pseydtonne: Behold the Operator, speaking into a 1930s headset with its large mouthpiece. (Default)
I don't know why everyone says Marseilles is so unsafe. Sure, I've seen pickpocket assholes. They transmit their intentions like I do when I drive. It's wicked easy to avoid them. If you've spent more than two weeks of your life in New York or Philly, Marseilles is a beautiful cake walk. Lyon is significantly prettier from downtown but Marseilles is gorgeous when the fog is clearing from the mountains while you're standing on the beach.

I liked Lyon for the exercise. It's wicked fscking gorgeous and full of steep hills to examine. I met a couple mothers from Leipzig (one a native, the other a DA originally from just outside Bavaria) while I was in Lyon who wound up in the hostel here as well. We drink during the evening until they put their ten-year-old daughters to sleep. The available one doesn't speak English let alone French but the DA and I could talk all night. I like them a lot, but I should move on if I'm going to focus on my French in my waning days. I wish I could find a German phrase book because the single one shaves her entire body except top hair and that's the tip of the iceberg. I have a thing for hair but the utter contrast intrigues me...

Did I mention how much weight I've lost since this trip began? I'm two notches tighter on my belt, meaning two inches of weight. I haven't seen a scale so I can't compare but I can see the difference in my face.

I return on Wednesday around... uhhh, 7 or 8 p.m. but I don't recall the details. Anyone wanting to pick me up from Terminal A at Logan would be a good friend.

My drag duffel inches closer to death with each TGV ride. Samsonite used to be a name I trusted but they're full of shit now. Don't buy their stuff.

I don't want to go home -- at least until I get to kiss a European. I'm falling asleep, so I'll catch you all later.
pseydtonne: Behold the Operator, speaking into a 1930s headset with its large mouthpiece. (Default)
[Preface: I'm stealing wifi from the McDonald's at Lille Flandres train station. It's ten before 2 p.m. here and I have an hour to kill before I leave for Paris and thence to the language school in Rambouillet. I'm running a little later than I wanted but not actually late. I figured I'd send these notes from Tuesday morning while I had connectivity. Enjoy!]

Ever listen to the album "I, Robot" by the Alan Parsons Project? The album cover shows the members of the band going through a tunnel that has a moving sidewalk and other similar tunnels around it. Guess what? I was just in that corridor. It's the center shaft of Terminal 1 at Charles-de-Gaulle Airport outside Paris.

This airport is grungy and run down. They claim to be in the final stages of modernization. The tiles are grubby, the signs to guide you are a wild goose chase, and the entire passport control section has four booths, of which three were staffed.

I walked a lot faster than the other people on my flight, so I wound up at the front of the passport line rather quickly. On my way, I passed all of the duty free shops I'd expected to see on my way out of the country, not when I entered. I was starting to think I'd made a wrong turn because I saw kids milling around and no one with a security issue.

Just because I was at the front of the line didn't mean some Asian steppe folk didn't cut in front of me. They were part of a group and were rewarded with a trip to the interrogation room.

I stepped up to the desk with my passport open and ready. The woman in the booth waved and giggled at someone behind me. It struck me that perhaps this country does not seem to care who comes in.

She didn't even ask me any questions. She stamped my passport and waved me into part two of outer space. But... but... I was all ready to be interrogated in two languages! I have letters of transit, for crying out loud! Don't I get to use them?

Okay, they aren't really letters of transit because I'm not Rick and this isn't the movie Casablanca. The French language school in Rambouillet sent me a letter of greeting and explanation of why I would be coming to the country in case someone asked.

Now I'm on the TGV to Bruxelles. That's pronounced "bhruu-SELL", not "bhruu-ZHELL" as I would have guessed with a giant X in the middle of it. All of my research suggesting that this one-way ticket from the airport directly to Gare du Midi would be €38 or some similarly low number (maybe it was €49) was bull. It cost €68, which is around $100. Then again, I'll be in Brussels in an hour and a half.

I conducted my first real transaction completely in French without falling back to English: I bought the TGV ticket. I think I aced it, other than saying Brussels wrong. I was in and out and understood everything the lady said to me.

Hey, wait a minute... I just paid €2.40 for a half-liter of water! That's $3.60 or so. I'm a tard! I only paid $2.89 for a full liter at Logan. Time to pay a little more attention.

I've already noticed the weird trend with the elongated shoe tips that make men look like mutants. Maybe it's to convince chicks they're hung.

I'm not making that up about men's shoes. They look like Bruno Maglis with the squared-off ends, but then they have an extension of a couple inches of extra tip. Maybe they simplify kicking ass and taking names. "This will fit right up your ass."

They have a stand-up lounge in the snack car.

I keep finding myself about three seconds behind what I could say in French. "Vous avez... euh... besoin d'assistance?" "You have... need of help?" My speed of neurosis resolution is improving.

It's cold up here compared to Boston. It was 47F when we landed at 7:45 in the morning. It's supposed to warm up, but everyone is wearing jackets or sweaters and even scarves.

It's 10:30 and we've just reached Lille, a city on the Belgian border. Forty-five minutes ago we were in the outer suburbs of Paris. In another 45 minutes the train will reach the capital of Europe. I sure hope bottles of water are cheaper there than on this train.

I'm still coming off the feeling that I somehow sneaked into Europe. How can the Schengen Zone be so porous? Maybe it isn't, but I'm American so they don't care.

I'm not certain that I want to go all the way to Amsterdam today. I had originally concluded that I'd want to ease my way into francophone existence, so why not deal with the non-French stuff first and slowly come back to the French-language world? Now I'm thinking that I'd rather not lose the steam I'm already building. Then again, I've not really spoke to anyone in French except the ticket seller, a couple people on the plane and a baggage handler. Besides, it's Amsterdam...

They've rebooted the train twice since we pulled into this station. That seems like a bad sign. I hope they aren't staring at a Windows boot process. "The damn train's got malware. Who loaded Weather Bug on this TGV?"

Now we're moving again. We're still in France but I know that will end soon. I just saw a herd of cows and only one was standing instead of laying down. Doesn't that mean it's going to rain? Maybe I'm just paranoid and really need to get some sleep. Sleep would be nice, even though it's morning.

-fast and efficient, Dante

August 2016

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