I said goodbye to Sarah, Emily, their parents and David K last night at the northern train station in Paris. I had an awesome time with them and will miss the security that familiar faces provide in a foreign country. We hit up the hot tourist spots in Paris during the last two days. Saw the Notre Dame, St Michel, Sacre Coeur, Champs d’Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, the outside of the Louvre and the outside of the Moulin Rouge. The Louvre looks awesome and I really wanted to go in and typically it is free for students on Fridays, except for this past Friday, which was closed for New Years. We didn’t want to pay anything and Sarah is understandably worn out from museums so we just went to see the glass pyramids and looked through a window at some great statues.
Overall I think my favorite sight in Paris was the Sacre Coeur, which Sarah and I found far prettier than the Notre Dame. Seated on the top of a giant hill it provides a breathtaking panorama of the city. The inside isn’t as large as the Notre Dame, but the statues and windows seemed superior to me.
After leaving my friends, I took two metros to a different train station where I boarded an overnight train to Bayonne. On the train I sat next to a man who did not speak English, but was very talkative and patient with my French. I didn’t sleep well and was a bit cramped in 3rd class, plus I couldn’t use the bathroom without waking up the man next to me and making him move so that was a bit bothersome. My layover in Bayonne was about 2 hours and I arrived at 6:30 am. I left the station and went down a street to a bakery where I had du pain au Sucre et au lait, or sugar and milk bread for breakfast. Although the sun hadn’t risen I could tell Bayonne was very beautiful. It’s on the southern coast and marks the top of the French Basque country.
My train from Bayonne to Pau took me through some beautiful countryside that fulfilled my expectations for the South. As we neared my destinations I saw some great architecture and thought, “Please let this be Pau!!” Then we passed the Chateau I had seen on google earth and I knew we had arrived!! The train stopped shortly and I started searching for my host mom. She wasn’t on the platform, she wasn’t in the station and I didn’t see her out front. I desperately looked around as the station emptied and found no one with a sign. I sat on a bench and got out my contact information. I had trouble making the local calls on my international phone, but once I figured it out I called my regional director’s cell: no answer. Her work phone went to voicemail as well, which makes sense seeing as it is Sunday here. Then I called my host mom and it said the number no longer existed. Panic set in. I was exhausted from travelling and having slept a total of 20 hours since Tuesday your time. I could barely function at this point, let alone communicate my broken French to people who spoke no English. I’m sick with a cold, worn out from no sleep, and alone in a train station where my plans A, B and C had all failed to get me my host mom. I couldn’t help but silently cry, I didn’t know what to do. For the first time since I left the US I felt the shock of what I’m doing here. As my eyes welled up I heard someone behind me ask people if they were Katie. I let her walk away as I tried to clean away the evidence of my pathetically crying because my ride was 10 minutes late. Then I followed her out of the station and introduced myself. She doesn’t speak English, but very precise French. She took me home and after showing me around and making my bed she let me sleep. I slept seven hours and when I woke up I wanted to fall right back asleep. So I got up took a shower and ate dinner with my host mom. I think as soon as I’m done looking up some French words and phrases I don’t know, I’m going to go back to bed. Too tired to type more about my host fam, but I will write all about them tomorrow!