Jul 14, 2009

Lost Diaries 2

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Today was our last morning in Paris and we slept in and then packed up. We checked out of our hotel around noon and called a cab rather than struggle through the metro with our luggage. By this time we are toting 6 bags, since we have added a backpack full of water. When we got to the train station, Damon was out of euros to pay the cab, so I stood on the curb and watched the luggage while Damon went inside to change some money. Once we were inside the train station, I again guarded the luggage while Damon went to figure out how to get tickets. When he came back the first time he needed his wallet; when he came back the second time the French teller misunderstood him and only sold him one ticket; when he came back the third time he had 2 tickets but we did not know how to read them. Luckily, I had seen some people from the law school come into the station and they were able to tell us which train to get on. We hauled the luggage to the train and hopped into the car we thought we were supposed to be in. The cars are 2 stories, and we were on top, so we hauled the luggage up the stairs, go it all settled, and went to our seats. For some reason, there was already a woman sitting in one of our seats. We found that odd, but Damon asked her what car this was. She said it was Car 8, and our tickets were for Car 11, so with less than 10 minutes to spare, we grabbed the suitcases, and began to sprint down the very lengthy train. It would seem that cars 8 and 11 would be relatively close, but they were not, so we ran with 6 heavy bags in tow for at least a half mile. Car 11 was the last car on the train, and we loaded the luggage, found Damon’s inhaler, and sat down with 2 minutes to spare. After all this commotion, the train ride was delightful. We rode through the French countryside for the most part, and saw lots of cows and sheep, and a few towns. The ride took about 2 hours, and we had first class seats, so I was able to nap a little on the way, and Damon did his homework.

We arrived in Lyon and Damon this time had the courtesy to find a bench for me sit on and guard the luggage while he used a variety of maps to figure out where we were. Turns out our apartment was only about four tenths of a mile away, so we set off on foot. We arrived without incident, and made it to the room. The room…..on the plus side it is much roomier than the room in Paris. Internet access is also available, for a small fortune, but we sprung for it anyway to keep in touch. Don’t you feel special now? When you come in the door of the room there is a small kitchenette to the left, consisting of a sink, dish drain, stovetop with 2 burners, small fridge, and microwave. To the right is the water closet, and it is a good size with a commode, no bidet (we had one in Paris), a sink with a little counter space, and an immaculate tub, ¼ of which is enclosed with glass and a shower nozzle is attached to the wall about waist high. Continuing into the apartment there is a small table with a chair, and a desk with a chair, and the bed, which consists of 2 foam pads shoved together with a flat sheet wrapped around them. If you have ever been on a cruise, it is likely very similar to the bed you had on board the ship. There is also a small bedside table, closet, and television, which, alas, only has French channels. When we got to the room we could not figure out where to turn on the air conditioning, and it was HOT, so we opened the windows for some relief. There is a small thing on the wall in the bedroom and one in the bathroom that we thought was air, but when I turned it on heat came out, so we turned it off. The first thing we did was set up the computer and get internet access, and then we were able to IM Sarah and hold a voice conversation with her through the computer. It was really neat. I then had the idea for Sarah to make phone calls on the speaker phone in our office so that we could talk to other people. Damon tried it out first on his parents, and helped them set up instant messenger so they could have their own voice conversation, and even send some video…for 5 hours. I took a nap, unpacked all of our luggage, and read in the travel book. About midnight Damon finally got off the line, and we contacted Sarah again and got her to call Grandma’s house. The Crane conversation was much shorter, I can assure you, but it was good to hear that both families had received my first epistle and were enjoying our Paris escapades.

After I got off the phone, Damon was so hot that he was determined to figure out the air conditioning. There was this pull cord in the kitchen attached to a plastic box on the wall, so Damon pulled it, and when it did not do anything he pulled it so hard that he ripped the cord out of the wall, so he stood on a chair and took this thing apart, to discover that it was a vent that sucked air out of the room. He determined that this is what the French were calling “air conditioning” and we shut the windows. He then started reading a brochure on the room and discovered that this was not in fact air conditioning, but a vent for the kitchen. So we broke that for nothing, and still slept with the windows open and under only a sheet. Damon spent most of the night in the crack of the two foam pads, and we were both hot. This morning Damon got to be the first to try the bath/shower head, and he came to the conclusion that you must sit in the tub as close to the spout as you can and try desperately to keep the water from soaking the rest of the bathroom. He soaked the bathroom. He grabbed a bottle of water and a box of cereal and set out for the bus stop, with a map of the city, but no idea which bus to take, and no bus ticket. He left around 7:30 and did not have to be there until 9, so hopefully he was able to figure something out in an hour and a half.

I got our dirty clothes bundled up as best I could, and set off for the office with a few French phrases scrawled on a piece of paper. One was “How much is breakfast?” and another was “How do you turn on the air conditioning?” I found the breakfast room first. Breakfast is advertised in the room, but no price is given, so I hoped maybe it was included. When I got there I used my French to inquire, and was told 6 euros. Super. I then made my way to the office, dropped off the laundry, and inquired about the air. The man told me that they were currently out of rooms with air, and we would be moved on June 20th, when they had a large group of people checking out. JUNE 20TH?!!! That translates into we have 2 weeks to sweat. I can’t wait to see the look on Damon’s face when he finds that out. We were led to believe that all these apartments were air conditioned and I am pretty sure he requested one that was. He is going to be so mad. I came back upstairs, ate some cereal, took some medicine for my sore throat, surfed the internet to catch up on celebrity gossip, and lay back down for a while. Oh, I also whacked my noggin on the door to the kitchen cabinet, and now have a red mark on my forehead, so it was a rough morning in Lyon. We have only seen about 4 blocks of Lyon so far, but from what we have seen it is a dirty city. The streets are littered with tons of dog poo, and there is graffiti everywhere, including the ominous “Murder” that is spraypainted on the building across the street from our room, and is making me a little uneasy. From the room we can also see the Eurail trains coming and going, as well as hear them through the perpetually open window. This morning workers came with a jackhammer and began to tear up part of the street beneath our window, so that too is making a lot of noise. Back to the graffiti, it appears that France has a huge problem with graffiti, because we have seen tons of it everywhere. It is very unsightly. Perhaps when Damon comes back we will explore some and find some more pleasant surroundings.

Well, I am about to do some yoga in the room, and then try out the shower myself. I will then be venturing outside to a pharmacy nearby for some cough drops, and a small grocery store that we found yesterday to figure out some kind of meal to throw together for dinner. Yesterday we bought some microwavable stuff and ate that, but we were in a hurry and did not have enough time to truly shop, which is going to take a while since all the labels are in French. Wish me luck.

Monday, 23:00
Another day has come to a close and I wanted to update you on the rest of the day. I bathed/showered, and managed to figure out a combination of the two that keeps most of the water in the tub. I got dressed and set off for the pharmacy and grocery, but as I was crossing the first street I saw Damon coming back from school. Instead of going back to the apartment, we set off to the shopping mall, which it turns out is just on the other side of the train station and therefore very close to the apartment. We stopped by the transportation office and picked up passes that will allow us to use all of the public transportation for the next 30 days. We grabbed some lunch at Quick, which is the French equivalent of McDonald’s. Damon said the cheeseburger was so-so, and I can personally attest to the fact that you should steer clear of the chicken strips, because of their spongy, mcnugget-like quality. From there we went to Carrefour, which is the French equivalent of Wal-Mart. Damon looked for adapters to be able to plug in more stuff since up to that point we were only able to plug in one thing at a time, and I looked for cough drops. Both of us struck out, and Damon wanted to figure out the bus situation before time for him to go back to class, so we went to the bus station just outside. Damon was able to speak enough French to ask someone about the buses, and then it was time for him to go to class, so he hopped on the tram and I went inside to grocery shop at Carrefour. I wondered around for a long time searching for items that we could eat in the room and that I could cook with limited resources. I finally settled on a big box of frosted flakes, since their cereal options were limited and that way I did not have to figure out what exactly was sugar; some granola bars for Damon to snack on at school; hamburger meat, spaghetti sauce, and noodles to make spaghetti; and salt and what I thought to be pepper and is in some form but not the form we are used to. I went outside to wait for the bus, and after waiting about 20 minutes in the midst of tons of French secondhand smoke I decided that I would rather walk and set out on foot for the apartment. The buses were really crowded at that time too, and some of these people are really stinky, so the walk was a better option.

When I got back and stepped into the elevator, a lady asked me if I was in room something trois, and I told her yes. She works at the apartments and needed to come give me the lease paperwork and inspect the apartment. I showed her the broken vent, and she did not seem phased by it. She said that they have not had Americans here for 3 years, but now they have many, so she is happy that she gets to practice her English. She speaks French and German, too. I went back downstairs with her and got an extra apartment key as well as the mailbox key. Back in the room, the laundry was done, so I put that up, and began to work on my school books while I waited for Damon to come back. He arrived shortly, and I cooked the spaghetti. It was not up to par with my usual stuff, but we both ate heartily like big fat happy Americans, and it felt good. Damon wanted to revisit the Wal-mart for some more supplies, so we set out and this time we both took our backpacks to haul things back in. We stopped by the rooms of some of Damon’s friends who are staying in our complex, and saw one of the alleged air conditioners in action, as well as how some of the larger rooms are laid out. Then we boarded the bus and went to the store. It was about to close in 30 minutes, and most things in the mall were closed already, so we started dashing about trying to figure out what we needed. We had a list, but again, it was in English and all the labels are in French. The lunch meat was very hard to figure out, because it looked raw to me, and we ended up with something they are calling bacon, but it looks like ham, and a big hunk of cheese that we have to slice ourselves. I almost burst out laughing when Damon told me that they don’t cut the cheese, you have to do it yourself. Perhaps slice would have been a better word. When is was close to time for the store to close, these security men came out of nowhere and started warning you to quit shopping and check out. Damon wanted me to run back for something, and when I tried to walk down the aisle one of the guards yelled at me in French. It was very intimidating. Apparently, they are very serious about no overtime. We boarded the bus and headed back home. On the way we discovered that we forgot water and toilet paper, so I will be shopping again tomorrow. We have decided that we live in the slums of Lyon, and therefore I will not be running in this neighborhood alone, so tomorrow we are going to seek out a place near the law school for me to run.

French observations for the day: They love them some Phil Collins. If we had a euro for every time we heard “Another Day for You and Me in Paradise” this trip would be paid for. Also, Paris is allegedly the fashion capitol of the world, but I am telling you these people dress BADLY. Apparently it is fashionable to wear anything and everything you have in any combination at any time. They have really weird fabrics, and by my standards, no taste whatsoever. A fine example is the prevalent wearing of manpris. For you not familiar with manpris, I will explain. Manpris are capris for men. All the French men wear them, and they are hideous. Also, apparently the hip hugger phenomenon has not made it here yet, or it has come and gone, because these people wear their pants all up on their waists. It reminds me of why I hated high-waisted, tapered-leg jeans. I think I just heard a gunshot outside the window, but Damon says it was not. I just keep thinking of the “murder” graffiti. If we survive the night I will write more tomorrow.


Unknown said...

I could read these everyday...you should write a book!

Grandma Tonie said...

The cut the cheese comment cracked me up and I was afraid the guys in the shop were going to think something was wrong with me for laughing so hard. I am enjoying the posts soooo much.

Nanny said...

I have to agree with Jen. You should have this published. I laughed all the way through. I could just imagine you both as you were cutting the cheese:) You are very brave. I think I would have barricaded myself in the room and only left when my husband was with me. It was a great read.