Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 15, 2015 -- Paris, France

I made it to Paris today. I even managed to get some sleep last night, even though I wasn't sure that I would. There were four of us in the dorm room. One was a young Australian, who seemed pretty normal. The other two left something to be desired.

The weird was was a middle-aged Frenchman. I first noticed him in the lobby, because he was wearing a suit, which is strange attire for someone staying in a youth hostel. Then, to my shock, when I walked into the dorm room later, there he sat leafing through a book. When I write "leafing," I mean that he was furiously flipping the pages from front to back and then to the front again, only to repeat the procedure over and over. I tried to talk to him, but all I found out was that he was French and that he also spoke Spanish as a result of having lived in Buenos Aires.

I left the room, and when I returned later, he was arranging his possessions, which fit into to immense duffel bags. He also carefully arranged the objects on his bunk and then left. Here is a photo of what his bunk looked like after he had straightened everything up.

A roommate's bunk, the last night in Brussels

It was now time for me to shower and hit the hay, but I hadn't been in bed long before a new roommate arrived. This one turned out to be an Arab from Morocco in his mid 30s. I had a difficult time understanding his French, because he uttered phrases that didn't seem to hang together. He asked me four times how long I was staying, and each time he apparently forgot that he had already asked me that question. Then he mentioned that he had worked in Germany and spoke German, so we switched to that language. To make a long story short, I was able to piece together enough of his broken phrases, which he shouted out a a rapid pace, to understand that he was accusing the US government of have blown up the World Trade Center in order to have an excuse to invade Afghanistan. As he couldn't understand complex sentences in either German or French, I answered with one word: Unsinn! (nonsense). At that point I decided to break of the non-conversation, and rolled over to go to sleep.

Then the French guy returned at kept me awake for some time clearing his possessions off the bunk above me and then making his bed. After tossing and turning or doing something up there that had the bunk bed shaking violently, he finally settled down, and after that I had a good night's sleep.

I left this morning after breakfast, but the young Flemish woman working the front desk asked me where I was going. When I answered that I was about to walk to the train station, she told me that it was for too dangerous a walk in that strong wind and that I should take the bus. I agreed to take it, but walked out the front door and continued walking until I reached the train station. It was really windy, but some of us old people are not quite as frail as the younger people think.

I had an interesting seat companion on the train from Brussels to Paris: A young French woman who lived in Brussels and was on her way home to see her family on the outskirts of Paris. She had lived in the USA, so she spoke fairly good English. We discussed topics dear to my heart such as the history of the French-speaking Cajuns in Louisiana and the fact that neither La Floride (Florida) nor Las Vegas is located in Arizona. I also pointed out that Arizona is not on the Atlantic Coast.

Incidentally, the first ATM machine I walked up to in Paris was happy to take my ATM card and dispense euros. I don't know why none of the ATMs in Brussels would accept the card. I'm not too short on cash, but I wanted to stock up on Euros for my upcoming three-month summer trip to Europe. Maybe I should have waited. The euro may drop even lower before it starts gaining ground again. It's below $1.18 today compared to $1.42 years ago when I spent a semester studying in France.

I haven't gone out sightseeing yet. It's shortly before 3 p.m., and at precisely 3 p.m. I will be given the key to my room so that I can leave my suitcase and go out unencumbered.

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