Tuesday I arrived (late) in Paris. I had a fair amount of luggage, but every time I was having trouble, someone would stop and offer help (so much for the rude French!). A young man saw me struggling to carry my large shoulder bag, duffle bag, smaller checked bag, and monster rolling suitcase up the stairs into the Gare Montparnasse and came in off the street to carry it all up for me, and then went back down and out and on his way. I had no fewer than six men offering to carry bags for me who had no obligation or gain in doing so, including the man on the street, a businessman in a suit, a high school student, a teenager from the banlieus of Paris (you'll remember them from the burning cars on CNN), a train ticket inspector, and a reserved older man
. After some difficulty in finding my hotel (I didn't have the address or know the French word for telephone book) and finding Alec, everything could finally get started. I had lunch at a café at the train station while I was waiting for him, complete with a glass of wine, just like the French (and generally, a glass of wine costs the same or less than a soda or a bottle of water, depending of course on what kind you get). We took the Metro to Ile de la Cité and definitely took the long way around in getting to Notre Dame...it was definitely a bit of a walk, although very beautiful on the banks of the Seine. After all that walking, it was of course the perfect time to climb a tower with about 400 steps. Climbing the tower of Notre Dame was worth the two days of sore legs, though - the view alone would be enough, even if it weren't for the gargoyles and the big bell. Sadly, I forgot my camera in my hotel room that afternoon, so I had to use my camera phone to take pictures in the tower, and the pictures are pretty bad as far as quality goes. (Luckily, Alec took some that he is supposedly going to put on Facebook one day). Anyway, after that, we had a nice dinner sitting outside at a restaurant in the St. Germain des Pres area. We had a funny moment with the waiter when we noticed our check was way too large because we had been charged for 8 small bottles of wine rather than 1. I called him over and said. "Monsieur, huit boteilles de vin?" (Sir, eight bottles of wine?) He made this funny part-embarrassed, part-amused face and walked off to fix it, and when he came back with the new one, he ask us if we were very drunk yet. It was a good night, but I'm glad that I'm going to be in Nantes and not Paris - more of a human feel, and not at all touristy.
Next: Nantes, part 1
I haven't been able to update as soon as I would have liked, owing to not having the time to look for an Internet café in Paris, not having the time to update in the brief time I had WiFi when I got to Nantes, and not having Internet access during our four-day orientation in Bretagne. I'm going to play catch-up here for a bit.