Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stranded in Paris

Well, the title pretty much says it all.  After a few hours of waiting around the airport, we were told the flight was canceled due to maintenance problems.

I told myself I wouldn't blog again till I got back home.  You aren't assigned free time in Paris and I wanted to take advantage of every moment possible to see this beautiful city.  However, fate has thrown it's second punch at me this trip amid so many graces (the first being my cold), and as such, I've decided to take advantage of my newly given free time and reminisce about my experiences, since India, while they are still fresh in my mind.  I'll try to focus on unique events and not just the standard 'I saw the Eiffel Tower... then I saw Notre Dame... you get the picture.  We did see those for the record.

Paris was also a better chance to test ourselves.  While India was definitely a more dangerous country, we were almost always with the Rising Star Organization.  We didn't have to do much independent thinking or exploring.  In Paris, Nels and I were on our own.  We had to brave whatever challenges came our way together, without any outside assistance.

Last Saturday, Nelson and I departed from India.  I had the whole spectrum of feelings regarding my departure.  I was sad to leave the kids... I was ecstatic to use a western toilet and shower... I would miss doing such unique but purposeful service work.... I couldn't wait to escape the drowning humidity, etc...

When our taxi driver showed up, we were stunned to discover that our man Dominique who originally brought us to the hotel from the airport again was our driver.  If you didn't read about Dominique, see my previous blog entry.   I was surprised to find that he really wasn't a bad driver at all.  Well, at least compared to his Indian counterparts.  I just formed such a poor opinion of his driving skills because he was my first experience with the driving in India.

'Way lead onto way', and pretty soon Me and Nelson were at our lay over in Frankfurt, Germany.  We had a few hours to kill... so of course we had to get the German experience.  We took a taxi around town for a couple of hours, checked out the local iron man race, and relaxed and appreciated the cool climate of Germany on the banks of the Mein River.  Germany is such a beautiful country, and I'm not just saying that because we had been in the Indian country and it's climate for so long.

We stumbled across this awesome fountain while meandering through Frankfurt

Went out on a limb and decided to spice up the poses on the bank of the Mein

Feeling like a million bucks after rediscovering civilization. 

On the plane ride over we met Clement.  He was a 22 year old Frenchman who had spent the last three years living 'the good life' over in the States and Canada.  Although his breath smelled profusely of alcohol and his eyes were glazed over, he actually spoke some pretty coherent English.  Hilarious accent though.  He told Nels and I "Paris is the TRUE land of the free!  You can smoke, you can drink, you can fight cops!  That's freedom!".  Apparently it is pretty hard to get busted for assaulting a cop in France.... perhaps this is intentional because of the aftermath of the French Revolution?

He also told us not to take the taxi we planned on riding in to get to our hotel.  He said "They will take you!"  He instead instructed us to take the train.  "It's free!", he says.
"Are you sure it's free Clement?"
Yah, yah! Well you have to "*insert whistling noise with funny hand gestures* but ya it's free!"

Apparently many of the locals are quite skilled in the art of parkouring over the barriers at the train station and metro.  Nels and I are now also quite familiar with this process.  We really got the hang of these metros by the end of the trip.  A note of caution- look on the other side before you acrobat over the barrier.  You never know when a security guard and his MASSIVE Mastiff will be awaiting to greet you.

A video of some local talent.  He's crazy.

Anyways, our first day there, we went on a Segway tour of Paris.  It was soooo sick!  I highly recommend riding a segway.

Our first solid glimpse of the Eiffel Tower

The next day we toured all throughout Paris.  There were two main highlights of our day.

First, the Arc De Triumph.  The Arc is amazing.  There is a beautiful view of Paris from the top.  It is surrounded by the largest round-about in Europe, and it is noted for how hectic it is.  So, naturally, I thought it would be the best time to put my video game skills to the test and play real life frogger.

The view from on top of the Arc De Triumph.  Figured it was about time to put these long arms to use so I attempted the self portrait technique.

A video of Nelson and I initial Frogger level.  I have actual footage of going back over... but you'll have to ask me in person about that if you want to see it....

The other highlight was ascending the Eiffel Tower and being at the very top during the light show and sunset.  Nels and I have a pretty solid bromance going on... but it would definitely be a place to visit and a thing to do with 'the girl of your dreams'.  As evidenced by the many couples making out up there, it wasn't an original idea of mine.

Kickin it with Nels on the first level of the Eiffel Tower

Three of the nights were spent either up the Eiffel Tower or on the surrounding benches to watch the crazy light show that begins at 10:00 p.m.  The tower has thousands of flashes flicker across its body for about five minutes.

For my own later recollection: we also went to the top of Montparnasse Tower, walked down the Champs Elysees, and visited the big Parisian cemetery.

The next two mornings Nelson and I went for two early morning jogs through the massive garden/park of Luxembourg.  I'm so glad we did it.  The weather is beautiful in the early morning and because Paris is a night city, the roads and grounds were empty.

We went to the Catacombs.  So fun but creepy.

We also saw some other standard sights but I won't bog down the already long blog with extra details.

The last day we lucked out big time.  We decided we wanted to go on the Versailles bike tour at the last moment.  We made our way through the tangled web of metro tunnels and then scrambled throughout the roads of Paris with a laptop in my hand for directions, trying to find our way to the tour office.  We stumbled in right before they left.  They normally only do reservations... but today two people had shown up, found out how long they had to bike, and then decided not to go.  It almost seemed to good to be true.  Nelson and I decided that we would take advantage of our good fortune and go.

Versailles is amazing.  The grounds are so beautiful.  The Grand Canal is massive.  I swam in it.

Wait... hold up.  You swam in it?

Yes sir.  Nelson and I had a wave of spontaneity run through us and decided that we most likely will only get see Versailles once... might as well make the best of it.  We separated ourselves from the group, stripped down, and jumped in.

Shout out to our tour guide who took the initiative and sifted through my clothes to find my camera.

Our adventure in the Grand Canal almost made the biggest palace in the world take a side seat.  Almost.

The cousins with some new found friends from the tour.  The golden Egyptian is actually a French mime who would put the Buckingham Palace guards to shame.

Our last night we watched the sun go down from the top of Montmartre while we wined and dined on some excellent French food.  We also visited the church up there.  These cathedrals and churches in Paris are absolutely jaw dropping.  You can't help but be lost in some type of reverie as you walk throughout those beautiful buildings.  They really give you a feeling of awe and wonder.

Some closing thoughts:
My experiences with India and then Paris provided a real life juxtaposition oof the human existence.  To go from the desolate poverty of India to the extravagant churches in Paris was definitely a shock.  The people in India were, as a whole, much kinder and happier than the people in Paris.  In fact, the people in Paris are the most unpleasant lot I've ever encountered.  There is a chance that I am just saying this because my pride was wounded many times by the insufferable glares and snide remarks tossed at me by these Parisians.  Or maybe because I am directly comparing them with the Indian people who are the kindest and happiest people I have met.  Either way, this is further evidence in my mind of the discrepancy between happiness and wealth.

To finish- the rest is history.  We wake up early and go to the airport.  Our flight gets canceled.  Now, they pent us up in a close hotel room.  I'm bummed because I am not going to be able to make my tournament in Anaheim on time.  Hopefully good fortune smiles on us and we make it back to the States.


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