Getting to Know You

mardi, le dix juin, le 3e jour du voyage
So far things have been fine, but this journey has not begun yet. We're not in France! I shall get back to you soon, journal[.] ... I doubt I shall write any more while flying.

And indeed I didn't, nor did I write again that entire day. After staring at the flight map from Scotland southwards, watching the big plane icon inch along the path for who knows how long, I finally felt the plane land on Heathrow tarmac. We had landed at Terminal Four and needed to get to Terminal Five. Didn't sound that complicated... but we'd soon learn. Immediately after getting off the plane and going down to the ground level, we were met with a queue for a bus to Terminal Five- and we queued up. And we waited.

In retrospect, it wasn't a very long wait at all, but we had yet to go through any of all the innumerable hours of worthless queuing and waiting that we would have to do in the U.K., so at the time it was a bit annoying. When the bus came, we were practically the last people to get on, and I was squished in up at the front of the bus, standing and feeling somewhat uncomfortable. I suppose it wasn't uncomfortable to begin with, but it certainly was after a while on what seemed to be an endless bus ride. We went though miles and miles of concrete jungle and I took in my first sights of Europe, unimpressive as they were. Besides more Japanese vehicles, a lot of HSBC advertisements, and driving on the wrong side of the road, our little tour of Heathrow didn't seem much different from the U.S.- if there ever was an airport in the U.S. as huge as Heathrow, that is.

Eventually, we arrived at Terminal Five and were faced with the cruel fact that we were really going to have to run to make our flight to Paris. And we did run. We went through a bit of security and customs stuff, but it sure doesn't seem like much in my memory, perhaps because that was what really brought us down to the wire on time so that we really had to run. At some point, the group got split up in some way; I believe it was Grant, my mom and I who were together, and we were behind. At the bottom of some escalator I took the lead, going right over to a sign that was pointing to our gate. I couldn't actually figure out where it was pointing, though, and so for a few moments I was actually lost while everyone else cut across where I was going towards the gate. Suddenly I saw them and took off behind them towards a big elevator thing on the other side of a huge open space filled with people, chairs, and people in chairs.

When we all got over to the big thing, we saw the other half of the group in the elevator, but they weren't going anywhere. Apparently, the group that was ahead took a wrong turn at some point (or rather, didn't turn) and had to back track. Then, when they had gotten into the elevator to go down to the gate, it hadn't gone. As soon as I got there, they got out of the elevator and we went down the escalators that were behind it. I think there were at least two more flights we went down with those escalators- our whole journey in Terminal Five had consisted of going up and then going down. At the very bottom, we checked our tickets again and saw we were supposed to be at gate 10. There, arrayed in front of us, were dozens of 10's: 10A, B, C, as far as the eye can see, probably going past G. For a moment, the terrorizing thought of having to find the right gate 10 swept through us. The right one, however, was the only one that was staffed, so we quickly got out our passports and tickets, went though the check and then finally got to... another bus. We had to take a bus from the gate to the plane.

Once we got on the plane, our seats were all split up and I had to sit between two men, one younger and seemingly Asian, and the other balding and probably French. At this point I had actually been sweating quite a bit, and I felt a bit uncomfortable for most of the flight. I was able to sleep for quite a while, however, and I was able to catch a few glimpses of the French countryside from the air. We soon landed and got off in a sun-filled and very hot airport. It was not much unlike getting off the plane in Hawai'i. After a bathroom stop and a marvel at our first sights of France (a very mundane airport interior) we got to the baggage claim and began to wait. This waiting, unlike waiting in Britain, was actually waiting for something, but the baggage never came. You see, as we had run though Terminal Five up and down, all around, past umpteen checkpoints and through all sorts of vile British time trials, our baggage couldn't possibly have just been driven to the plane. That would be expecting way too much of the British.

It was either the Texans or the Arkansans that would be a part of our tour group who were already waiting for us at the front of the airport. It was probably both. At this point, I wouldn't have known. A guide for the tour who we would never see again was there and he got us on a bus that took us to our hotel. I believe it was when we first got to the hotel that we saw the Indianans for the first time; they would constitute about half of our four-state tour group. I would be rooming with Grant for the next three nights at this hotel, and when we got up to the room we were actually really impressed. The decor was very modern and we had a very nice television, two beds, a fancy bathroom, and we had windows. The only thing to complain about was that the bathroom was so fancy that the door was out from the wall and wasn't so much a door as a big sliding sheet of opaque... stuff. Then there was the fact that the second window was in the shower. That too was opaque, but it wasn't that opaque.

Grant and I just hung out in the room until dinner. We pretty much took a nap, as a matter of fact, and were late in coming down to go to dinner. Our first French dinner was down the street and around the corner from the hotel. The nature of our tour was such that every breakfast and dinner were provided and every dinner was scheduled and for the entire group and always contained three courses- in one case four. The restaurant we went to was ok; I will say it probably had some of the best mirror work of the trip, although there was another restaurant that had freaky space-creating reflection. The first course was a foreshadowing of things to come: for some reason or another, the three youngsters in our group pretty much never liked the first course. It was almost always salad, of course, as it was in this case, but there was always something wrong with it, whether it was the greens, the eggs on it, or even the dressing- or in this case, the fish that was on it.

The picture above shows that we had already kind of adopted the two Arkansans as a part of our table group, although the tables were almost always for six so we could only have one Arkansan at a time. To Grant's left is Mariah, who roomed with Laura and Bekah in a group of three most of the time, and the other Arkansan was Luke, who I'm sure you'll see in the future. That day though, as she's reminded me, was Patricia's birthday, so we all sang happy birthday at dessert, even though we didn't know her yet and probably couldn't have even been sure that she was part of the Indiana group. Yeah, at that point I remember looking over everyone and not having a clue as to what any of their names or particular states could be- and not thinking I'd be able to learn either. I was positive about pretty much everything the entire trip and I don't remember Bekah complaining about it, but the other three in our group were vocally disappointed when we learned that most of the group was much younger than us. I may be off on this, but here are the ages: if I just organize people by the grade they're going into, Grant, one of the two Texans and I were the only seniors- and the Texan, Travis, is younger than the two of us. Then the two Arkansans, Niles, Laura and Bekah were all Juniors. Then I believe all the Indianans were Freshmen, and the second Texan was just an eighth grader. That's probably one of the most important things to get done in this post- explaining the whole group for future reference. Never mind about the adults though; they didn't matter too much.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and the Grant and I decided to explore Paris a bit. Seen to the right, that church-thing was the big landmark leading to our hotel; in any other place it might have been an important site, but in Paris it was just our navigation guide. We were in the north of Paris, not near much of anything of importance. The most important tourist attraction near us was the Gare du Nord, which is a train station! I suppose we weren't that far from Montmartre, either, but I'll talk more about that another day. As for this night, Grant and I pretty much just got ourselves lost, going down streets seeing apartment after apartment, and then we had fun finding our way back. I suppose Grant did most of the work in getting us back, but the experience was good for me because I think my navigation skills are such that I need a while to get my bearings, and then once I've got them, I've got them. As to our bags, by the way, we had been promised they would be delivered to the hotel in the evening. Once we had gotten back, Grant went to sleep pretty quickly and I was the one who got the phone call from my aunt telling us the bags would be here around midnight. I guess we were supposed to go down and get the bags, but we were both fast asleep by the time they came, and apparently it took a lot of knocking before Grant got up and brought in our luggage. I never got up. And that, readers, was how we arrived in France and began getting to know her.

Comments

  1. The Indianians were just out of 6, 7, and 8th grade, so entering freshmen, if that's what you meant, but mostly soon to be eigth graders.

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  2. Ah for some reason I thought all of you had finished 8th. That's probably to you're credit, right?

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  3. Yeah, for the seventh and eigth graders. Not for us freshmen... and there was only one guy from Texas... I have no idea what girl you're talking about, because Christy was definitely over 20. And we're Hoosiers, by the way. Its weird, i know...

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