After a forced bedtime of 2:30AM, I awoke on Tuesday around 9:30am (Apparently France makes me super lazy). I googled my metro map to the area of Montemarte, and proceeded to take the (at the time) harrowing trek down into the bowels of the earth where the majority of Parisian public transportation lies.
I had yet to eat breakfast, so I stopped at a café with a gorgeous view of the church up on top of the mountain (which was the main attraction, I was to learn later). I had a cheese crepe and a croissant, which was the BOMB.COM. I think if I could marry French carbs, I would. After consuming the culinary delight way too fast, I made my way up the 1,245,693,000 stairs and took in the view from the top.
Amazing. The entire city of Paris was spread out before me. Rooftops spread out as far as the eye could see, and you could feel both your immense insignificance and an expansive sense of wonder. I took several long moments to soak in the view. It was well worth the extra cardio.
After the requisite pictures and an attempted selfie, I headed into the church, but not before being denied entrance because of my spaghetti strap dress. They gave me a piece of cloth to wrap around my shoulders, and I wore the cape of shame as I strolled through the grandiose hall. The air was ripe with ancient respect and hallowed thoughts, and the ceilings were incredibly detailed and rich. It was very cool to see, but quite honestly I’d probably skip the tour next time-if you’ve seen one old church, you’ve seen them all.
What interested me more was the streets. Obviously, because that’s where all the delicious food was (I mean, that’s a given), but I also wanted to just soak in the wonder of a different culture. I proceeded to wander around the streets aimlessly, looking at all of the different stores and building architectures and people. It was a great way to acquaint myself with the real Paris.
The real Paris, it turns out, can be kind of a bitch sometimes. After several attempts to find a restroom that I could use (turns out some restaurants are quite possessive of their toilettes), I got lucky with a nice, albeit reluctant, bartender. The bathroom situation in and of itself was quite annoying, especially if you’re someone like me who enjoys copious amounts of water and therefore needs readily accessible facilities for the side effects of such hydration.
But wait, it gets better. Twenty minutes and several blocks of wandering later, bladder deflated, I reached into my purse to grab my phone to check the time. My hand grabbed air. I paused, then opened the side pocket where the pink-clad mobile should have been resting to see if I had somehow managed to miss it. Nothing but black cloth. I unzipped the main compartment, feeling silly that I had misplaced such an important item. Wallet, metro pass….no phone. I checked both pockets again about 5 more times before accepting the fact that my phone was indeed not in my possession.
Thus began the frantic retracing of steps through the slanted streets of Montmarte. The cobblestones that had led me so whimsically just 1 hour before now offered nothing but challenge and confusion. No pink Iphone greeted me in the streets, and the only two spots I had stopped at both shook their heads. My phone had vanished into thin air.
The acceptance of this fact led to the hunt for and purchase of a fancy (aka the cheapest) smart phone from the nearest mobile store. Thankfully, you have the option just purchase network and load it on a sim card rather than have to commit to a contract, which was great for being able to get online right away. One hour and 155 Euro’s later (4 E off for patience, whoot!), I was the proud owner of a cheapo Samsung and a new French number.
The afternoon of Day 1 therefore consisted of ordering a new phone for home (I have insurance, apparently, which was awesome!) and cancelling all service to the lost/stolen device. Needless to say, I did not feel like exploring much more at all, but I did have an appointment with my contact in Paris to meet up later that night, so I was forced to shake it off and keep moving.
My contact, Peter*, was a former Turkish renter of my student’s mother (who was kind enough to set up
communication between myself and several people over here in France). We met at a Starbucks close to one of the Metro stations, and he proceeded to show me several different hot spots in Paris, including a DELICIOUS falafel stand on a random street, a cute garden enclosed in a courtyard where we enjoyed said falafel, the riverside where we started a bottle of wine, and finally ending the night in the Lourve garden with an amazing view of the Eiffel tower. It was magical.
For someone who just up and flew across the Atlantic Ocean with little to no planning (which is 100% not my usual style), I got SO lucky to be put into contact with people who knew the city and were kind enough to show me around. Looking back, I wouldn’t have had half the amazing experiences that I did if I didn’t have that advantage.
Lessons learned? A) Be aware of what is going on around you, and KEEP AN EYE AND HAND AND LOCK on your stuff at all times! You may think you’re being vigilant…but trust me, you can be even more careful. B) Patience and being nice pays off. I could have easily shown my frustration at the lady selling me my phone since it took FOREVER to figure out and set up, but I chose to smile and wait, and it paid off with a discount and good relations. It’s so tempting to get frustrated when you’re traveling, especially when something happens that SUCKS and is expensive, but being kind is ALWAYS the right choice. C) Always, always, bring more money than you think you’ll need. I thought I had more than enough Euros, but then I had to pay for my hostel AND new phone in cash, which took a giant chunk out of my stash. You can always bring back money, but if you spend your last cent and you need more, it’s harder AND more expensive to get money when you are in a different country.