I’m losing track of time while I’m here in France. These past two weeks have gone by so quickly, and sometimes I forget what day of the week it is. It’s hard to believe that I’m living my dream, but here I am.
This past Tuesday we went to Paris to visit the U.S. Embassy so that I could get a document notarized that is one of the required papers for our upcoming marriage. This particular document doesn’t exist in America but is necessary in France, so naturally the only place to obtain it would be the capital. It’s been quite a process getting all of this paperwork together. I suppose having all of these hoops to jump through helps insure that you really do want to get married in the first place. I’ve never been married before, nor have I PACS’d (a French civil union that enables both people to have certain benefits in their co-habitation). So naturally I have to have a signed sworn statement in document form that I am single. I suppose it makes sense to have that, but going to Paris isn’t a simple and cheap little trip.
It was a 6-hour ride, and we were squished in the backseat with another person. I took naps when I could, but I also enjoyed looking at the countryside. French countryside at times looks similar to the Midwest countryside, but there are a lot more forests and trees. There were lots of farms and quaint little villages. Cows look different here in France. Also, it’s perfectly normal to be driving along and suddenly, out of nowhere, you see a castle in the mountains. I love it! We also drove under and through hills and mountains. It was really cool to just look out the window and see what passes by.
We were dropped off in the middle of the city with just our backpacks. The real adventure began in figuring out where we were and how to get to our hotel. We walked and walked and occasionally asked for directions until we got to the correct metro station. As a tip, you shouldn’t ride on the metro if you’re claustrophobic. It gets really cramped and crowded. After several stops, we reached the Gare du Nord and made our way to the surface.
Our hotel was in the 10th arrondissement, and it was actually in a good central location to get to places. Of course, it started raining as we were trying to find it. We finally reached Hotel Picardy, and sighed in relief. At the front desk, we checked in and got our key. The elevator was tiny, but three people could fit in it, provided you didn’t really have luggage. We reached our room at the end of the hall and opened the door to find a quaint little room. It looked nice enough for the price and location. Then we opened the door to the bathroom and found that there wasn’t a shower curtain, nor was the showerhead able to stay fixed on the wall. Oh, and if you wanted to take a bath, there wasn’t a plug. So! We would have to get creative later on.
My appointment at the U.S. Embassy wasn’t until the next day, so we had the evening to do a bit of exploring. Last year, mon ange was in Paris for the Japan Expo. He bought a lock, carved our names on it, and left it on a fence in Montmartre by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Our mission was to find the lock and bring it back home with us. We set out on our quest. We saw the basilica at the top of a hill. In order to get there, we had to climb about 250 steps. That was quite a workout! As we were walking along looking for the lock, we heard a young man singing an aria at the base of the steps of the basilica. He had a box where people could leave money, and there was quite a crowd gathered around him. He was good, especially to an untrained ear. C urged me to go up next to him after he had finished and start singing myself. I was too self-conscious and didn’t feel comfortable. Plus, I hadn’t had a chance to warm up. He said I was better then the young man, but I just didn’t want to do it. We moved along, but part of me wonders what would have happened if I had actually gotten up the courage to sing in front of those people… We reached the spot where he remembered putting the lock, only to find that the fencing where he had attached it was no longer there. It was gone! He was disappointed, but I assured him that it wasn’t the end of the world. We can always get a new lock and put it somewhere here in Thonon.
We headed back to our hotel, and when we finally reached our room I was ready to attempt to take a bath. Mon ange made a makeshift plug for the bathtub which actually worked. He’s creative and handy like that. Oh, that was an extremely soothing bath! We had to get up somewhat early the next morning, so we headed to bed.
The next morning, we packed up and checked out of the hotel, making our way to The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which is basically the fanciest street in Paris. The American Embassy is also in the 8th arrondissement, so we figured that we could walk around and look at the shops while we waited for my appointment at 2pm. Picture all the fancy brand names that come to mind, and they were all there along that avenue. They’re huge stores with fancy displays that do their best to tempt you to come inside and buy something. They had Tiffany and Co., Yves Saint-Laurent, Abercrombie and Fitch, the Disney store, and so many more. We went into Zara and each bought a shirt as a memory of Paris that we can practically use. We also got some magnets, one for our fridge, and some others for our parents.
After several hours, it was time to make our way to the U.S. Embassy for my appointment. Just outside, there were guards stationed to make sure that everyone wanting to go to the embassy had good intentions (aka no terrorists). There was quite a line already, and I was early. I told a security officer that I had an appointment, and showed my passport. He presented it to someone and said that I could go straight on through. I didn’t even have to stand and wait in line. I suppose being an American has its perks sometimes. I left my phone and Fitbit bracelet with security and went into the building with my paper I needed notarized. When I got inside, I took a number and waited. I was 914. After they called me, I gave them the document and was told to go to the window to make the payment. It cost me $50 for them to officially sign and notarize a piece of paper. I personally thought that’s a ridiculous amount of money, but what else could I have done? Nothing, really. I waited for my name to be called yet again. This time, I raised my right hand and swore that everything on that document was true. I signed it, and then I was done. All that waiting and money spent for a trip to Paris just to sign a piece of paper saying that I’m single and have never been married. But hey, at least it’s over and done with! There aren’t much more things I have to do before I can get married. It’s exciting! Now that we achieved our main goal, all that was left was to waste a little more time before meeting our ride to begin our journey back home. We walked to the Eiffel Tower, and I took many pictures along the way.
Paris really is a fascinating city. You hear so many different languages of all the different nationalities visiting France’s capital. It’s easy to get lost with all of the complicated web of roads. People can be rude, but it’s normal. It’s a crowded place full of people trying to get somewhere. They’ll walk across the street without caring that traffic could be approaching. They’ll push their way through the crowds. And they don’t look very happy either. Then again, people that smile a lot are seen as potentially having a screw loose. There is quite a lot of trash everywhere, and parts of the city don’t smell pleasant. But despite all of that, it’s so full of history and life. C doesn’t like Paris, but I do. It’s a complicated place, and if you want to visit, make sure not to expect a fairy-tale that so many films paint in your mind. It’s not somewhere you can just spend two days like we did. Maybe a week at least to hit the main tourist attractions and also discover secret treasures. I definitely would recommend a trip to the City of Light and Love.
Until next time!
At The Avenue des Champs-Élysées