I took a long red eye Iceland Air flight to Paris on Sunday night and arrived at the crazy Charles de Gaulle Airport Monday afternoon. Exhausted from having not being able to sleep on the plane and carrying about 30kg (normally I travel light… I’ve backpacked across Asia for two months on 3 t-shirts and 2 pairs of pants – but I had to pack for 2 years, 4 seasons, and all sorts of occasions), I waddled to the RER train stop to get into the city. 1.5 hours and two metro line transfers later, I made it to Ben’s metro station in the 15ieme Arrondissement. I was so relieved and happy to see him waiting there for me. It’d only been two weeks since he left Toronto, but it felt like a lot longer.
The first evening, we went to see the Eiffel Tower, which was lovely. Both of us kept bringing up just how lucky we were to be in Paris together. Especially after having lived a year in rural China and befriending students who had never ventured outside their county or province, we really appreciated having the chance to travel abroad.
Ben had class the next day, so I took some time to explore the city myself. I had a coffee date with one of my friends working in the youth sector at UNESCO and we spent some time chatting about some of our current projects and initiatives. When Ben was done his extremely long day of classes, we had some dinner together, and then ventured over to see the Louvre. There, we were approached by lots of street vendors à pied selling 5 Eiffel Tower keychains for 1 euro. Not a bad deal, but neither of us would know what to do with five keychains. We stopped by a McDonald’s on the way back ‘cos the man was craving a McFlurry. He got one and I decided to try a coconut milkshake. We also shared an order of french fries. Not surprisingly, both of us felt pretty shitty afterwards. McDonald’s is never good in practice no matter how alluring a McFlurry or milkshake may seem as a thought.
Third and final day in Paris started off fantastic. I met Ben at his class and we went for a walk to see the main Pantheon-Sorbonne campus building. It was gorgeous! After a quick visit, we headed back over to his economics building to say a final à bientot before I trekked to CDG airport with all my luggage somehow attached to my body.
The way there was quite tough with all 30kg, but the following 24 hours were all the rougher. I’ve experienced a series of very unfortunate events in the past day. When I got to the airport, I had to pay $50 because what I thought I could use as a carry-on turned out to be slightly too big for the cabin. OK, that I could handle with a wince. But then, I found out that my flight had been delayed 2 hours, which meant that I’d be missing the last bus from Venice to Padova that night. I signed on to the airport wifi to email my new housemate, who had agreed to pick me up from the Padova train station. I also had to look up train times from Venice to Padova to see if there were any that night or if I would have to camp at the Venice airport. I also emailed Ben to grieve about my overweight luggage and flight delay and how I was quite frustrated and uncertain of what I’d do when I got into Venice.
Here’s where the messy stuff begins. I’m on the EasyJet flight (finally) and am talking to the Slovenian lady beside me. She tells me not to worry and that she’ll call my housemate when we arrive at the airport. The lady told me I should ask my housemate to pick me up in Venice, but I didn’t want to trouble her to drive 45 minutes to the airport so I told the lady to pass on the message that I’d take a train into Padova and get in touch then. She calls my Italian roommate (whom doesn’t speak much English) and they talk for a minute in Italian before the lady says, “OK, you will take a bus to Venice train station, then take a train to Padova. Your housemate will pick you up from the train station.” Perfect, I thought. I bussed to the train station, then took the midnight train to Padova. On board the train, I borrowed someone’s phone to call my housemate to let her know I was arriving soon. She said “What?! I drove to pick you up at the Venice airport!” Apparently that’s what she told the Slovenian lady she’d do. It was a real miscommunication and I felt so terrible despite not having had real control over that situation. I finally met up with my roommates at the Padova train station past 1am and they drove me back to my new apartment. I just felt horrible about that all night.
But it got worse! I got the wifi password from my roommate and signed into my gmail account. I received two emails from Ben asking where I was and telling me that he was waiting for me all evening at the metro station. I was really confused. But then I realized that a message I had sent on my smartphone from the airport on Monday when I first arrived in Paris about meeting him in one hour at his metro station didn’t get sent on Monday (probably cos the wifi disconnected). Instead it was sent once I turned on my phone again at the airport, shortly after my email to Ben about my airport frenzy. So, he thought I was heading back to his apartment when really that email was sent the other day. I felt even worse knowing all the worry and waiting that I caused him that night.
Between my new roommates driving all the way to Venice airport because of some miscommunication with an Italian-speaking Slovenian lady and Ben waiting all night for me after receiving a delayed email, I felt pretty crappy…even though both of those events happened for reasons beyond my control.
I woke up this morning from all that hoping it was all a bad dream. But nope. I’m here in Padova now. I spent the day walking around the city. My Italian is still very limited…I could ask for directions, prices, and whether or not a shop sold postcards. But that was it. Luckily I landed upon some Chinese shopkeepers whom I was able to ask for a bit more help from. (Chinese is definitely a great language to know when traveling…there are Chinese people everywhere!) I’ll be working harder on my Italian though, both to get around and to communicate with my new roommates. They’re really friendly (and forgiving about last night).
OK, that’s all for now. Classes start for me on Monday, which I’m looking forward to. I’m going to open the 2,39 Euro bottle of vino bianco I bought earlier now and toast to new adventures!