Posts Tagged With: Trains

Paris: Day One

Arriving in Paris I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t as in awe as I probably would have been due to lack of sleep, heavy backpacks, and a little bit of nausea. We got off the plane, made our way to the bus that we rode nearly two hours to the train station, and then we purchased ticket to Versailles and took a nice long train ride to the beautiful palace of Versailles. We got there, bought our tickets, and then realized that there was a three hour cue just to get INTO the palace, and promptly decided that there were not enough hours in the day to do that. We found two woman about our age, handed them our tickets and found our way back to the train station to head to the centre of Paris.

By the time we got there I was going back and forth between nausea and starvation, dehydration, and just general exhaustion. Our goal was mainly to find food, and then forget all of plans for museums and wandering and take a nap as soon as possible. That being the case, and the fact that it was Sunday, we found nothing open that was even remotely close to our price range, so we settled for something not horribly expensive and just tried not to think about the cost too much. Then we finished our meal, found a metro station, and checked into our hostel as soon as we could, which was the best decision we could have made because two hours later when we left  to meet our friends we were much happier and ready to experience Paris.

Night time in paris is really the most wonderful thing. It isn’t called the City of Lights for nothing. It is actually amazing to me how beautiful twilight in Paris could be. Two of our good friends also happened to be in Paris for a few days, and also happened to be newly engaged which just made seeing them for the first time in months even more fun. we met them under the eiffel tower which I stood in front of and pictures like the tourist I am with no shame. It was actually a lovely movie moment. Best friend and I saw them across the square and we ran to each other and hugged, and exclaimed, and oohed and awed over the ring. Then we took a picture, and went in search of a Parisian cafe to spend more Euro in.

We settled on this lovely little cafe and a table for four outside, luckily under a heater because as gorgeous fall in paris is, it is also awfully cold. We ate onion soup and creme brulee, and had a wonderful time catching up and continually freaking out over the fact that we were together. In Paris.

When we parted that night and went back to our hostel to catch some sleep, I already knew I was going to love Paris, if only for the food.

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Sitges, Land of Golden Mermaids and Empty Beaches

In between our morning at the Picasso museum and the Gothic Quarter, (Which you can read about HERE) we took a train ride up to Sitges Spain to spend the rainy afternoon on the beaches there.

Sitges is my favorite place that I’ve been so far in Spain. The first time I went we got down to the beach and it was practically empty. There were maybe five people scattered up and down the sand. It was a warm day and the water was pleasant. It was so still you float on the top with no worry of having waves crashed on top of you. It was the perfect beach, a nice change from the drunk college tourist filled beaches of Barcelona. Though they were equally beautiful, there is just something about sitting on a beach with no one but your family and just soaking it all in.

The second time I went was last week with Best Friend. We had gotten to Barcelona and realized that everything was expensive and there wasn’t much to do, so we decided we would go see Picasso, and then hop the next train to Sitges. unfortunately it was rainy that day, but that didn’t deter us in the least. we figured if we can’t swim we can at least go to the beach and see the water. So we get to the main station in Barcelona, Sants and we scoured the train time tables until we finally found one going to Sitges. We got downstairs (I should mention that we used one T-ten for each of us on this trip and it only ran out on our last ride to the airport so buy one, it’s so much cheaper) and we wait for the train and we get on.

The ride was pretty uneventful and about thirty minutes long so we just chatted and looked at the scenery which, as in most places around the city, was mostly farm land. But then, suddenly, we catch a glimpse of the ocean and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I don’t know quite why this stormy ocean landscape took our breath away like it did, but truly it was a sight to see.

We get off the train at Sitges and to be honest I have no idea where we are. When I cam last we came by bus and were let up closer to the center of the city where as the train is more on the seaside end of things. I am glad that that is where we ended up though because being in tis part of town just solidified my love for Sitges.

As you walk through the streets every alleyway is like the gothic quarter just old and beautiful. Most of the shops are little organic cafes or hipster coffee shops, and everything has an air of laid back contentedness. All you need to do to get to the beach is follow the signs and walk downhill and eventually you’ll see a little blue through the buildings and trees ahead of you.

When we got down to the beach there were maybe three people standing on it. The storm had made the water rough and choppy so no one was in it but a few children played along the edge. we turned to our left and there is this giant church on a hill overlooking the ocean so we think, why not? We walk over a set of stairs that lead to a platform that has a sculpture of a mermaid and a great view of the coastline. The waves are so rough that they are actually breaking onto the platform where we are standing, it was gorgeous. We walked up another set of stars and found ourselves face to face with this old seaside church, which turns out to be Church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla, better known as “La Punta” (according to wikitravel). In any event it was beautiful and the vie can’t be beat.

We walked a little further down more little streets until we found ourselves back on the beach. We took pictures, and stood in the waves, and finally we just sat down right in the sand and watched the waves crash upon the shore. It wasn’t super eventful day, but it was a beautiful on and I think Best Friend would agree that when we’re together and seeing new things, it doesn’t really matter if we’re partying all night long, or just sitting on a cold beach. It’s all about the adventures that we get to have together, and about getting to look at each other’s kids some day and say “This one time when me and your mom were in Spain…”

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The Great Postage Stamp Journey

Germany doesn’t actually have postage stamps. It’s not like America where I can just go to the grocery store and buy a book of stamps…actually it might be exactly like that, but since I speak little to no German it’s not like that at all. They do, however have postage stamp dispensing machines, but they only take Euro coins and they are a dime a dozen in Frankfurt. Unless you know exactly where to look you’re out of luck. I have 15 postcards I need to send at some point, and  I have been trying to find stamps since we got here. Today I finally decided I was going to find some if it killed me, so I set out this afternoon prepared for anything. I first looked up where the closest dispenser was to me. I took the U one stop, walked to the bus stop, took the 35 one stop in the wrong direction, then walked about five minutes to find one going the right direction, then took that 35 five stops. Then I walked to where it should have been, and there was no postage to be found. So I had two options, I could give up and go home and sit in my hot apartment, or I could go across town to where I know I had seen one two weeks ago when we went out for dinner. I decided what the heck? I had nothing better to do anyway. So I hopped on the U and went six stops to the Hauptwache, then one stop to Konstablewache, then three stops to the Hauptbahnhof, where I got on the 16 bus and went five or six stops to where I knew there was a machine right across from the bus stop. I finally found it, and then discovered that I had enough Euro coins to buy exactly six stamps. So I did, and then bought myself a cheap lunch to celebrate my success. Then I took the U back to the Hauptwache, one stop back to Konstablewache, and then the 18 the two stops back to my apartment. In total this adventure took me almost three hours, and all I have to show for it is a full belly and six stamps. Please, no applause.

The one thing that did come out of this day (other than my stamps obviously) is that when I ordered lunch, I managed to get through an entire interaction without having to ask the man to speak in English, or speaking in English myself. Granted, there were times when I didn’t know exactly what he said, but I could infer enough to get through the conversation. It made me feel really great to be honest, to be able to interact, in German with someone. Because here is the thing, when you love to travel, and you love other cultures as much as I do, you want to immerse yourself as deeply as possible in each one you encounter. I don’t want to force Germans to speak English to me just because I’m too lazy or slow to pick up their language. I want to respect their home and try to adapt to it as much as possible.

Honestly I wish my whole life could be like this. Just blogging, and reading, and traveling, and filming. Maybe it will be someday.

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A Romantic Interlude

There are a lot of people writing about the romance of Paris, and London, and Rome, but there are few people writing about the romance of Frankfurt, Germany, so if you’ll allow me, I would like to take a moment and step into that gap.

Frankfurt is a big city with all the charms of a small village. Life starts at 6am, when I can hear the bicycles and cars rushing past my window. Which I leave open because it is August and heat rises, so you can imagine, being four stories up, that I am kept nice and warm in the heat wave they call summer. The commuters of Frankfurt start the day, probably with a pastry, which can be found in any of the hundreds of bakeries on every corner, definitely with a cup of coffee, and perhaps even with a beer depending on how seriously they live by the, “5 o’clock somewhere” rule. The buses begin to fill with people on their way to work, or school, or just to run errands. Perhaps they are off to the market in Konstablewache square that brings fresh produce, flowers, and Bratwurst each Thursday. Perhaps they are going to the river to stroll by the water, or sit with a friend and talk in the cool of the early morning.

As the day progresses, and the sun gets higher in the sky, hundreds of people walk the streets, or ride down them in search of french fries, or curry, or more bread which seems to be a main staple here. They may take a stroll along the lock bridge where hundreds of locks with the names of hundreds of lovers are hanging from it’s metal siding. Or they may take their lunch to the old part of town and eat surrounded by buildings that could only be found in fairytales of old, inhabited by child eating witches, and little pigs.They pass the fountain with the lions heads, and the statue of David atop the severed limbs of Goliath. They meet each other, (one is always running into people they know on the streets of Frankfurt) and they stop to chat, seemly forgetting where they were headed in the first place, as if they had always full intended to meet this person and have this conversation.

After a long day the people pile back into the trains on their way back to their families. Or to Friedburger Platz where on Friday people gather with their friends, beers, and cigarettes, to sit, stand, and lean until someone finally says enough and goes home. Or maybe to the street lined with cafes filled with people drinking wine, where on the corner there is an ice cream shop that people travel from all around the city to eat Mango Sorbet and laugh at some joke I’m, unfortunately, too American to understand. As the sun begins to set, I sit in my windowsill and listen to the bells that ring out and seem to hover on the still, hot air like an angelic chorus. And finally by 10pm the sun has gone to bed and the stars have taken its place. The people have retired tot heir homes and just one or two stragglers wander the streets on their way to their own little flats on their own little streets.

I live with the awareness that I have never been to Paris, or London, or Rome, but that I do live in Frankfurt, if only for a little while, and it seems so wonderful I can’t imagine a place I could possible like better.

I began to feel a bit sad today when I thought of all my friends starting school again without me. And I’ll admit it does hurt a little bit every time I see a post about term starting up in a few weeks. Although it doesn’t hurt as much as the posts from old flames about new girls while I sit alone in my apartment and watch Netflix. And it’s not a real hurt, just a dull ache to think of my life back home and of time gone by. But then, as I began to pity myself I looked around. I realized that I am in Europe, living alone, serving the Kingdom, making new friends and new memories. Why on earth am I thinking about silly things like school starting up and old boes I don’t even have feelings for anymore? If I were there I would be wishing I was here, but I’m here and perfectly happy that I am. So the world can take its fall semesters and new romances and stuff it in a box. I will think about such things when I get home. I will start studying books when I stop studying architecture, history, and language. I will fall in love with a man when I stop falling in love with travel, and new friends, and God’s creation. And it will be a very long time before that happens. In the movie Sabrina one of the repeated lines is, “I found myself in Paris” well perhaps I am going through the process of “finding myself” in Frankfurt, if I believed in such a thing. I am becoming increasingly aware of my own independence, and more importantly of my own ability to thrive in such conditions. I no longer fear the unknown or the terrifying silence of being on my own. I embrace and welcome it as a chance to know myself better.

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How I Met the German Transit Authority

Two days in Germany and I already broke the law. There we were, midnight, filming a short skit between trains. A train had just arrived so we stopped filming and waited. I was on one side of the tracks, my colleagues on the other, when two transit authority officers stepped off the train on their side. They looked at them, they look across at me, and then slowly began to make their way to the end of the track to cross over to my side. Everyone tried to look busy, tried to look innocent, tried to look anywhere but directly at them. They approached me. “Was maschst du?” (which is actually a simplified version of what they said…not that I actually know) I’m smart enough to assume they asked me what I was doing so I told them we were filming a short student film. They asked if I spoke German I said no, they asked if my friends spoke German I said some. FINALLY one of my colleagues came over and talked to them. Apparently it is illegal, without permission, to film or photograph on transit property. So we packed up, while they watched, and finally they got on a train and left. No major trouble, but now we know! You live, you learn.

After, at about 1am two friends rode the train home with me. Frankfurt at night is very quite. There are one or two people out, but not many. Everywhere you go there is silence. It’s quite nice actually. I feel safer on the streets of Frankfurt than I ever have anywhere in the US. I could live in Frankfurt and be very happy.

My favorite part of the day is my morning commute to Konstablerwache, which is a central square in town. There is  Starbucks and loads of shops, and a huge mall, home to the world’s second longest elevator which I had the privilege of riding. I like my commute because it’s one time of the day that I don’t have to be an American. I don’t have to be just another tourist, because as long as I have my headphones in, I know which train to get on and off on, and I don’t speak, no one knows. It’s nice to just be a fake German commuter for twenty minutes every morning. At least until I order coffee an butcher every word.

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