A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vacation from the vacation

It’s all a little overwhelming. I thought the worst part was planning things before we left but there were a zillion details undone. On purpose actually. So that we could go with the flow and see where our instincts and hearts took us. But there’s still a lot of pressure, its not exactly like lackadaisical wandering. Our whole lives have become almost routine amidst the chaos. Every couple days we are in a new city, we need to figure out how we get there, where to find a room, what is the new currency, how to speak a new language.

And then this blog and the flickr photos adds another layer of “things to do”, although I am enjoying writing and sharing immensely, it is always way behind our trip and that nags at me in odd hours of the morning when I should be sound asleep.

Not to mention the daily chores of securing water and food, washing clothes in the sink, organizing and packing the packs. And then don’t forget why you are there in the first place - there are things to see, places to visit, and hours of jostling with other tourists for the photo of that famous whatchamacallit. Ron has made a sport of taking pictures of tourists taking pictures. Of course, there is down-time after all that, but I find I just want to read or sleep in the lulls of the day.

Travel days are the worst, the most stressful and most tiring as you lug your stuff from one city to the next on trains, planes, and automobiles - always hoping you are in one piece at the end of the day with a roof over your head.

The fast pace of our travels is really draining, but we knew we were in for a whirlwind tour in Europe. The high costs of everything require us to go quickly and see what we can in a span of a couple months so we can get to the promised land of an undeveloped country with cheap costs. But we need to slow down a bit and take a vacation from the trip. A short breath to reflect on everything, reorganize, and rejuvenate. What better place to spend two weeks than Paris?! It was good ole craiglist to the rescue where we found a perfect apartment to rent.

Rented out by a super cool guy and film student named Martin, it was actually his apartment but he was taking some time off this summer to travel to Spain. Our dates matched up and it was an instant deal. In the 10th arrondissement, or black ghetto of Paris, where Francophile ex-pats from Nigeria, Senegal, and Cameroon talk excitedly (and loudly) on the street corners. There must be more hair salons in this district per capita than cafes, and a fight broke out at one outside our window the first day we arrived. It got pretty heated between two women, must have been a hair weave gone wrong or a man who done them wrong. Not much else could get women to brawl like that.

There was also an art gallery across the street that had a show Paris Tragique with artists armed with cans of spray paint creating graffiti art for the young Parisian crowd sipping wine out of plastic cups.

Behind a faded green door, it was a small 1 bedroom flat up three flights of creaky worn wooden stairs, and was our little cozy and humble home in Paris.

Complete with a fantastic dvd collection (lovingly stocked by a real film buff) we watched classic movies everyday for two weeks like Down by Law, Duel, Full Metal Jacket, Cabaret, Rumble Fish, and Lost Silver.

The only complaint, and believe me it was almost a deal breaker, was the fact the internet went out the day before we showed up. I was so looking forward to waking up with coffee and getting online to research things, skyping our families, and finally catching up with this blog. Martin was nice enough to drop the price a little and it did start working again, but only a day or two before we left. Oh well. C’est la vie. I’ll catch up someday…

The neighborhood we stayed in was colorful, not in a scary way, but definitely not a tourist district. A street over was Brady passage, a miniature India, with the mesmerizing smell of cooking curry, and great 5 euro daily specials (or plats du jour). There was also a KFC on a nearby corner, and I hate to admit it but we bought 2 buckets of chicken while we were there, and nearly a third one evening when we came back exhausted from sight seeing. Ok there’s really no excuse, it’s finger lickin good and I can’t resist it, so why try?

Another absolute fixture of our daily life in Paris was the local Lidl, a discount grocery store where you can get champagne for cheaper than water (only 1.09 euro!), so cheap Ron and I felt compelled to drink a bottle (almost everyday) with our home cooked meals. We stocked up on groceries and cooked eggs for breakfast, made salami and brie sandwiches for lunch, and spicy sausage, cheesy potatoes, and green beans for dinner.

They charge you a quarter per grocery bag, a great ploy to encourage recycling, and then expect you to sack your own groceries. And quickly! The line won’t wait for you so hurry up you dumb American.


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