24 May 2010

SEEING THE WORLD

I must admit, i have had quite a life so far, and I am certain that my experiences have only just begun. I'd like to see the world. Most of it. Like not Antarctica probably. Its too cold .

I was 17 years old the first time I flew in an airplane, and it was only because I was being recruited to play soccer at a school in Florida. That was February of 1998. My next flight was to Maine on my 18th birthday that same year.  Most of my friends had been all over the US or further by then. I had definitely traveled. Lots of family time in the minivan, but we never flew. I always told myself that when i was older, I would fly everywhere. And i do. But I can totally see why we drove everywhere. It would have been pretty expensive to fly all five of us around. My third flight was to Oklahoma for a big soccer tournament in 1999. Two more flights in 2001. Two more in 2002. Another in 2003. And that's where I lost count. I think its funny I used to count each flight. People take flying for granted.  That's when i started flying to South Florida and Houston Texas all the time so thats when i lost count.  

Anyways, i love traveling for the most part. Flying used to be fun, and mostly it is, especially from First Class which i rarely get to do, but long flights and layovers get old after a while. I fly direct as often as i can. The novelty wore off some time in 2005. But traveling overall is great. I love going to a new city and walking around, discovering the public transportation, or not. Some cities don't really have public transport. 

I think the best experience I have had is the solo trip I took to Paris. Last September I flew to London then Amsterdam and spent a week with an old college friend goofing around. Then i caught a train by myself and rode first class to Paris! I had to navigate the city and the Metro alone and it was the most liberating feeling in the world. If you can read a map, if you can navigate the US highway systems, then you can totally navigate paris. Then again, i navigated Costa Rica in a rental car with a few internet printout and even fewer street signs. CR reminds me of Bahrain as far as roads are concerned. Who needs a sign we have landmarks. In CR churches are the primary landmark. In bahrain, its the roundabouts, mosques and fastfood chains :)..
But really, if you can read this map, you can get around.  It helped that i spent a few weeks studying the map and relation of landmarks to the trainstops. But some things I had to find myself. Rather than taking the metro to Notre Dame, i decided I would head out on foot and see what there was to see. I went up a big hill and weaved in and out of narrow streets where it was clear that the locals shopped (read: no souvenirs littering the bakeries and produce stands) And somehow happened upon the Seine River. Then West to the Cathedral. And along the Seine to the Louvre.  I didn't dare venture inside. I think it would take me months to complete the museum to my liking. Having studied art in college to the extent that I minored in it, I definitely appreciate fine art, and the history over the centuries. Art History is my favorite kind of history.

While in Paris, I was also sent on a mission to pick up a few products so I had to learn French and speak to the locals in order to locate the stores that held these exclusive French items. I even had a few people speak to me in French because they apparently thought i was French. Totally cool. I already knew Spanish, so French wasn't too hard to learn and i've been working on it ever since. I have these French Conversations CD's that i listen to when i drive some times. 

Being alone in a romantic city. You would think it would be depressing , but it wasn't. It was amazing. I made friends, had a personal tour guide for a part of the trip (local self volunteer), but preferred to do the rest of it solo. I think it helped that I was a young woman alone in the city.. it made me more approachable i think.The city was so enchanting, with its hilly streets, and tight alleys and little side shops and old cathedrals and churches and bakeries and bistros. The food I ate was amazing, the people were so friendly despite the stigma that French people are rude or hate Americans - its totally not true. I climbed to the top of the Eiffel tower in record time. I shopped. Oh how i love to shop!! And I ate, some really great food. Fell in love with confit de canard (duck). I rode the metro. I fell absolutely in love with the city, and  I can't wait to go back again. Hopefully for a romantic rendezvous for my birthday in August!

My trip to Paris was amazing. I had less than 3 days. But it left such a strong impression on me. And it taught me so much about myself. I learned that I could not only go somewhere alone, but to a foreign city where i didn't know the language or the layout. But i studied maps before i went, i talked to my French friends, and I found out which areas to avoid after dark and where would be the safest area to stay. I became a fan of Hostels on my European vacation. You know, nothing beats a luxury hotel with Egyptian Cotton Sheets and Luxe Bath Towels, but the price tag on staying in a hostel is worth the sacrifice. That money is much better spent shopping and eating! Two of life's greatest pleasures when done in moderation. I really can't wait to go back. I think i'll start planning my trip now... Au Revoir!


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