Thursday, October 20, 2011

Au Revoir

Rodin Museum
I got up early this morning so I would have time to pack, see the Rodin Sculpture Garden, and make it to the airport on time for my 4:00 flight that afternoon. I checked out of the hostel and put my stuff in a storage locker before eating breakfast and heading out to the bikes to make my way to the Rodin Sculpture Garden. It was a longer ride than I had anticipated and it took me nearly an hour to get there. I finally arrived and was happy to see that the sculpture garden alone was only one euro. Because I only had about 1-1.5 hours to see it, I didn't think it made sense to pay the 7 or 8 euros it would have cost for access to the garden and the museum itself. It was a beautiful morning to be outside and I took my time winding my way through the gardens and looking at each of the beautiful sculptures that Rodin had created. Probably the two most famous within the garden were "The Thinker" and "The Gates of Hell." One of the things I have enjoyed most about Paris is getting to be up close to so many incredible works of art. I think seeing the work produced by anyone so talented is awe-inspiring whether that work be art or music or books or's amazing to see what humanity can be capable of when energy is channeled positively.

Rodin's "The Thinker"
I got done a little earlier than I needed to in order to make it back to the hostel in time to collect my things and head to the airport so I decided to bike back and enjoy one final ride through the city of Paris before leaving. The day was so beautiful. I love it when you visit a place and leave with a positive feeling that makes you want to return. Much better to leave a place wanting to return. The bike ride back to the hostel was lovely. I retrieved my bags from my rented locker, called Mom to let her know I was on my way to the airport to head back to Sweden, then made my way to the train. One good thing about leaving in the middle of the day is that the train wasn't too crowded for me to fit with my large backpack. I arrived at the airport uneventfully, checked in, and made my way to the gate to have some lunch before my flight. I found a café with a stack of daily newspapers in a number of languages for people to take and read while waiting for their flight or to read on the flight. It was a nice amenity. I enjoyed a salad and a glass of wine (appropriate to say goodbye with a glass of wine) and read while I waited for my flight. 

Rodin's "The Gates of Hell"
As I sat there, I thought about my time in Paris. I had a great time traveling by myself - I met so many new people and got to spend time exploring an amazing city. There are a lot of people in Paris that smoke. The cafés all have outdoor seating which is always nice to sit at, but unfortunately get overrun with smokers rather quickly. The insides of buildings are smoke free, but there is no rule for how far from a doorway people can smoke and I often found myself inhaling it second-hand. Speaking of cafés, one interesting thing about Paris is that food costs more if you sit down to eat it than if you take it to go - sometimes up to 1-2 euros difference in price. Since there is ample park seating pretty much anywhere in Paris, I often got my food to go and sat out at a park bench to eat my meal. Another thing about restaurants is that the tip is included in the stated price - the price you see is what you pay and you don't add any additional tip. I wondered at times if this was because the service was generally not what we would consider "good" in the USA - people in France definitely border on rude. The customer is not right generally and the mission is to get people in and out as fast as possible. I could see where that might get frustrating living there after a while, but to me as a week-long visitor, I couldn't help by think that it was oh, so very French. Additionally, France has implemented a 35-hr work week. This is really nice except for situations like Sunday when nothing was opened or the fact that the time that is listed for things closing means you need to be in there about 30 minutes before that. Think you can pick up one thing at the grocery store quickly ten minutes before closing time? Think again! The doors are locked and the security guard will not let you in. Too bad. Also, like a lot of people in the US (and apparently Britain as well), the French for the most part only know their native language. I think a second language is an optional part of studies. This made getting around more difficult since I knew very little French and the French I did know was pronounced poorly. I definitely want to spend some time working on my foreign would make life so much more enjoyable to not be limited to just English. 

St. Christopher's Hostel
Finally, a piece of practical information. I had some issues with credit cards while I was in Paris. They have converted almost exclusively to using cards with chips embedded in them. None of my credit cards have chips so I was unable to use my credit card for a lot of things including buying a ticket from the ticket stands at the metro stations. So, I resorted to pulling money out of an ATM quite frequently. Just be prepared if you are in Paris and if you, like me, don't have a credit card with a chip.

Overall, it was a great vacation and I learned a lot about Paris, traveling, myself. I highly recommend visiting the city if you haven't or re-visiting if you have. It is an incredible place to spend some time, and I will miss it.

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