DEUTSCHLAND!@

My next stop was Germany. To get there, I met up with my sister and the German family she had been staying with. She had left a few weeks before me and was staying with the Werding family. My dad had known Tim Werding, the father, since they were kids growing up in South Africa. I met them at the Gare de l’Est station and we left for their town, which is located just over the France-German border.

IMG-20180805-WA0007

Leaving Paris

The following days I spent with the Werding family were relaxing and peaceful. I was…

IMG-20180808-WA0001

Swimming in beautiful lakes near their house.

IMG-20180808-WA0003

Barbecuing scrumptious German sausage and pork cuttings.

20180809_133639_HDR

And traveling around the town that they live in.

On one of the nights, myself, along with my sister, the Werding children, and their friends went to a nightclub in a city not far from them. They had to be under the supervision of someone over 18 so that they did not get too carried away. Either way, our group, consisting of 16 through 20 year olds, were all standing in the parking lot and groups of young German guys and girls kept asking if I could sign their papers. I felt very important, but I would have to be responsible for all of them… and I really didn’t want to do that. Thankfully, we all made it into the club. The bouncers gave my sister and I a confused look when we showed them our New Mexico licenses, but we easily blended into the crowd. The drinking age in Germany is 16 and my sister got to experience college-life firsthand. It’s too bad she never allowed me to take a picture of her; she took Jagermeister and gin like a champ. From my experience, the German youth take a while to dance, but once the alcohol is in their system, they turn into animals.

After getting over my hangover, it was time for us to depart from Germany. Our next stop was England!, except my sister was only stopping over. We said our goodbyes, and I headed towards the English border.

 

PARIS!@

When I arrived in Paris, I was greeted by an elderly French man named Dominique whom my parents had met on a bus trip in Patagonia. I know that is a lot of information, but I do not want to bore you with too much family backstory. Nevertheless, this was the man I would stay with for the following week while I toured Paris. The last time I had seen him was around 9 or 10 years ago, so there was a lot of catching up to do. We left Paris De Gaulle Airport and headed to a southern suburb of Paris called Meudon La Foret. When we entered his building, we had to take the elevator up to the fifth floor. I was surprised by the size of the elevator because it’s capacity was four people, but Dominique and I were belly to belly going all the way up.

20180731_143920_HDR

This was the room I stayed in while I was in Paris. I came to realize that people pay an exorbitant amount just to live in the vicinity of Paris. This was a surprising contrast from growing up in the U.S. But that could also just be my lack of knowledge about living in cities in general. It was also amazing to eat French food, especially the bread, which I had every morning when I woke up.

In the evenings, Dominique and I would walk ten minutes to have supper with his ‘polola’, Debora, who would prepare very traditional French meals. It usually consisted of bread, fruit, fish, meats, and other assortments of appetizers. Because she knew hardly any English, our conversations consisted of Dominique translating from English to French and vise versa. I also ate way too much because when I said the food was good, then Debora assumed I wanted more. And if I said “no mas, gracias” and shook my head, she assumed I did not like it. So, this always led to amusing, awkward situations.

Now it is always reassuring when you are living with someone who speaks English, but my next daunting test was getting into Paris. From Meudon, I would have to take a tram and then change over to the metro to get into the city. The commute, as I would come to realize quite quickly, was around an hour and a half. Fortunately, Dominique was very helpful and drew out a map of what tram and metro line I had to take. The next morning I packed my travel bag and I jumped on the tram. When I arrived at the metro station, this was the map I was looking at…

metro_map

Now for someone who has never navigated a city metro system before, I took a deep breath and tried to understand the anatomy of this city system. When I looked down at the map Dominique had drawn me, and then back at this map, I was so confused! I literally spent 20 or 30 minutes thinking about getting on one of the overland trains. I looked each direction, not knowing which way Paris was, and just hoped for the best. Luckily, I went in the right direction. After a few more days of using public transport this confusing map with unpronounceable names became more understandable. Overcoming the complexities of the transport system allowed me to experience…

20180802_111258

Le Louvre

20180801_112130

The Palace of Versailles

IMG-20180806-WA0002

Family at the Eiffel Tower

Overall, my trip to Paris was fantastic. Because I only had five days to explore the city, I was amazed by what I saw and experienced. The people I met were incredibly friendly, and spending times with Oscar and Ophilie and Dominique and Debora made the trip even better. And because I was staying so far from the center of Paris, I got to experience the daily commute that locals make to get to the city.

Pre-Departure Thoughts

 

20180730_182607As this is the only pre-departure photo I took, I will gladly explain what I was thinking those moments before takeoff. As I sat staring back at the Denver international airport, I prayed that the person sitting next to me was not a snorer. This was the first time I had traveled outside the country on my own, so I was a bit nervous. Growing up, I had always been accompanied by my family when we went on vacation. Bu this was my vacation, so that emotional support was only going to be available 7 or 8 hours behind where I was going. Fortunately for me, all that traveling throughout my life had made me an experienced airport navigator, so I brushed those worrisome feelings aside. Still though, because I had never grown up in a large city, the idea of being dropped in Paris was scary. There was no turning back now…