I woke around 8 went downstairs for the free breakfast of bread and jam and tried to book another room at the hostel. They were all booked. I spoke with Lolita through facebook and she offered to host me at her place for the night. I moved my stuff over to her place and went to Cite, a small island in the center of Paris home to Notre Dame. While the line for Notre Dame was long, it moved quickly and I soon found myself inside marveling at its Gothic magnificence. I spent a little bit of time inside taking pictures and listening to Rick Steve’s audio guide before meeting Kiana, Andrew, and Flo, our former exchange student, at Saint Michael’s fountain.
I got to the fountain before everyone else and caught the first bit of an English walking tour starting in front of the fountain. The fountain depicts St. Michael fighting the devil. It was neat. After everyone arrived we went to a nearby restaurant to catch up. Flo had come to Florida about a year ago and lived with my parents for about a month. She and I hit it off and spent a lot of time together going to Boyd Hill, Ft. Desoto, and everything else I could think to do in St. Petersburg. Having the roles reversed was fun as well, I just wish she’d had more time to hang out than just lunch, but alas, she had exams coming up for nursing school.
Lunch was good, Kiana and I had a 3-course lunch for 10 euro each. Flo and Andrew had a traditional French meal similar to fondue. The waiter brings out a hot plate and you melt cheese in little trays over the hot plate then pour the cheese over a dish of potatoes, salami, and other meats. Lunch went by way too fast and soon enough it was time to say goodbye to Kiana, Andrew, and Flo. Kiana and Andrew had to catch a flight to Prague, then Amsterdam, then home, and Flo had to go home and study.
At last, my solo Europe trip was beginning. Now what? I did a short walking tour of Paris with Rick Steve’s podcast, going through the Nazi Deportation Memorial, back past Saint Michael’s Fountain, through the Latin quarter, and finishing by the Shakespeare bookstore, one of my favorite places in Paris. The bookstore is filled floor-to-ceiling with books, covering every flat surface in the little shop, that looked like it predated the United States. The shop was filled with rare books, first editions, and intellectual expats perusing the selection of books with a discerning eye.
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After leaving the shop, I hopped on the metro and went to the Eiffel Tower. With a student discount, it was less than 4 euros to walk to the second floor. I thought why not. One heck of a long hike later, I was on the second of three stories in the Eiffel Tower looking out over Paris. I spent about an hour up here photographing the sights and building a Panorama of Paris. Pics to follow.
We had plans to meet at 9:50 at the hotel she worked at so I headed over there to meet her. I got there a little ahead of schedule and waited in the Irish bar next door. Lolita stopped in 10 minutes later and we took the metro back to her place, where she lived with her brother, Leo. Lolita’s mom came over that night and cooked a delicious chicken and rice meal for all of us. Lolita’s family was so nice and I felt at home enjoying a family meal with them, making jokes, and talking about life in Paris. Leo and I found ourselves talking about fixies and Adultswim, and I realized the world was even smaller than I had imagined.
After dinner, Lolita’s friend, Alexiane, or Alex, came over. We’d met two nights before at the pub crawl but it was a brief meeting. The three of us went to a bar across the street from my first hostel, The Peace and Love Hostel, and drank beer overlooking the canal. Alex and Lolita had beers with grenadine, which I’m told is common for women in Paris to drink. It wasn’t too bad, but not my style. By the time we left the bar, the metro was no longer running and we had to walk back to Lolita’s place.
The three of us sat in Lolita’s kitchen eating bread and cheese and drinking tea while Lolita and Alex taught me how to swear in French. At the end of the night, I slept on the futon on the ground, Alex on the couch, and Lolita in her room. For my first night of solo travel, things were looking pretty good.