et le dernier jour

When I woke up, it was August. Well, let's be honest, when I fell asleep it was August. But it sounded better that way. Anyways, it was finally my last day in Paris. Despite the fact that I was up until the wee hours of the night packing and cleaning, I woke up bright and early and headed out one last time. Three broken métros later, I finally made it to Trocadéro. Yes, I had to do it. I had to say goodbye to my friend the Tour Eiffel. The funny thing is that the last time I was actually here was during the first week, one of the first days when we did the hashtag obligatory visit. Since then, I've learned so much, both about the language and culture but also about the city itself. I've found my favorite nooks and crannies in the city and started to understand the good and the bad of both French culture and American culture. Standing across from the Eiffel Tower, I found myself feeling carefree. It was like I was there to pay my respects or something, the rest of the tourists and the annoying people selling souvenirs melted away. But I wasn't there for long, I soon métro-ed away. There were still a couple things on my agenda for the morning. I had thought about finally visiting Sainte-Chappelle. But after seeing the line and being unsure of whether or not I had to buy a ticket, I saved it on my "Next Trip to Paris" list, the one that was growing even then, and walked around Saint Michel for a bit, buying some last minute souvenirs around the area and browsing the bouquinistes along the river. At least when I'm home I'll have a real beach, righhhttt..? petit rouge tour eiffel et grand tour eiffel Then I walked back towards Les Halles...and to Rue Montorgueil, because that just needs to be done. And what better last meal than a croissant from Stohrer (the oldest pâtisserie in Paris)? The rich buttery flakiness made me wonder why I didn't eat a croissant every day of the past month. Random anecdote: one time my host dad asked me if I wanted some croissant during breakfast. Thinking he said "poisson" (fish), I was rather surprised and politely refused. Language struggles cost me a croissant! IMG_6273 The number of stares and chuckles I got for taking this picture in public....if it wasn't the last day and worth the memory I promise I wouldn't do it ._. Instead of getting lunch, I ended up finishing off strong with some Berthillon. Salted caramel dreaminess. IMG_6275 And then it was back to the apartment for one last time. I put my final toiletries away, packed up my bags, cleaned the room, made the bed, and took one last look before struggling to drag (without dropping) my overweight luggage down six flights of almost spiraling staircases. It took me nearly 20 minutes. And man was I sore the next day... One final glance at the Concierge that welcomed me to Europe that rainy Saturday, five short weeks and a lifetime ago. And a short wait for the taxi my friend called to come pick me up on the way to the airport. My final photograph from Paris was just about where it began. When I was dropped off right there, by a talkative taxi driver, three bags, no sleep, and a very limited vocabulary. Au revoir, Paris. It's been nothing short of amazing in every sense of the word.
And then we were in London.
Just kidding. That would be too easy wouldn't it? I considered leaving out this part, this struggle, this rant, this anger and frustration and exhaustion from my memory and your knowledge. But it wouldn't do the story justice, so here I am, telling the low light of my trip. Which was not when I got lost and had to roam like a nomad on my first day, not when I said embarrassingly wrong words to my host family, not when I was miserable, cold and wet in Versailles, not even when the #$%@#$% métro sortie door slammed into my ankle. No, it was after we left Paris and were at Charles de Gaulle airport once again. We had already pre-checked in, and got there early. So early we weren't allowed to go through security yet. So we sat out by some chain store cafe and ate fruit tarts and croissants while we waited. After going in, things moved remarkably fast and smoothly, so much so that we had time to sit in an Exki and continue eating and loitering and using the newly installed unlimited free wifi in the airport. Then, our gate opened and we went down happily, knowing that in about an hour we would be in the land of the English. Sike. Didn't happen. Not. At. All. Instead we got in line, realized it wasn't moving, ended up sitting down while waiting to board, was informed the flight would be delayed by half an hour...continued sitting, playing cards, waiting around and charging devices...until they announced that it would be delayed another hour. Two announcements later, they gave in and gave us useless 3€ gift certificates to be used upstairs (which literally buys like one bottle of soda and thats it...) so console us. Because the 40 minute plane ride was nearly 3 hours late. On the plane, we were sat next to a young French woman who seemed to get...flight-sick. (Does that have a name? Like carsick?) Anyways, she was a complainer, but nevertheless we conversed in English and besides the fact that she was constantly asking us how long we thought it would be until we arrived (how the hell would I know, madam?), it was an interesting interaction with a Parisian. Funny how it happened after we left. Even while on the plane, it was delayed another 20 minutes. We circled around the air, somewhere above what I assumed to be a random part of England. It was extra miserable because when I looked out the window, I could see at least 2 other planes circling beneath us. It's pretty concerning when you are in a plane and can see other planes... IMG_6287 Note to self/Public Announcement: Don't fly EasyJet. It is the epitome of the opposite of American style service. Of course once we finally landed it got worse. We were in line for customs, probably with two other flights ahead of us. There was one line for EU citizens and one line for the rest of the world. Two officers were servicing the relatively short EU line while one officer served the rest of us. It took us an hour to get through customs. That makes LAX seem like nothing...and LAX has dozens of flights coming in within an hour! It wasn't even just the sheer amount of people or the fact that the other two officers simply left after the EU line was gone and forced the rest of us to continue to wait for the one person to help us through. The worst was the officer himself on duty that day. The number of questions he asked as ridiculous! Everything from details about our study abroad program in Paris to what our majors were...to why our studies in Paris didn't directly correspond with our majors. Did he expect me to recite the major requirements at UCLA? And explain to him the fact that I was considering applying for a major that did have a language requirement even though I wasn't majoring in the language itself? He might have. Either way, I knew why the line was so excruciatingly slow. A 40 minute train ride later, we were finally at Victoria Station, where we bought tickets to take the underground to Picadilly Circus, where our Airbnb apartment/room was. My first impression of London was rather unpleasant. Perhaps it was because I was hungry and tired and fed up and grumpy. Or maybe people really were obnoxious. After spending a month in Paris, I was rather annoyed and surprised by the loudness of everyone shouting conversations in the underground. Whereas in Paris, people rarely talk louder than a whisper while in the métro. I liked it better. But I LOVE the tube a million times more than the grimey métro. I'll give them that. And I love the fact that it was 11 pm and there were still a ton of people out and about. Picadilly Circus was super crowded and there were loud drunk people crashing into each other everywhere we looked. It took a while to find the place we were looking for, even with pre-downloaded offline maps to serve us. When we finally got in, 5 hours later than planned, our host was kind enough to still be around to give us a key and show us around as well as give us tips on where to find food at this hour of the night, a magical thing that would never exist in Paris (LOL). After a quick run to get carry out from the neighboring Chinatown, where the waitress was rather hostile and adamant about being closed until she realized we were Chinese and then exclaimed graciously (in Chinese) for us to take as much as we could (racial favoritism at it's best?), we returned to our room to eat, sit, shower, rot, do some mild research to get us started the next day, and pass out. Outside our window that night, a man drunkenly played his heart out on a trumpet. The entire night. Bonne...no..good night. It'll hit me that I'm in London eventually, right?