Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So you may have already heard…

That I didn’t EXACTLY make my flight from Paris to Prague as scheduled.

Now, before you jump to any crazy assumptions, you should know that this really wasn’t my fault.

I was sitting at my gate an hour and a half before takeoff, proud of myself for the following things:

  1. I had woken up at 4:30 am after having gone to bed at 3:30 to get in a cab by 5.
  2. I had found the correct desk in the French airport, with all my belongings, checked everything and made my way through security.
  3. Ordered a bit of breakfast, and was comfortably facebooking by 5:30 as I waited for my 7:15 flight.
  4. And I did all this whilst my eyelids were being held up by toothpicks, and I was enduring a very severe tummy ache.

So I waited and waited and finally we began boarding. I hopped in line and when I reached the front, my ticket did not scan properly. The AirFrance employee told me in her broken English that I was taking off from gate 53B, not 53A—just one desk over. I smiled and made my way over to what I found to be an empty desk, an empty gate, and an empty seating area that was being shared with gate 53A. Confused, I asked the woman, “I should be taking off in 7 minutes, where is everyone?”

“You have meesed zee flight.”

“But I have been sitting here the whole time, and no other planes have left, how is that possible?”

“Zhey must av shanged your gate number.” She types vigorously on the computer. “Go to gate seexty-four for customur serveece.”

It turns out that yes; my flight’s gate had, in fact, changed. And, yes, it was my fault that I did not understand the French announcement that was made. So fifty euro came out of the reluctant pocket and I was told that my next flight would leave at 12:55 pm. Now, in case you haven’t been keeping score, I will remind you that we are now at 7:20 am, and I am to occupy my half-awake self in the airport for over five hours.

But never mind that, I had parents and school administration to inform. I had no working phone, and no other way to contact anyone so I whipped out the computer, and did the only thing I could think of: got on Facebook. I had a very limited selection of friends online to choose from to help me out, as it was nearly 2 in the morning, so a dear Jocelyn Hernandez was chosen to do the dirty work. I had her call my parents in the dead of night and have my mom go online so we could chat about the situation. We looked through all study abroad documents to contact who needed contacting, and we managed to pull through. With 10% of battery left on the trusty laptop, and all my adapters in checked luggage, I had to put it away. I had to my only source of entertainment away, and it was very, very sad. As I zombie-walked through the airport for any relief of boredom, I managed to pass the 5-odd hours and finally make it to a [comparatively] comfortable place to sleep—the plane; which I did for the entire duration of the flight. The next stop was Prague; a place I can finally hang my hat for a while… and it has felt very nice.

Days 5 & 6: Paris, Completed.

I voyaged to Paris, France simply because my father booked my plane ticket through his miles and the flight he got resulted in a 2 day layover in the lovely city. Originally, I had planned to get a hostel and venture around myself. However, when my brother-in-law suggested I contact Amanda McKinley, I jumped at the idea. I believe the story goes, that Amanda was a high school and college friend of Dave (the aforementioned brother-in-law) and later, a post-college friend Kefryn as well. In my younger years, I had spent only a handful of occasions with that group so I was afraid asking to stay with Amanda would be a little bit of a stretch, but I should have known she would welcome me with open arms when I explained to her my situation.

So, I made the journey from The Big Apple, East, and ended up on the other side of the world around noon on Thursday the 22nd.

(Insert ‘Day 5: Paris' entry here.)

After I left my napping park, I made my way around the town and down to the river. I enjoyed perfect Parisian whether and lovely photo opps, and USED A MAP to get me back to Amanda’s workplace to meet her and Boyfriend Jonathan for drinks—my first legal ones ever. After three Blanches (sp) and a meat plate it was on to the next bar at around 11:30 pm while, might I add, it was still light out.

I cannot quite remember what time it was when they dragged me in but it was definitely bedtime. I fell asleep soundly on my coffin bed in the living room next to my new friend Evan, Amanda’s other houseguest.

The next morning, Evan and I had planned on exploring while Amanda was at work, but unless sleeping counts as an exploration, those plans kind of fell through. So, instead we ate the baked goods she left for us and headed for The Louvre to meet our host.

We walked the gardens and up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomph and all the way to the top. We managed to be the last ones in before closing and got to ride the elevator up instead of the stair master. Instead of blabbing about the view, I will let you see for yourself.

After lunch and watching the end of USA’s victory over Algeria, we went home so Amanda could ready herself for dinner with the bosses and I could take a siesta. When I woke up, the boys and I walked across the river for beers, then to the Peanut Bar for beers, then to The Quiet Man to meet Amanda and have, you guessed it, more beers. The Quiet Man is Jonathan and Amanda’s regular spot and it is no bigger than my kitchen, bar included, and there was a bit of an Irish theme to it, (Amanda’s boyfriend spent a couple years in Ireland, and I’m fairly certain the French bar owner did as well, for they are good friends—on a side note, it is wonderful to listen to Jonathan speak the English he learned in Ireland on top of his French accent.) as you can see from my green, white and orange shot concoction that was made for me.

So it was back home by 3 am, in bed by 3:30, and out the door in the morning at 4:30 for my cab to the airport.

And THAT, my friends, is how you do Paris in a day and a half.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Days 3 & 4: NYC Photo Essay

So sorry to have disappeared the last few days but it's been a bit of a whirlwind. I am in the Prague now but before I tell you all about those adventures and some more from Paris, it’s really been bugging me that I never wrote about my last days in New York and given a public thank you to my wonderful, wonderful uncles. I won’t give you a story, but instead just a few snapshots and captions in what I would like to call: “Landis’ New York Photo Essay.”

First, a trip to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art for my less artsy followers)

Then back home for a trip to the "Woof"--one of Yoya's favorite spots...

We concluded that night with a viewing of American Idiot, the musical based on the album by Green Day. The three of us were very, very impressed and it gave me a happy feeling as Don and I both agreed that it was the Hair of my generation. Two thumbs, index fingers, and pinkies up ;)

My last beautiful afternoon in the city was spent in everyone's backyard, Central Park, and jealously strolling the streets of Madison Avenue.

I really can't thank those guys enough for their hospitality, tour-guiding, and perfect company. I can't wait for my next trip.

I promise I will get to Europe stuff as soon as I can. Right now, however, it is time to go watch the US hopefully beat Ghana on the projectors in Old Town Square and to celebrate my 20th birthday Czesky style at Central Europe's largest night club.

Ahoj for now!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 5: Paris

I’ve decided to skip ahead a bit to what is going on now. I will always be able to remember what I did in NYC the day we visited The Modern, went shopping, and saw American Idiot, as well as my last day of strolling Central Park and more shopping, but the thoughts and feelings I’m having right now are simply unparalleled; and I’m not sure if I’ll get a chance to accurately document them again.

I can’t even (pause to stare at adorable French toddler in ladybug hat) try to count the hours it’s been since I left the Lispenard apartment, it is most likely around sixteen, but, it feels like sixty. Sixty extremely overwhelming hours (see Release entry). But I have finally made it to a place where I can breathe. I can breathe fantastic Parisian air and it feels good.

The particular brand of air I am surrounded by now is in a lovely park near the river. After I landing at Charles de Gaulle, standing in the wrong customs line, and getting the turtle shell on my back, I jumped at the first guy who said “taxi” to me in the airport. I found it very foreign and exciting that the cabbies come inside to pick you up—not at all out of the ordinary or suspicious to me, seeing as I had just come from AirFrance where they give you free champagne, food, socks, toiletry bags, and Clarins’ Anti Aging Cream—why wouldn’t the cabbies come inside to get their passengers? It wasn’t until I sat in the Mercedes “cab” for about twenty minutes and saw all the other vehicles with taxi lights on top that I realized I was not in an actual cab, but instead a town car with a driver!

Needless to say, my fair was double what my hostess told me it should be, but the feeling of throwing fifty extra Euros down the drain doesn’t really compare to that of finding a familiar face on the streets of Paris and being able to send your parents an “I’M ALIVE!” email. So, I made my first couple of mistakes; now we know what not to do next time.

Said hostess is a dear friend of Kefryn and Dave’s from Miami who is now living in Paris. I met her outside of her office, (pause to brush away Parisian ant crawling across keyboard) and thankfully, just as I was realizing my phone was out of commission, she was walking outside to throw something away… cue familiar face sighting. So I ditched the bulky part of the luggage and she brought me to the ideal place for a first lunch in Perée; an outdoor café, of course. A most delicious salad with all my favorite foods in the world and pleasant conversation later, we made a trip back to the office and another to the copy shop, she sent me on my way to find the only thing I wanted in the world: a place to nap. Which brings us back to that park air I was breathing earlier…

So yes, amongst the homeless and non-homeless alike, I napped in this park and awoke about an hour later to a cloudless sky, a young man strumming a guitar in the distance, and a few French ants in my pants—literally and figuratively.

I think I’ll go attend to the latter now, there is a river calling my name.

Day 4.5: Release.

It seems as though I am crying. I am sitting on the most luxurious plane I have ever been on, and I am crying. They are not sad or mad tears, I don't think. I believe they are overwhelmed tears. They are excited tears, scared tears, anxious tears, nervous tears, anticipatory tears, lonely tears, and very, very happy tears. So many feelings to jot down on this doggy bag; I don’t quite know what to do with them. It seems as if my body has chosen to release them from my eyes and I suppose that is okay; for now… I miss home, and comfort, but that is why I am doing this—to find some new comfort and a new place to miss 6 weeks from now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 2: Boat tours by day, Broadway by night

Today, around a quarter past the crack of dawn (also known as 8 am.) I woke up to a little morning toast, and a need to get ready for the Circle Line boat tour. As soon as I did that, we were on our way by 9 via taxicab. We spent three hours in the Hudson snacking on sandwiches made my Jorge, listening to witty tour guides, and snapping pictures of Ellis Island, the new Yankee Stadium, and Lady Liberty.

From there we made our way to Times Square, and a backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall.

Then it was off to the only stop I had requested throughout the whole trip: 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Perhaps those readers who are not in regular contact with me don’t know of my obsession with NBC’s 30 Rock and Tina Fey in general (my informative speech last semester was entitled: “The Life and Times of Tina Fey), but it was this obsession that made for a very excited Landis as we made our way through the plaza. I found I had to remind myself that it was probably inappropriate to take pictures with the real-life NBC Pages and not to be disappointed when Kenneth wasn’t there.

Seeing as this was a very tough act to follow, we made our way home for siestas and showers before the main event: Billy Elliot (preceded by yet another delicious dinner). Though the three of us had very differing opinions of the show, this tourist and musical enthusiast was very satisfied, and if anyone wants to see one of the most talented 12-year-old boys they’ve ever seen, I’d highly recommend it (or just rent the movie, my hosts assure me it’s better).

We clocked in around 11:30 and after blogging about the day before, it was lights out.