On my birthday, I got up a little early so that I could skype/facebook with George, which was really nice. After that, I was able to get some pictures loaded onto the blog and then was able to read and chill for a little bit which was nice.
After checking out and stowing our bags, we got on the metro to go to the Champs Elysees Boulevard and the Arc du Triomphe. It was definitely a very high scale/nice area of town, and I liked walking up and down the avenues. One of the stores that I thought was really cool was the Abercrombie and Fitch – there was a bouncer outside, and you had to stand in line to get inside so that the store wouldn’t get too busy. Inside, it was dark marble and gold, four stories tall, with lighted steps and such. There were even models standing around whose sole job seemed to be modeling the clothes and dancing to the music. The Arc du Triomphe was really tall and impressive, and the traffic around it was crazy! The was even a pedestrian tunnel to walk through instead of crossing the street to get to the Arc du Triomphe. It was a somewhat chilly day, which was nice for traveling, as well as cool because it made it seem as though we had arrived in the summer, and left in the fall.
Riley took me to a birthday lunch at a cafe a little bit away from the arc – we we split french onion soup and I had roasted chicken. It was by far the best “grow food” we had in France, good to know that everything isn’t baguettes and ham. Beyond that, I didn’t celebrate my birthday all that much, which was what I wanted. I knew we’d be traveling, and that can be stressful so I didn’t want to add “birthday stress” to it. I’ll have an extra big 21stnext year to make up for it! (Besides, this whole trip is kinda like a huge birthday present in a way).
We went to the train station and had to stand in a really long line to get passes validated. They kept telling people that there wasn’t any room left and people were getting mad, which made me really nervous, but we didn’t have any trouble. Transportation/traveling between places makes me really nervous in general until I become more comfortable with it.
Our train was a little late, but it showed up and we were able to (with only a little confusion) get on. We were in a room with an older british couple and an indian couple and their young daughter. It was a really bizarre experience. The space was super tiny, and it wasn’t light for very long so we mostly slept. The british man acted as though he was an expert about how these trains worked, but ended up being wrong about almost everything – which was kind of funny, but also a little annoying. I read for a while, and we kept waiting for someone to come to put down the beds, but then eventually figured out that we had to do it ourselves. At some point the police stopped the train and got on for a while, not sure why though. When we woke up, we put the beds back down and I slept for a while. The others got off in Florence, so we had a few hours by ourselves in the train which was nice.
Traveling between countries is interesting – there is certainly less security here than in the US (we didn’t even have to go through a metal detector to get on the train), and customs seems to be somewhat non-existent. I find this really interesting, because moving between countries was something I had been worried about earlier.
We arrived in Rome about an hour late. After getting our stuff and cash and such, we tried to find a bus to take us to the hostel. Italian buses are very funny because there isn’t any sort of a map, and they only kind of run on a schedule – mostly you’re just “supposed to know” which one to take. And then once you’re on the bus, the next stop is rarely (if ever) named … once again, you’re just ‘supposed to know’. Somehow, with the help of a few Italians, we figured it out and made it to the hostel, which is much more low-key than St. Christophers in Paris.
I don’t have many pictures from our last day in Paris/the train ride because my camera died – but don’t worry, there are tons and tons of pictures I’m currently sorting through from Rome, so you won’t be picture deficient for long. I’m also working on a new, faster, more efficient way to post my photos, so hopefully I’ll be updating everyone regarding that soon.