The last time we were on the Internet Cara and I we were hunched over our computers ten feet outside the nearby McDonalds; stealing their Wi-Fi while the impending storm and light drizzle stole our time. Formally dressed in a button down, Balenciaga boots and trench coat I was on a broken bench facing the street; amusing Parisian motorists as I crammed all the essential Internet tasks in before the drizzle broke into a downpour or the McDonalds employees caught wind of our grand heist. We first realized the McDonalds down the street from us had usable Internet a few hours after we gave up on a day that we devoted solely to the task of going online.
I would expect no less than the unbelievable irony of McDonalds providing us with the connection to the outside world from our experience thus far. McDonalds has actually been an unusual and unexpected third companion on our trip. It saw us off at JFK with an $8 dollar Big Mac meal thanks to Terminal 4’s lack of culinary options (although it did have a sense of culinary cruelty with the “Coming Soon! Balducci’s!” sign right next to MickyD’s).
That Big Mac quickly became the requiem for my digestive track as it was the last meal I had for nearly 24 hours. While a majority of those 24 hours was spent either in flight or in an airport, entirely too much of it was spent frantically looking for Cara and our Hotel in Paris. By the time I reached her/our hotel room, my shoulders were raw and bruised from dragging my luggage through the metro and streets of Paris, my clothes were marinated in sweat and the only thing keeping me awake was the yelling of my stomach.
While the first few days were devoted almost entirely to the apartment search and capture it goes without saying we were blown away by Paris’ beauty and charm—
-While walking from one street corner to the next we quickly realized we literally ran into a police chase. We happily crossed a confusingly empty street as a man brushed past us at full speed only to be grabbed and knocked to the ground by two or three policemen, all the while narrated by a series of grunts and hollers from the large crowd that had gathered.
-While happily munching on our baguette sandwiches on a bench near the street we were joined by one of the many Parisian pigeons, who, as you might expect, do not triumphantly strut around the street wearing mini berets, smoking tiny Camel 100s, in fact, many of them are deformed or wounded. This little champ has both legs but only one foot. We may never know the story behind it but the pigeon seemed almost comically unaffected by the lack of foot. Cara and I have found a new sort of entertainment in spotting deformed pigeons in Paris. Much of our time spent under the Eiffel Tower was with our heads down gawking and giggling at the circus freak show of our feathered friends.
- A strange treat of the population around our Hotel was roasted corn on the cob. Little people seemed affected by the sight of a family walking down the street munching on a roasted ear or two and mini grills were set up here and there roasting and selling the corn. While this seemed to be almost customary it may or may not be legal and judging from the time we witnessed a group of “sellers” shrieking and scattering as a policeman approached their street corner my Euro is on the idea that it may be illegal.
The most unsettling aspect of the experience so far is the feeling of one’s on foreignism. We know no one and nothing here. When someone tries to communicate to me I have either pre-planned monosyllabic answers or look at them with a blank stare and try not to piddle myself. While riding the Metro Cara and I are often pretty silent but when we do talk we question how much the other passengers can understand of us and how much they think we can understand of them. We can usually get away with a slight smile, head nod or “oui” or “non” but I’m pretty sure that those Parisians we’ve delt with so far think we’re just “slow”. We’ve blacklisted ourselves from nearly every grocery store in the area after multiple embarrassing and confusing checkout ordeals. A trip to the grocery store is now automatically preceded by a trip to the ATM to ensure the least confusing method of payment.
While our communication and co-ordination with Paris has yet to be found, I find myself again at McDonalds and thankfully it seems France, and myself, is entirely comfortable with the word “milkshake”.