Bonjour! J'ai Arrive en France, au Paris! C'est Lundi Matin, Je crois....finally a sense of adventure has settled in, as my first night here was a bit of a trial.
i left Amsterdam on Sunday via train, and landed myself, after a lovely train ride through the countryside, at the Main train station in Paris.
Now, I had planned to stay with a friend of the family's, and right away tried to contact her fro directions and such, however I couldn't get the number to work, so I decided to decipher the Paris Metro system and just show up. Riiiiiiiiight.
now that I have been here a couple days, I see how easy the system is, but since I had no sense of direction in my sleep deprived state, and no idea which way to go, I couldn't figure it out! So I just elected to start walking and hope that i would find a hostel. hehe. ummmmm, so after about two hours of wandering I was getting a bit nervous, so i thought I would just hire a cab and it would be easy sailing from there.
None of the cabs would take me. something about my backpack maybe, or maybe they really were too busy, but every one I approached shook their heads and told me to bugger off. Eventually a man standing off to the side of the building approached me and asked, in broken english if I needed a cab. Normally I would know better than to accept a ride from a guy lurking about a train station, but i felt it was the only option at the time, and figured that my winning personality and charm would keep me from any harm.
And so it did! the gentleman was from the Congo, and we had a lively discussion about the political changes that had taken place since the 50's and 60's, and also about the state of things in the U.S. we got along greatly, even better when her learned that I spoke decent french. So for a nominal fee I found myself at the address i had written down, and hopped out of the "cab," doned my pack and waved my driver friend away.
it was about then that it dawned on me that I was at my friend's work address, not her house. I was again at a loss. no worries, says I, I'll find a hostel around here somewhere. Riiiiiiiight. After another hour or so of wandering and a few halting conversations in french i stopped at the nearest hotel and asked the front desk person where I could sleep cheaply in the area. She looked me over and said "nowhere, really, you're across the city from any hostels and the closest cheap hotel is E80" hmmmmm.
So what the hell, i did it. I mean, it was the streets or the hotel, and I was too tired to look forward to a night of dodging cops and such, so I chickened out and opted for the hotel.
It was decent and I finallt slept a few hours, and had a wonderful conversation in the morning with the desk clerk/hotel manager guy who had lived in San Diego for a few months, and who was very excited to show off his english skills.
the next day brought a feeling of redemtion as i figured out the Metro system quite easily and found my way to Notre Dame, the Louvre, Saint-Chapelle, and a hostel on the SE side of town.
I stayed at the hostel "young and happy," which is by far the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in. Very clean, very friendly and quiet, with a lovely kitchen and common area, and for E7 you can get a bottle of very bad french wine. the free breakfast consisted of bread and jam and coffee and juice, and was quite sufficient for my appatite.
so here i am, now finally staying at my friend's house, and have been asked to dog-sit while they are away in Nice for the weekend. My own place in Paris. I'm very excited to spend a day or two just resting around the house, in preparation for my trip to Bangkok on Wednesday.
I have been offered an oportunity for work at a nearby restaurant, but the owner seems hesitant and I'm not too stoked about working right now. i'm so relaxed having gotten some sleep and taken in so many sights of Paris (including the Louvre, the cemetary Pere-Lachaise, a few pubs, eiffel tower, some decent theater, and having walked accross the whole city for a day). I think i might just relax until i have to leave.
Soooooo, have found a coffee shop (or three), and wandered the streets of Amsterdam with a very likley guide...An american who has taken to the A-dam life and decided to stay.
i'm currently sitting in the hostel common room at Bob's Youth Hostel on one of the main drags here. It's a decent sort of place with very friendly people running it, and mostly groups of travelers from Spain and France. Terrible techno music is pounding the air and a thick haze of blue-gray smoke hangs heavily in here.
Earlier this evening I had decided to talk a walk about town and see where I ended up--this tactic has been a beneficial one in the past, to just pick a direction and go, and it was no different this time. I fist found myself in the "Abraxas" coffee shop, and was not too surprised by the clientele, mostly younger travelers with a dazed and confused expression, and very cemented smiles. I sampled their "ice", which was decent though not any better than anything I had found in Northern CA, and moved quickly on to another part of town. I was most impressed with the quiet and slow paced feeling of the city, and amazed by how pretty it is here. The little cobblestone walkways and alleys, and interestingly designed brick and stone houses seperated here and there by a sparkling canal.
After walking for some time (or so it seemed) along a street I found a coffee shop called "the grey area." I thought it fitting with my travel-site name being Greycat, and thought I'd stop in and see what they had to offer. Inside i met Nate, from Reno, and Superdude. I coulnd't make out where superdude was from, but he was amiable enough, and we were soon chatting away, mostly in our own conversations with ourselves.
Nate turned out to be a very nice fellow and offered to show me around Amsterdam, as he had been living there for a while at that point. I bought a gram of "yellow cab," which was extraordinary, rolled it up and we went walking about.
Nate took me through most of downtown Amsterdam, showing me the palace, and many other sights i don't remember at the moment--the least notable of which was the red light district. I had thought that it would be a den of sin with beautiful women everywhere enticing me as i walked by, which I had to admit i felt guilty about, being as commited as I am to my girlfriend. however, with a little promting from Nate "you have to see it while you're here, dude," I wandered in. Not even a turn on, really. Just a bunch of windows with semi-attractive, scantily clad women on cell phones or just staring blankly at you. The tour was over in about 15 minutes and it was just as well as i was starting to get a bit uncomfortable seeing all the grossly masogonistic panting old men pawing at the windows. Plus, Nate, being the comedian that he is, kept shouting "Godzirra, Godzirra" at all the oriental tourists (of which there were plenty), which didn't help me feel any better.
Luckily, we ran into some friends of his, and we all said "what?" and went on our seperate ways.
So aside from being a very pretty place, and a fun place to hang out in, i'm not sure this is really the "party spot" that it's cracked up to be. I would reccommend Bob's hostel to anyone who isn't too worried about sleep, though it's a safe place, and you can get very cheap food and drink there, and it's very close to all the sights.
Of course I took in the Riijksmuseum, and it was a delightful experience. Most interesting were the basement, with it's extensive collection of Dutch history and artifacts, and the Van Gogh collection, including his self-portrait.
the rest of my time in A-dam consisted of hanging out and wandering the streets in a mild daze, which i appreciated greatly considering i still haven't slept more than a couple hours since i left LA.
Whoa!! A long ass flight and a delayed flight and a cancelled hostel reservation!! I'm so stoked the challenges are coming already!
So I hopped in a plane for frankfurt. no worries. 'cept being in the middle of those huge planes with little people seats. I never got up once in the whole 10 hrs.
Here's the thing so far tho, when you decide to go to Europe...make sure you know when you're getting there as well as where. man. I missed my hostel reservation by a whole day! The result of which was a 36euro loss and nowhere to stay on a fri night.
But hey, why worry? I just tossed the monster pack on the little back and started walking towards what looked like the center of A-dam. half and hour later (and two hostels that told me all would be full) I was stowing my pack in a locker at Bob's Youth Hostel. I looks fine to me, and I met a few good people as I was getting ready to head out for the evening.
Anyway, the city is beautiful so far, and 'm very excited to see what's in store for the next couple of days. Plans? nah. probably the museums and such, and a few coffee shops here and there. Most interesting so far about the people is that everyone is so helpful and kind. I've had a few hustlers try to take me already, but living in LA and Northern CA prepared me for all that, and they were dodged easily.
-----side thought---I'm sitting inside an internet cafe and smoking a cigarette! this kind of stuff stokes me, cause that never happens back home!----
Such a pretty place by the way. All the beautiful cobblestone walking streets and little shops here and there.
uhoh--almost out of time...gotta run. . .
If anyone's reading this and in A-dam or will be in Paris on Sunday---post a message!