After a stop in Italy, we arrived in Paris. At the airport we tried to find out how to buy train tickets from the airport to Gare du Nord. The signs were all incredibly confusing and it was frustrating. For some reason I thought it’d be easier because I knew the language. But there’s so much more to a culture than just its language and things I thought would be obvious took some time to find.We arrived at Gare du Nord and as soon as we stepped out side it was beautiful and warm and I couldn’t quit believe I was there. It was like stepping into a French film. I know it sounds cliché but it’s true. Once I overcame the initial shock of it all, reality set in and I realized I had no idea where to go from there. On my last trip abroad, everything was very clear cut. There was a bus that took us directly from the airport to the hotel and I didn’t have to plan ahead. So in my excitement and naivety, I didn’t plan anything past arriving at the train station. Luckily my friend, a more experienced traveller, brought maps and guidebooks and with the address from our reservation, we were able to find the hostel.

At the hostel we went in and checked in. Because I’d made the reservation online and paid the deposit with my credit card, I attempted to pay the rest of the balance with my credit card as well. However, credit cards were not accepted here and I hadn’t brought enough cash to pay for this. Fortunately the staff was very understanding and said we could pay them tomorrow.

After settling into our room, we went outside walking without coats. I couldn’t believe how warm it was compared to the weather in Russia at the time. We walked to the Eiffel Tower and saw it in all its glory. It was lit up blue with a ring of golden stars and didn’t fail to meet up to my expectations. Simply beautiful!

I was surprised though to find that there were a lot of tourists there. I’d expected that in the winter there wouldn’t be very many tourists. Granted it was the week of Christmas so it wasn’t just any ordinary time in winter. But if this is how many tourists there are in December, I can’t imagine coming during the summer.

The other thing I was very surprised by were all the people selling things on the street. They were everywhere and were incredibly pushy. They’d approach us, try to determine which language we spoke and then try to sell us a miniature Eiffel Tower or some other gadget. What was shocking to me was how persistent they were, even following you around, invading your personal space, even touching you. One man approached me with roses and wouldn’t leave even though we ignored him. At one point he put his arm around me and said, “you’re beautiful” as he tried to persuade me to buy the flower. That is something I’d never experienced, not in London, St. Petersburg, Moscow or even New York City. And so the adventure begins.


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