakably post-hoc or grad student types wearing the exact same artsy canister things boarding and talking about ultrasound. These same acousticians would aid me in my quest to sort of understand the workings of the French automatic ticket machine.

The flight was ok. The movies weren't all that interesting, actually what was more interesting was that I was sitting next to someone who was flying for only the second time of her life (the first had been her flight to Detroit earlier in the day). She was white knuckle gripping the armrests.

Then, we got to France. It seemed kind of a short flight, maybe it's because it was shorter than to Japan. Since I got there before mom and dad, I was given the following quest:

1) Get the key to our apartment from a place called... uh... I forget. But it was near the Cadet stop on one of the Metro lines running out of Gare-du-Nord.

2) Get to our apartment on Ru-de-Ecole, in the Latin quarter.

3) Explore the surrounding region, and see what the fastest way to get to the appropriate Metro stations is.

4) Wait outside the door to the stairwell, because without the access code mom and dad don't come in.

5) Don't fall asleep.

So, first order of business was to get some sort of usable currency. Headed over to the exchange booth at the airport, and bought 130$ worth of Euros. The cut of the top meant it was more like 100$ of Euros, and that is a very small number of Euros unfortunately. Then, I headed over to the ticket place. It was here I found my fellow poster-wielding acousticians in a semi-circle around the ticket dispenser. For the only time in Paris, I was actually able to get my debit card to work, and bought a ticket to Gare-du-Nord. We sat in a clump discussing acoustics until my stop to get off.

First impression of Gare-Du-Nord: run down, dirty, and covered with graffiti. Seedy types milling around, speaking a million languages but English. Not yet familiar with the Metro system I wander for ages trying to find the correct one of the millions of lines going through Gare-du-Nord that stops at Cadet. Can't find it. I was fairly sleep deprived [like right now], which didn't help things. Finally, I decide to head out the exit and onto the street, hoping that I can find a street map and walk there.

I find a big street map, and see where I am supposed to go. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to figure out which street you are on, and I walked down the wrong one for about 45 minutes. I figured this out when I walked by a metro stop that I was confident wasn't in the direction I was supposed to going. However, given two points, I could at least figure out the appropriate direction, so I sort of triangulated(?) biangulated (?) my way to Cadet.

I finally got the the Apartment place, and the blessed lady who worked there spoke English and didn't require me to do anything. After working out the details, she called a cab for me that would take me to our apartment. I asked her how much the cab cost, and she said, like, some extremely large number of euros. I started to sweat, but she laughed and said the company was paying for the cab, not us.

The cab driver was very suave, I felt like a bum next to him, all polished like that. The French pop music playing in the car was very catchy. Not big on pop, normally, but it was really good. I should do some sleuthing and see if I can dig up the more interesting songs on youtube. Youtube has everything. [except the video clips I mention in this post, because of "policy violation" or something like that.]

Anyway, after touring around the Louvre and telling me all sorts of things I could never understand, he dropped me off at our apartment. I punched the key code, walked up the stairwell, and was amazingly blown away (see video-clip #1). The room was really nice, and at the very top of the apartment complex (7th floor). It had a whole room for mom and dad, a nice shower and bathroom, and kitchen, plus a living room. Everything was kind of small, but really great, and the best part was the balcony:

Ok, job #1&2 down. I was really tired, and so I decided to lie on the bed for 20 minutes. NOT fall asleep ;). Something very strange happened when I did this. The room started to shake, I could feel the floor lift, and the beam in the center of the room bent. This seriously happened! I was trying to figure out why this happened, and I figured a subway must have gone under the apartment. But it never happened again all week...

So then I went downstairs and walked around. I just sort of wandered, found this really cool park, and concluded that there was only 1 station (Jussieu) that was nearby. I couldn't remember when mom or dad were getting back, sometime around 5:00 pm I thought, so I spent the rest of the time waiting on the doorstep. French timing struck again though, and because of various things happening at the airport, they didn't get in until 8:00.

That evening, we ate at the [really, incredibly tasty] Turkish restaurant at the foot of our apartment complex. I got "kebab" meat, which was some very flavorful lamb rotating on a spit, in a 5 euro sandwich. Very worth it. Then, as far as I remember, we went to sleep because we were going to have to wake up at 5:00 AM the next day to go to Germany and visit Hilary.

Sunday June 29

We got up at some ridiculous hour of the morning, but since I was already so tired the day before it didn't feel much different to wake up then. I videotaped dad shaving. Then, we headed off to the metro, to get to Gare-du-Nord again, where our train would depart. In the Jussieu metro station, I see a group of interesting sorts standing around, and a very animated girl playing the Digeridoo (see video clip).

We get to Gare-du-Nord and spend a stress-filled 45 minutes trying to figure out where the train will be leaving. Nobody is in the information booths anywhere (this was sort of a reoccurring trend, we noticed,) and we were on our own. I wondered how many travelers unfamiliar with the system-less system of French train schedules fell pray to the disorganization of the stations and missed their hundred Euro connections. After some wandering, I spotted some interesting looking kids, and asked them for help:

The were delighted to help, but gave the wrong directions. Dad ran into some gentleman who took us to the appropriate spot, but when we saw the list of trains, the platform number wasn't listed next to the train. Once again, massive stress and panic, however we eventually found out this was just because they don't list the platform number until like 15 minutes before the train leaves.

We eventually managed to find our train, and get on, and sit down. the ride to Germany was extremely relaxing and very interesting. One of the greatest things about Europe is the architecture, and we got to see a lot of villages and churches and the like on the train ride (got some video clips). We traveled from Paris, through Belgium, and arrived at Cologne. One of the things that shocked me was how gorgeous Germany was. Someone told me once, but I can't remember who, that Germany was flat, and sort of featureless. But it was forested, green, and mountainous, with a lot of beautiful rivers in it.

So, we got off at the Cologne station, and were expecting Hilary to meet us on the platform. We looked around but couldn't see her! So we went down below the platforms, and thought of a plan. I decided to run up and do a more thorough search of the platform, which was, in all honesty, extremely long, and a person could easily be missed on it. I got to the top just in time to see Hilary and Amalie descending another staircase (see video clip. Hilary was really good natured about that one). We learned an interesting fact about the German language, from her, that when telling the time, the ones digit is spoken before the tens digit. This can lead for some complications when switching between languages...

Stepping out of the train station, we are met by an amazing, amazing sight - the Cologne cathedral. It is absolutely immense, and one of the more awe inspiring creations of humankind that I have scene. It is one of these structures that you just can't take a picture of, because it is too big. Video clips do even a worse job, but I got one. We didn't have time to go inside it, that would be later on Monday. I just sat there with my mouth gaping for a few minutes, then we boarded our train to Bonn.

Oh, yeah, the weather was pretty much perfect.

Then, in Bonn, we walked to the church from the station. Hilary's church was extremely enjoyable. The greeter, a black man, shook my hand with an incredible enthusiasm. The church is international, and in the back were a whole bunch of headsets, where you can listen to the sermon in your own language. The translators were working real time in the back, and we had a sub-translator from England translating for us. He was really good, and I got to talk with him afterwards. Also, the music was really great. And I practiced my unfortunately bad Chinese with a man in the back. Anyway, I just had a really good time there.

Then, afterwards we went to the Von Bibras' house. The Von Bibras are the family Hilary lives with, and they are absolutely wonderful. They are the type of Christian family that you feel really clean, being around. Kristoph, the head of the family, is extremely generous, and liberal with his house and belongings. He came by and picked us up and drove us home. At home Felicitas greeted us, she is Kristophs wife, a very gracious woman who works magic (kind of like my own mother) in the kitchen. She greeted me by name, which was really cool I thought. They both speak English very well. Then, there are the children. Amelie came and met us at the station, but Vincens is the oldest, Leonard is... 2nd youngest I think, and Amadeus (I call him "child terror" in the video, but it is affectionate, I really liked him) is the youngest, and a real handful.


Also, living with the Von Bibras is Meng Ni, a Chinese exchange student who rooms with Hilary. This was the first time I got to talk with a clear-accented Chinese person who didn't want to default to English when my Chinese was failing. It was great! I didn't realize how far my very poor Chinese could take me.

At their house we relaxed, and I let Amadeus play with my camera. I put some of his clips in there). We also went to what was the summer palace of one of the princes of Germany, or something, back in the day.

We went to the Rhine and barbecued in the evening. It was a surprisingly gorgeous river, I had a different idea in my head of what it would look like. We took a short ferry ride:

and stopped at a park. We gathered fire-wood for the barbecue, and Kristoph and Felicitas started cooking. The rest of us waded in the river and skipped rocks. I taunted some angry swans.

[Leonard, Amelie, Amadeus, Mengni]

[Mengni and Amelie][Hilary][Dad, mom, and Hilary]

[The Rhine]

On the way back, Amelie and I climbed onto some sort of spinning circular disk thing, and tried to make each other fall off. I fell off.

Impossible to miss in the city were all the German flags hanging out the windows. I learned this was because that very evening, the Soccer championship would take place, and it was Spain vs. Germany. Soccer means a whole lot to just about every one in the world but US citizens, and a whole lot of German happiness was at stake. Not wanting to miss the game, we busted back to the house. The Von Bibras don't own a TV but some out of town neighbors did, and these neighbors generously let us use their house. My job was to get the TV working. When the game finally flickered onto the screen, the entire house of children + Meng Ni erupted in cheers, and glued their eyes to the screen. Kristoph offered me a beer, which I accepted. I asked him about the Christian German view of drinking (in Japan, Christians find it taboo to drink & smoke, so I was curious). Kristoph smiled and said that there are places in Germany where Christians consider it a sin to drink, smoke, drink and smoke, or ok to do either. He said that we were in the region where it was ok to drink, but not smoke. He said it like a man with Christian liberty.

At this point I was so tired I could barely stay awake. I told them I needed to turn in early, and left the house. However, the sun was this amazing red/pink color, and I ran into Hilary, mom and Felicitas walking towards the house I just left. I asked them where I could get a better look, and Felicitas gave me instructions on how to get to Sportzplatz. I ran up the hill and found a very nice forest/pasture area, and she was right, it was a good place (see video).


Another interesting note - you could hear the progress of the game through cheers or boos, resounding through the valley at this time.

I wandered through SportzPlatz then headed back to the house, where I conked out on my bed in Vincens room. I hazily remember waking to the sounds of bawling and wailing, and Kristoph trying to comfort his children. "Germany lost" I mumbled to myself, before falling asleep again.

Guess I'd better stop for the day... Here's a video with video clips from these posts. Never mind, it got removed for "terms of use violation." ???? maybe it was the short clip of the Germany vs. Spain game. Sorry, I will have to post it another day. Anyway, this first part, in Germany, was very refreshing


Blogger Myron said...

Cool, thanks for sharing about your trip. I don't think I ever heard from you the reason for this trip--why did you and your parents go to Europe this time?

I'm sitting in a Typhoon in Taiwan right now :).

11:20 PM  
Blogger Hilary said...

Tim! Great post. I enjoyed it a ton. ~Hilary

12:06 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Tim. Nice job -- but I can't play the videos on the mac ... need to try on a pc ... but even on the mac the still pics are nice. I am amazed at the details you remember. -- dad

3:56 AM  
Anonymous Marian said...

I can't wait for more :) Did you write this during one of your calibrations?

12:15 PM  

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