Friday, September 6, 2013

The Great Adventure

Alternative Title, Or how I ended up sitting on the cold tile of the Charles de Gaul train station with my chocolate moose and an assortment of  cutlery. 

On September 2nd I said goodbye to my parents and embarked on a long journey ending on the sunny pavement of St. Etienne. My journey lead me through three different airports in two different countries, two train rides-- one more nerve-wrecking than the other but more on that later-- in a long voyage that led from Arkansas to France.

The LR airport was no big deal-- I had been there before, and being alone didn't make a great difference. When I finally boarded my first plane the excitement began to sink it-- I was really traveling halfway across the world for a semester of college.  The beauty of the shorter flights is a lower cruising altitude. The day was slightly overcast, some lazy clouds clinging close to the ground with a hazy patchwork ceiling of grey swatches. The plane broke through the ceiling suddenly, the deep blue of the uncovered sky literally made my mouth drop open as we brushed up against the living cathedrals that contrasted the deep blue with their shinning white. This is what the Greeks saw when they dreamed up Olympus, this beauty fit to be a playground of the gods. I glanced around the cabin and much to surprise only found one person causally glancing out the window, the rest had closed their windows to the beauty.

The best time to view clouds is during take off and landing, as it is when you really interact with them. However, as electronic devices are forbidden during take off and landing, you will just have to take my word for how breath taking it was.

It didn't take long for us to reach Chicago and once there I found my gate without much difficulty. I had a couple hour layover but with Starbucks and free wifi, I couldn't complain. Once I finally boarded, we sat on the runway for an hour and a half due to a technical problem.

"Okay folks we're going take off soon, they seem to have fixed the problem" was the reassuring words that made me think that there was nothing wrong with a little longer delay, if it meant that they could fix the problem with more certainty.  Enter, the most miserable flight of my life. Let's not talk about that.

Seven-ish hours later, we pulled into Charles de Gaul in Paris, France! The technical delay meant that now I had two hours to go through customs, get my luggage, find the train station in the airport, and figure out where my train would be. I had never really taken a train, and especially by myself.

Time proved not to be an issue, as I reached the train station with plenty of time. There was a copious amount of people and only a few seating areas. After ascertaining that my gate would appear on the big screen fifteen minutes before it left, I did what others were doing and plopped down on the cool floor, my luggage scattered around me. I was exhausted, still sick, lonely, slightly confused, and irrationally annoyed with traveling. My phone was dying, but there were no outlets in sight. The only way I could charge it appeared to be a little station. Now if I were at Hendrix, lounging on a couch musing about technology, a station in an air port where you had to ride a stationary bike to charge your electronic device would sound like a cool, novel idea. Sprawled out on the floor, exhausted in the train station, it sounded like the stupidest idea I had ever heard of.

My train did appear on the screen and I made my way to the gate. I tried to double check the train number in the bright sun and it seemed to match my ticket. A train zoomed up beside me and I clambered on. After shoving my luggage in the over stuffed area for luggage I looked for my seat. After I had to kick someone out of my seat, and explain in poor French to the ladies behind me that it really was my seat, I sat down and tried to relax. Jaunting through the French countryside sounds wonderfully romantic but it was a bit lonely and intimidating. There was a group of kids my age to my left who refused to get up when some chick pointed out they were in her seats; the old people in my group didn't bother to look at me. About an hour into the trip it hit me that I had no way of knowing if I had gotten on the right train. They didn't check my ticket, and there was no screen that announced the destination. I could be speeding off to the middle of nowhere with no phone and no clue what to do. I was still pondering how I would ask for help in French when a voice announced that we were approaching Lyon. Thanking the good Lord that I was indeed on the right train, I manhandled my luggage off the train.

My train was much nicer-- brighter, less crowded, and there was a little screen that showed exactly what the next station was and when we would arrive. Graciously, the ISEP coordinator picked me up at the train station along with my friend Michelle who arrived on a different train from Paris.

Long, slightly stressful journey short, I made it. What did I learn? That while there are some people who love jetting off to foreign destinations by themselves, I am definitely not one of them.

When we arrived in St. Etienne the ISEP lady took us to our dorm. You get your own room and bathroom, and there is a small communal kitchen on each level.

My view!

My room is small, but nice. I was really happy to see that I had a microwave and mini fridge in my room. I can't really explain how small my bathroom is-- picture an air plane bathroom, and then add a shower. Without adding more room. And that's about the size of my bathroom.

It's pretty small, but it works.

So this is the second time writing this post, and the first attempt somehow did not save D: I will post later about discovering St. Etienne and the (hectic) start of school!

Thanks for reading :)

1 comment:

  1. So glad you have arrived safe and sound. I look forward to reading more of your adventures!! Love you, Sybil