Part Seven : Paris...and Irene!

July 23 - July 25ish

First of all, I would like to say that everything you have ever read or heard about Paris is true. It is a wonderful, magical city with stunning landmarks around every corner. And, just when you think Paris itself is exciting, our visit was filled with unbelievable adventures and shocking plot twists that we ourselves could not have dreamed of . . .
I'm not even sure where to begin. Rick and I had had an unbelievable adventure trying to get from Poland to Paris, the details of which would make your knees shake if you're into rule-following and schedule-keeping. We both arrived with headaches due to suffocation conditions in our sleeping car, and got into as many fights that morning as we did for the whole rest of the trip. We were saved from each other only by the arrival of Irene and Kristina on the scene. Irene, for those who don't know, is a great friend of ours from university. She and her pal Kristina had just arrived in Europe that morning and were starting a 2-week trip through the UK that started in Paris with us. Irene actually shrieked when she saw us - I jumped about two feet! We were immediately faced with the problem of having nowhere to stay, since our attempt at making reservations had failed miserably (presumably thanks to the "post-it note" bookkeeping practices of the hostel we had selected). Before long we found somewhere to stay, thanks to Rick (infinitely patient) and our guidebook (infinitely reliable). 
Unfortunately we were unable to stay in our newly-found hostel for more than one night, so instead of heading for the Eiffel Tower we were reduced to more hostel-hunting. On our way to one of the very few remaining hostels, we were angry to be faced with a metal barrier that prevented us from crossing the street. We thought that perhaps there was a parade passing through or something, and were pretty upset about not being able to cross the street. The purpose of the barrier soon became revealed, though, as racing bikes started to whiz by us at high speed. We suddenly realized (thanks to the bicycles and to the signs written on the sides of support vehicles) that we had stumbled upon the last leg of the Tour de France. We could not believe our luck! Rick and I could now add this to our list of major sporting event attended (along with Wimbledon). Here is a picture of myself, Irene and Kristina stunned by what we were seeing!
Our continuing search for another hostel took us back into the subway (which, incidentally, is the dirtiest, smelliest, most revolting part of Paris and of our trip as a whole). This particular trip on the subway was different, though. Just minutes after stumbling upon the Tour de France, we were stunned to see our friend Steve Corfe (from Brock) running to catch his own subway. We all knew that Steve was in Europe, but none of us knew that he was in Paris, and certainly none of us expected to run into him in one of the city's 100s of subway stations. However, we have the picture to prove it! Steve had to run as he was on his way to Switzerland, so we only had about a minute to get over our shock and give out hugs. Here you can see Irene, Steve, Rick and Kristina in the smelly subway station. (Incidentally, Steve is called Billy to us - I could give you the long explanation, but basically Irene and Kristina both call any boy whose name they don't know "Billy." At one time, Irene did not know Steve, and therefore he was Billy. The name just seemed to stick!) 
Finally we decided to give up our search for a hostel and go see some monuments - we were in a city full of them, after all!. Where better to start than "le Tour Eiffel?" Even though they don't look it, Irene and Christina were completely exhausted after taking the airplane overnight, so we didn't climb the tower. The gardens below the tower are beautiful, and it's amazing how huge the structure actually is. We got these fabulous pictures of the tower.
As with everything on our trip, the Eiffel Tower was even decked out for the millennium. (It says "An 2000" - year 2000) After visiting the tower, we walked to the Arc de Triomphe and were surprised to run into the medal presentations for the Tour de France. (You can imagine that Irene and Kristina were pretty breathless at this point..."Is every day as exciting as this one???") We found some food and decided to go back to the hostel so the girls could get some sleep - Rick and I were desperately in need of sleep as well. After this marathon day, we should have known that we were not destined to sleep any time soon. 
Before settling down to sleep, Irene spotted some boys playing cards in the courtyard of the hostel. She hung her head out of the window until they shouted up to her, and after they called us Americans and we called them Brits we eventually came to the understanding that they were Australian and we were Canadian. Before you could say "bottle of wine" we were on our way to the store to buy some vino and join the boys on the patio. Named Alex, Dougal and Sandy, we found that our new Aussie friends were good company. Even when it started to pour rain we stayed outside, getting soaked and then following the barefoot Aussies back to the store for more wine. Everyone was up late that night (except Kristina who was the smart one) and we had a great time dancing in the rain even though the rest of the hostel was likely watching from out of their windows.  The next morning, all of us a little worse for wear, we pooled our efforts and guidebooks to find a place to stay for our second night in Paris. We were outstandingly lucky (thanks again to our guidebook) to find room for eight (the seven of us and a French Canadian guy we met named Jean-Francois. This picture shows the seven of us setting off for our new home. (top row: me, Rick, Irene, Kristina, Sandy; bottom row: Alex, Dougal) 
We all traipsed around Paris together that day, with the Louvre as the highlight. Not only did we see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and The Raft of Medusa, but Irene and Kristina got an autograph and picture with Michael Damian (from The Young and the Restless). The next morning, our trip was transformed into a soap opera all it's own. You see, it is here that the Great Divide occurred. Rick and I went our own separate ways. Although the reasons for this are no longer important, what is important is that for a week following this the trip took on a completely different flavour. The next sections will describe how each of us survived without the other . . .

Back to Part Six : Poland
Back to Rick and Amy's Homepage
To Part Eight : The Great Divide, Part I