We were planning to couchsurf at a place in the suburbs of Paris. At the last minute, however, Yseult, a friend of a friend of Raegan’s, after hearing we were visitig Paris, mentioned he knew someone who lived there. She offered to let us stay in her 9th floor condo, in the Bastille area of Paris, for a week, while she’s visiting a friend in Switzerland. Nice.
The Suburbs of Paris – Tuesday August 2
It’s morning and we’re in the suburbs of Paris, staying with Viet, a guy who we haven’t even met in person, yet, although we have met his roommate, Hugo, a college student who has rooms here. Viet is here for 2 months while he interns for a finance company in Paris.
Our setup is the living room, with a mattress on the floor, couches against the wall, and a coffee table, on which we’ve put our laptops.
Yesterday, following the chaos that ensued once we arrived in Paris, Raegan wrote a brilliant blog on Tumblr. She has a writing style that captures the story concisely and with humor. Sometimes my writing tends to spiral off into introspection until it get’s lost in the constructed memory (one in which my own imagination fills in the blanks).
How we got to Paris
In short, this is what happened yesterday. We packed our gear–backpacks, sleeping bag, in the trunk of Dorothea’s Peugot hatchback, then Phillip, the Dutch born film producer that, we suspect is dating Dorothea, drove us into Paris.
On the ride there, Raegan napped, laying her head on my legs, while I read The New
Yorker. Writing about this now almost makes me feel debonair and slightly crazy, as if I’m participating in the myth of the dapper American traveling to Paris, “reading The New Yorker” with a beautiful young girl draped over my legs … how did I get here? Lucky? Blessed? Serendipity? In any case, I am thankful for this wonderful trip, this wonderful girl, this wonderful life.
Arc d’ Triumph
Phillip drives into Paris, parks near the Arc d’ Triumph, and we unload the gear. We say goodbye to Dorothea and Phillip. They drive away, and we move our packs up against a wall. Nearby, a bunch of people are standing in flocks, looking at and photographing the Arc d’ Triumph.
We shuffle into our backpacks and walk down the nearby staircase into the subway, but it’s not the subway we find out when we arrive at the other side. It’s just an underground passageway to cross the street. I notice the subway signs on the other side of the street. We cross, get on the subway, and head toward the Arcueil Cachan, the subway stop near where Viet lives.
The train passes his exit, which Raegan points out, so we get off at the next stop. We ask to borrow a phone, wander some and finally someone lets us use his phone. I call Viet and leave a message. We go back to the train and take a train back to his stop, then find his house.
Although he gave us the passcode to get inside the first floor condo where he lives, we do not have a way to get inside the house. Raegan has to go to the bathroom. She stays in the condo to watch the gear. I go scout for an area with bushes, trees, privacy, then pee, and return to tell her where it is. She goes to pee while I watch the bags, sitting on the inside steps of the condo.
An hour later, Hugo, Viet’s roommate arrives. We introduce ourselves, explain the situation, and he kindly lets us in, tells us where we can sleep, and shows us how to get on the internet. We bring in our gear and get online. Raegan checks couchsurfing.org and there’s a message from Viet saying that the key to the door is under the doormat. So, we leave to take a subway to Paris to explore.
We’re in Paris. Raegan mentioned on Facebook that she’ll be in Paris and is looking for people to hand out with. Mikey, an acquaintance in San Francisco tells Raegan about Isu, this girl who lives in Paris. They contact each other and we meet in Paris, in the downtown area, near Bastille.
We wander the streets, buy a falafel, and keep wandering. Isu, after hearing we’re looking for a place to stay for the next two days and will probably get a hotel, but have found hotels that are budget priced that have poor ratings, offers to let us stay at her place, a condo, as she’s leaving to the Swiss Alps to visit someone.
The day we arrived to meet her, after bringing our backpacks to the condo, we wandered downtown and found a bar, where we ordered a pitcher of Sangria, and tapas–panini fromage (bread with cheese) and frites (french fries). We drank and ate and I paid for it, since I was very glad we had found a place to stay, in Paris, for free.
So, we’re here in the condo, 9th floor, great views of Paris. Raegan’s taking a nap, probably from eating the plate of pasta that we cooked, with pan fried onions in sunflower oil and Barilla olive marinara sauce, with grated cheese. Delicious.
Raegan bought a white sun dress that she’s wearing now, as she sleeps, and she looks so pretty in it.
Earlier today, we wandered around Paris, got coffee, roamed through the outdoor market, I bought green grapes and a UFO peach, Raegan bought the white dress, then we found the falafel place that Isu introduced us to on Tuesday, when we met her, and bought 2 falafels, one for each of us, we walked, while eating the falafels, then found a park, sat on a bench and continued eating. While eating the falafel and walking, a falafel ball dropped on the ground. I was upset about that, took another bite, and another falafel ball, that I had not even seen because it was hidden beneath the cabbage, drops onto the ground. Raegan was laughing. I started laughing, too.
We walked around downtown Paris, in the Bastille area, then along the Seine River, along the temporary beaches installed by the city, which consists of sand filled areas which are about 30 feet out from a wall before stopping at the sidewalk. On the other side of the sidewalk is the Seine River. We continued walking until we reached the Louvre. Raegan asked if we could tour it and I agreed and she was happy.
We went inside. Walked around for a few hours.
Some of the paintings were enormous. Lots of beautiful work. We even saw the Mona Lisa, with a big crowd of people around it. It was encased in glass or plexiglass or plastic and there were a few security staff in front. I walked through the crowd and Raegan followed me to the front. The security offered to pull up the rope so we could get out, almost like the bouncers at the front of the stage of a concert that pull up crowd members who might otherwise get crushed by the pressure of the fans. I accepted and the security person lifted the seat belt looking barrier and we moved out from the crowd and to the right, then walked back through the room and into other rooms, looking at art and talking. It was cool.
I’m going to get some groceries–bread, maybe some fruit, some chocolate biscuits,
and am coming back so we can watch “Super 8” which she downloaded from a torrents site last night.
It’s later in the evening, around 7:20pm. Earlier today, I grocery shopped at a
nearby store, returned, and then shortly after that we got dressed and walked around.
Raegan was looking beautiful and very pretty in her white dress that she bought yesterday. She wore a black t-shirt over the top then, after some walking around, took it off. That white dress and her pretty face and her beautiful figure is such a lovely combination. I told her she looked pretty. She thanked me and told me I looked handsome. Then, later, she told me I looked handsome again. It was nice to hear, and it makes it more special because she is beautiful.
We ate lunch at a place that had a special for $11 euros each. Raegan ordered salmon and I ordered vegetarian tacos. The meal came with espressos and I ordered tap water that was served in a bottle. The food was okay. Afterward, we roamed to the Opera house and once we found it walked inside and there was only entrance for the gift shop, the actual opera house was blocked off. We decided to see a movie and saw “Midnight in Paris”, the Woody Allen movie with Owen Wilson. It was good, the theme of it was about enjoying the present.
After returning home, I heated up pasta and sauce. We ate and discussed options for traveling. I went online and came across http://hitchwiki.org/en/Paris and there seems to be good options for hitchhiking from Paris, France to Germany. I asked Raegan if she would be okay with that and I told her that I wanted her to feel comfortable. She said she would think about it. We continued eating. I read some information from the website and she said it would be okay with hitchhiking.
We’re planning to hitchhike to Weisbaden, Germany, where Ryan is, then stay with him for a week. After that, we plan to hitchhike to the next WWOOF place.
Used some information on the website http://hitchwiki.org/en/Paris to plan our route. Then, scribbled the information onto two pieces of paper. This morning, we
prepared for depature which, essentially means we cleaned, packed, cleaned some more, threw out garbage, and Raegan was sweet to leave a postcard on the bed with a thank you note to Yseuti, the girl who let us stay in her condo in the Bastille area of Paris. I even left the cookies– biscuits with chocoloate on them for her. She was very kind to let us stay there.
We took the train for 40 minutes to the outskirts of Paris, basically the suburbs, to the Mame-Le-Vallee stop, also the stop for Euro Disney. This is where things got painful. We leave the subway, our backpacks stapped on walking briskly through the crowd of people. I was following Raegan to the bus #59 stop, which runs every hour, usually 5 minutes after the arrival of the RER (the train, subway, metro), so that’s why we were hustling.
We get there, unload our gear and sit on a bench and these 2 teenaged thugs, one latino and another white, approach us. They were geared out in the usual athletic clothing–baggy pants, sneakers, zipped up hoodie, both of them smoking cigarettes and one blaring music from an mp3 player.
The latino sits beside me and I move the gear away from him.
The white kid says something in french to me, then puts his hand on my ankle to move my foot off of the bench.
I’m so surprised by him touching me, I wasn’t sure what to do. I should have pushed his hand away or punched him.
I kind of wanted to punch him, but there were two of them.
Then, the white kid puts his hand on Raegan’s ankle to move her foot off the bench.
She moves her foot off the bench and I’m like “hey, what are you doing?”
The guy looks at her, then me, and says something in french.
Then, the white kid is standing there like some bird of prey and I slip out my taser from my left pocket, slip off the cover, then put the cover and taser back into my pocket. I’m prepared to taser both of these assholes in the neck and kick them repeatedly in the head and neck if they happen to threaten me or Raegan in any way or touch either of us again. After a few minutes, they wander off.
“What was that all about?” I asked Raegan. “They were assholes. Touching you.”
“They were just trying to have some form of control,” she surmised.
About 45 minutes later, bus #59 finally arrives and it was relief to get on and get going, especially since those assholes were gone. I instructed the bus driver to let me know of the stop, reading it off to him from the notes. He drives us to a bus stop that’s on A4, the main road heading to Germany, and indicates that this is where we get off.
We step from the bus and stand near the bus stop, watching the bus roll away.
We’re basically in the middle of nowhere. No one around except for us, standing at the bus stop that sits next to the intersection of a quiet two lane road.
We take a seat on the bus stop bench and place our packs nearby. Raegan pulls out the cardboard sign, walks down the road, and puts her thumb out.
The S.V.P. was for s’il vous plait which means thank you in French. Raegan also
drew smiley faces around it.
The cars, when they do come, whizz by us. Discouraged, Raegan joins me on the bench.
“If we don’t get a ride, we can camp in those woods,” I say, pointing to a thick clump of trees about 100 yards away.
“It’ll be too cold,” Raegan says flatly.
Always the optimist, I reply: “We’ll be fine.”
I take the sign and stand on the roadside, thumb out, trying to look as sane as possible as the approaching cars fly by.
After a half-hour, I return to the bench.
Raegan takes the sign, walks further up the road, and puts her thumb out.
2 hours pass …