We’ve been here for a little under two weeks and everyday has been the best day. I didn’t think that was possible but it is in this city. My tourist veneer is starting to wear away revealing a more composed less culturally shocked resident, if only for four more weeks. Recently as I was walking back to the pension, a group of students came up to me in search of the Pantheon. This was the perfect opportunity to test out how much of a resident I actually was, they didn’t have a map and neither did I. After several hand gestures and some Frenglish, they were on their way. The Pantheon was a 15 minute walk from where they saw me however I’m horrible with directions. Some might call it chronic. As it turns out, I gave them the right directions. What followed was a pat on the back and a permanent grin, I might’ve looked like a psycho but I was happy. The gratitude that they showed me for helping them for five minutes made my day, ultimately it was me who was grateful to them for the experience.
I rode that wave of happiness for the entire week. I was more than eager to see how the weekend would play out. A few people from the program as well as a housemate and new-found friend from the UK decided to go to the Eiffel Tower. It was my first time going there since I’d been here. They say it’s not polite to stare but when you’re standing in front of something you never thought you’d see, especially not this soon, you can’t help it. I must’ve stared at the tower for 10 minutes straight. I couldn’t stop myself, I was in awe. Every time I looked away, I was drawn back, I had no expectations for what I thought it would look like close up. The shape was a given because who doesn’t know how the Eiffel Tower’s shaped? But the color and gigantic size of it took me by surprise. It’s a brownish/copper color, who knew? For some reason I had always thought it was either black or silverish — wrong! The size, enormous doesn’t begin to cover it. The pragmatic aspects of the area such as a no alcohol rule that absolutely no one follows, or the guys who go around selling cigarettes, beer, and champagne were pretty interesting to me. It’s very clear that the locals and tourists come by the thousands to Champs De Mars to unwind and take in the atmosphere, the no drinking signs that are all over the place are pretty much there for show. As far as I could tell no one was causing any trouble so everybody won that night. We laughed together, picnicked and had some great wine, I could only hope that the next day’s excursion would be a nice continuation to an already great weekend.
After about three hours of sleep, I found myself on a familiar coach bus. The end destination was Chartres. Other than the fact that we would soon get a guided tour of the Chartres Cathedral by a man named Malcolm Miller, I knew nothing about the city but I was ready to see it all. Mr. Miller was a cool man, he probably knew more about the Cathedral than anybody else in the world. He caught us all off guard when he casually mentioned that he’d given the same tour to President Nixon and Yo-Yo Ma, we definitely lucked out on that one. Even though I was tired from the night before, that all went away when he went into great detail recounting the stories that the stained glass windows told. I couldn’t believe where I was sitting, a church that was built in the 12th century. I found myself wondering, “Is this real life?” Yup, it was and I was living it. During the last moments of his tour, I began to tear up. Even now I can’t explain it. Each thing I was seeing was more beautiful than the previous, I was consumed. That was the first time I was ever moved in that way and I’m grateful for having been part of it. Well, it seems like my uncontrollable emotions and I are due for a power nap, until next entry, so long friends!