domingo, 11 de dezembro de 2011

Travel log - Europe - Day 27

Day 27 - Paris, je t’aime

The next day I would finally have breakfast at the hotel. I was curious to do that because of what had happened the other time I had been there. If you don’t read Portuguese, to summarize, I was staying at HI Hostel Jules Ferry and there was a lady serving us during breakfast. However, she was not there only to serve. If you wanted to get another slice of bread, fine. One more? You can’t. You could take only one of everything, but if you didn’t like milk and wanted two glasses of juice, so sorry, you couldn’t. And she was so fierce-looking, barking-like talking. Here, at Cité des Sciences, there was no one to control what you wanted. There was just a lady to clean what you dirtied. After eating nicely in Finland, and even staying at hostels like the ones in Amsterdam (the other trip) and Berlin, the breakfast here could be considered weak. One type of cheese, butter and no ham or other things to make a nice sandwich. No cereal. I had to go to the supermarket and buy some other types of cheese to complement the breakfast. But knowing I could get some more of everything made it better than the other. Even though there are the other two HI hostels in Paris, I came to imagine it is a tradition not to have good breakfasts in those hostels.
So, I had few plans for Paris. In fact, I had almost none. Paris was Carol’s dream. I would have déja-vus and miss the summer which was not there. Well, I was there, sad, but it was Paris so I had to do something to enjoy those few days I had left there, in the city of light.
I had some missions and although they were small tasks, I would put all my efforts into trying to find what people had asked me. My friend Sinead wanted some books. My friend Manoel some cosmetic products. Also, I had to buy the game I hadn’t found in Salzburg to take to my mother. So, I understood I was going to spend at least one day walking around visiting many types of stores and taking advantage of whatever I could find on the way.
My number one activity was to walk along the Seine and find a Fnac store. There, I would be able to find the imported books Sinead had asked and also buy the tickets to a museum where, as I had seen in an ad, they were having a science fiction exhibition.

As I was walking there, I decided to look for other bookstores. I ended up getting to the Louvre. I wanted to see the pyramids and the fountains again so I entered the arches. I was curious because my last memories of them were a beautiful sunny place where we (Edgard and I) were able to get some rest after hours of walking and even put our feet in the water. But what I found in that cold and grey day was a deserted fountain.

People were not even sitting on its edges. When I was getting there, there were some Black men approaching people and asking for something. One of them came to talk to me and told me they were raising funds to help some people in Angola. I told them I was Brazilian and he called the others and told them I was a Brazilian brother. I should sign the petition they were holding. I thought, well, only signing a petition? Why not? So I signed and he told me if I signed I should contribute with 10 euros. Was it a scam? I had no way of telling. He was being nice but a little pushy. So I got a 5-euro bill and told him it was all I got, or if they took credit card.
After this I went to one of my favorite spots in the universe: the gardens of Louvre. It was funny to notice how the green I had known there was not that green anymore. People were all in coats walking, few families and almost no one having picnics. This made me feel much more nostalgic toward being in Europe in the summer and not in the winter. Every detail would ensure me I was a person of the sun.
I was getting hungry and I decided to have lunch in the park. I sat on a bench and got my lunch: cheese, dried nuts and juice. Very healthy (sarcastic mode ON). I would look at the people walking and I tried to cheer up, after all, it was Paris. However, from time to time I could not help feeling a bit like this guy who was there with me on the gardens:

Anyway, I resumed my journey to find all the things I wanted to find. I walked in several small bookstores and there was no one I could ask about the books. So I had to look for them myself and I wanted to buy several books I saw, but I thought I would have no time to read them, so why bother? This kind of feeling is always present when I have too many books to read at home and the perspective of increasing the pile is so gloomy that it discourages me of buying any book.
What I got from these bookstores was that in some I activated the alarm on the door. I was not shoplifting, so I had no idea why that was happening.
I saw a supermarket and I decided to enter to get something to eat at dinner time. No restaurant was appealing, I would therefore buy some ingredients and cook myself some dish at the hostel. At that supermarket I saw something quite different from any other supermarket I had been in Europe. The vegetable section was organized according to what I was used to, but in every stall there was the name of the fruit or vegetable, plus the price and the country of origin. It was so funny because almost nothing was from France and showing the origin was so against the logic of the commodity which tries to naturalize itself while erasing its origin. (I know I sound like Vanessa Redgrave in the wonderful movie The Fever)
When I got to the FNAC store, I still couldn’t find someone to help with the books and the moment I did, no way, they didn’t have the books. So I gave up and tried buying the ticket to the museum and getting some information about it. When I was leaving the store, the door alarms went off and a security guy came to me and asked to see my things. He tried my bag, but it didn’t set off the alarm, asked me to go again and the alarms. He asked me to open my jacket and there was nothing there but he saw there was a label and he squeezed the label with his fingers. It was a sensor. They had not taken it in Brazil when Carol bought it (and God knows how she didn’t make the alarm go off there). I would not be Mr Beep Beep anymore.
Then, my next destination would be a drugstore in Paris which was recommended by my friend Manoel. He had asked me to buy some products for him there and it was easy because he had given me the address. I took the subway to go to a part of Paris which I hadn’t been to before. The streets were narrow and the houses seemed very fancy. As I got to the corner of the street, looking for the address, I was shocked. It was almost impossible to enter the drugstore, it was crowded. A lot of women and some men, baskets in hand getting everything for very attractive prices indeed. I started trying to move there but the aisles were so narrow and it was very difficult to get by. I started looking for the products and spent a long time looking for one which I thought was a soap bar, but was a liquid one. I figured it out only when I was almost leaving the place without getting it half an hour later. But I thought I would hate not being able to get what I had gone there for. Leaving that place was a relief, people pushing, saying Excusez-moi, all that.
It was getting dark but I still had more things to find. Do you remember the game I had played in Salzburg? The one with insects and all? I wanted to take one as a gift to my mother. I should have looked for it in Finland, but I was sure Paris would have dozens of toy stores and in one of them I would find that. Well, I discovered there was kind of gallery in Paris only with toy stores, a kind of paradise to kids. How could I not find what I was looking for at that place? They even had a Hello Kitty Store.

Well, there I went, asked for, in one, two, five stores and nothing. I had no idea how to say Hive in French, no one knew what Hive was and even the names of the animals. I just remembered butterfly but there was no butterfly in the game. I learned how to say bee, ants and all, but they never had the game. I tried other stores, outside the gallery, but no luck there either. So, the score of the day had been the products on the drugstore and that was that. Nothing else. So I should go back to the hostel and prepare a salad. I had bought all the ingredients and I was sure it would be a great dinner.
I was tired from walking all day long so the first thing I wanted to do was to take a shower. I got all my stuff and went to the bathroom. There were two stalls with showers and none of them were in use. I tried the first, only cold water. Well, wait a minute and it will warm up. Nothing. Try turning the lever to the other side. Nothing. Cold and even colder. There must be a secret. I put one the clothes again and ask downstairs. Well, they said, the guy was here to fix and everything is fine, you should try the other stall. I went back, tried the second stall and the same, no way. I thought I deserved better, talked to the woman on the reception, she said they would call the guy again but he would only come in the morning. No problem, let’s pretend I took a shower and be happy.
I went downstairs to try some contact with people in Brazil and to prepare dinner. I prepared a salad which, by the quantity, three people could eat. I was alone. No one else was having dinner and I offered the nice lady who worked there some, but she politely said she had already had dinner. Then, I got to the common room, some tables away from the kitchen, and while I was there an excursion of people, around 30, all speaking Spanish and in their early middle-age arrived. It was an alavanche of laughter, people babbling, shouting orders to each other. Nothing resembling the peace and quiet I had been immersed in 20 minutes before, during dinner.
One of the ladies in the party came to talk to me because there were no plugs available and she wanted to charge her camera in my USB door. We started talking in Spanish, and I was also talking to my sister in Portuguese and there was some background music in French. I stopped talking to my sister because I was already mixing up every language. The woman was a French teacher and she said my Spanish was good. We became friends, though I gave her my facebook contact but she never added me. They were from Costa Rica, and she even invited me to visit the country and stay at her house, but as we never developed this friendship of ours, I guess I will depend on Couchsurfing if I ever go there.
So, after such a frustrating day, I imagined nothing worse could happen. I went to the room and my “roommate” was there. I was in my friendly mood and tried establishing a conversation. he told me he had to do a work for the next day so he could not give me a lot of attention. He was sleeping down on the bunker so was I, but soon after I arrived he went to the upper one next to the one I was (there were two bunkers in the room). Our linguistic barriers were not as serious as they had been on the first night, I guess my French was improving after some time and he was more open to talking in English as well. I let him be but I heard he was not typing anything. In fact, I was only listening to the mouse clicks. As I looked at him because the light was on his left, projecting his shadow on the wall, I realized he was not really doing his journalist job for the next day but was in fact in the middle of a hand job. I started paying attention to the noises and I was sure he was. I didn’t know what to do. I asked him if he was okay. I guess then he realized. So I just turned to the side, trying to pretend nothing was going on and slept.

2 comentários:

  1. A perfect place for vacation with family and friends especially this coming holiday season, Christmas!

    Pousada Do Rio Quente

  2. Funny that you should mention that petition scam.. I fell for the same thing in Strasbourg; but once I was able to put the pen on the paper I realized that what it was about. The Arab children wanted money to support arab immigrants with disabilities, but then the children that were doing the petition should have been in school. It was then that the puzzle pieces fell together, and after getting swarmed by 5 children yelling at me for walking away, I told them to fuck off and go to school. I then called the police, and they shooed them away off the campus.