This past weekend Tina and I went to Paris via the Eurostar (a high speed train that starts from Waterloo station in London then goes underneath the English Channel then into France and eventually to le Gare du Nord train station in Paris) to see the sights and to finally meet my friend Derrick from Taiwan face-to-face that I met over the internet almost 4 years ago.
The trip started off with our departure from Waterloo station at 7:23 AM. After several experiences with the Tube (the London Subway System) Tina and I are finally starting to get used to the idea of underground travel by train with lots of other people (it isn’t an easy thing to get used to for kids from the country). We took the Tube (the subway) to Waterloo and found our train just fine.
We arrived in Paris at around 11:45 (Paris Time, which is 1 hour ahead of London time) and met Derrick immediately. We recognized each other right away, exchanged greetings and went about purchasing our 3 day Metro pass for the Paris underground.
Speaking of which, Paris has an immense underground system. It was our principle mode of travel while in Paris, as we used it to go literally everywhere.
The first night there we went to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc of Triumph, and a few other things that I have pictures of, but cannot quite remember at the moment 🙂
We also went with Derrick to his Piano lesson. There were two other students who also had thier lessons that day; the level of expertise in that room was unbelievable. I have never seen so much talent in one room. To experience something like that in person is quite an experience, and quite impressive. One of them played Debussy’s Claire de Lune, Derrick played Ravel’s Ondine, and the other student played another piece that I wasn’t sure about.
The instructor was a strikingly direct French woman that I would guess was in her 60’s. She too played exceedingly well, with a finesse and mastery of the piano that the sight of her small, wrinkled hands betrayed. She was, in a word, abrupt – but quite good.
Derrick took us to see “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks in one of the only theatres that shows films in their original version with French subtitles. The movie was good, although it does make one a bit scared to fly over the ocean. The end of the movie is set in an open field with the wind blowing over the grass – a scene which gave me a twinge of homesickness.
We also went to see Louis XIV’s Palace at Versailles – an unbelievable display of the power of an undisputed monarchy. The Hall of Mirrors was quite impressive as were the gardens behind the palace. On the way there we met a fellow student traveller from Chile named Franco and continued through the entire trip to Versailles with him.
Once again, Tina and I were exposed to an environment where we didn’t speak the language, and once again introduced to the feeling of being a foreigner. It is quite unnerving to be stared at on the Metro when you open your mouth to speak. It is a feeling that forces one to reconsider how one treats someone in their native country who speaks with a strong accent, or another language entirely.
On Sunday, we were very close to missing our train back, and had to run like mad to get to the Eurostar terminal before it left.
Overall, the trip was great. Derrick is a wonderful host, and a great friend. We saw more in Paris in two days than most people see in a week, a lot of which I have neglected to mention here, but I will have photos to show you all later.