"Europe 2004-05" story # 25

Paris, France           November 3, 2004

"I went down to Barcelona,
and I slept in a fountain." - Cracker ("Eurotrash Girl")

Okay. LATEST LOVE-LIFE LISTING: While in France, Elaine and I separated again as a couple - due to the complicated nature of our relationship. I don't think the whole story has been told yet ...

Four nights were spent in Paris. The City of Light. I and Elaine really liked the city a lot more at night than during the daytime.
     Many-laned, black streets carved through the city like cake-cuts. We joined other pedestrians - many of them romantic, enamored couples - in walking along with white, practically colorless, three-story apartment buildings. Light from street-lamps, restaurants of all kinds, and the un-crowded traffic sang to us to keep exploring. Many streets marched towards the grand dome of the Parisian military museum - where Napolean's tomb lies - whose golden gleam attracted us like Muslims to Mecca. And the sparkling stalk of the Eiffel Tower hung over the city like the Olympic torch.
     By day, the Arc de Trionf amazed us. The pale white of crushed stone dust, this hefty monument was delicately engraved with old-time army poses and tributes to unknown dead soldiers.
     The Cathedral of Notre Dame was made of white, stretching walls thin like cake icing; black, gothic shapes with sinister points; and gargoyles that looked cutely deadly.
     Beside the gushing, clay-gray River Seine, street merchants marketed their displays. We could look through: oil-painting replicas of Van Gogh or Monet or others; artistic postcards of Paris scenes or posing nudes; and old classic books in French.
     Elaine and I toured Paris's Catacombs. Sixty feet underground, tunnels were dug out in order to supply the city with building material. By the 19th Century, Paris was in danger of collapseing in on itself. Luckily, the city's cemeteries were simultaneously getting overbooked. The perfect solution came! They filled the tunnels with human bones. We walked through rooms heaped with brown skulls and rotting femurs. In this dark scene from a horror film, candles lit up morbid quotes on death. One of the French quotes was something like:

"You, you promise yourself you're going to have a long life,
"You can't even count on a single day."

The Catacombs freaked out Elaine.

We spent my 25th birthday in little Amboise, France. A puzzle-picture-perfect "chateau" (castle) stood with orange-and-red decorations upon its base of little leaping aqueducts. Below, the Loire River gurgled over stones with the pace of an old man.
     Thoughtful Elaine had insisted I not hitchhike on my birthday. She treated me to a rice-and-vegetables-and-curry dinner we made together. We sampled French wines in Amboise bars.
     Twenty-five years old, woo-oo woo-oo! Life and fresh breath are just bursting out of me! I'm a little piglet, ready to run! I'm a spring chicken!

Little, pudgy Sylvi was the first ride of my twenty-sixth year. This unemployed, forty-something lady drove me down village roads, past countryside "chateaus." Her favorite reason for liking her country was its "gastronomie" (food and drink). We only spoke French, and I was able to carry on conversations about many things. When I was unfamiliar with a word Sylvi spoke, she responded by trying to yell the word into my brain. That didn't help. But, by the third yell, I said I understood.
     Marie-Noelle was a fun ride. She and I had each had our birthdays the day before. This coincidence excited youthful-spirited Marie-Noelle, and she said we were meant to meet and learn from each other. She was forty-nine, but with a ton of French energy. She spoke a lot about being free; she was feeling better after having separated from her husband in January. In good English, she expressed that Elaine was lucky to have met a guy who would accompany her around the world.
     Salvadori, a truck-driver from Sicily, kept exclaiming, "Catzo!" when he saw women in the travel pictures I showed him. He told me I should stop my full-time traveling and go home to settle down with my Italian-blooded Elaine. Of course, advice on this matter was maybe not even relevant ...
     And at three p.m. in central France, truck-driver Cem agreed to carry me. Turkish Cem says people in Turkey have warmer hearts than people in Germany, the country he now lives in. He "pressed on!" valiantly, driving until three in the morning in order to get me to Barcelona.
     I carried my bags to an upscale hotel. I had friends to stay with in Barcelona, but I didn't want to call them until morning. I craftily planned to tell the hotel I wanted a room for the next night, then catch a few hours' sleep in the comfy lounge, and then walk out with a couple hotel candies in my pocket.
     The guy working said there were no vacancies. But, then, he showed me to a room. Very unofficially, he told me I could sleep there and catch a shower. But, he said - "very important!" - I had to be out by six a.m., or else his boss would find out and have his head. Sweet! I thought, a free brief rest. What crafty planning.
     Then, the guy said I had to slip him twenty Euro's. It was my first experience with Latin Europe's corruption.
     I found a bench outside a shopping mall to lay down on for a few hours. It was a little cold ... a little uncomfortable ... better than nothing.
     With wounded tired eyes, I headed to the "Sants Estacio" to await Elaine's train.

I made it to Spain, woohoo! - All the way from Umea, Sweden, with only a little help from paid transport ... Adios! the weather is nice here - Modern Oddyseus
and Elaine

Thanks to Sylvi & "Deci"; Marie-Noelle; Salvadori; and Cem for the rides!

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