"There's a huge difference between being alone and being lonely." At this very moment, while I'm in my final night in the loveliest city I've ever visited, I find myself experiencing both. "Traveling alone can be rough." I find myself walking unaccompanied amongst crowds of friends on vacation together. I find myself without an appetite and only eating because my body tells me it needs nourishment. I watch hours of CNN or BBC because thats the only English on tv. I've even caught myself talking to myself. I crave the normalcy of my every day life (I haven't worked out once since I left!), yet revel in the experience of being in such wondrous cities.
"Yet, traveling solo rewards the soul. There's no one else's schedule to adhere, expectations to fall under, or desire to please. It's all me!"
Yesterday I attended the Paris Ward. I've never attended church outside of the US and thought this would be a nice experience. My friend Jane has spent much time in Paris and told me where to find the meetinghouse. It turned out to be just a few blocks from my hotel. I looked up the meeting times and attended the last hour. I intended to sit thru the French-speaking services, but found myself needing to speak and hear English, so I attended the English-speaking services. The congregation was mostly made up of tourists and students who were studying abroad. It was a beautiful service with talks given by a couple who work for the US Embassy organization. They've lived around the world for the past 25 years.
After church, I decided to finish my 2-day bus tour by going to Montmarte. Montmarte is a neighborhood above the city that is said to be the most quaint and romantic in all of Paris. At the top of Montmarte is the Sacre Coure, which was one of the churches featured in the film, the da Vinci Code. I walked to Pont Neuf to hop on the Green Bus Line (the Grand Paris Tour I took the day before). I had to stay on that line for an hour before connecting to the Montemarte line. The tour started in Aubre (a shopping area) and then slowly headed northward. We passed an area that was very much like Broadway St. in San Francisco but way more "out there." It was headlined by the Moulin Rouge. At that point, I didn't realize that to actually see Montmarte, I had to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way up the hill. Had I known, I would have done that! Instead, I stayed on this bus that took me on a bunch of stops that had no interest to me. I was so disappointed! It wasn't as bad at the Barcelona bus tour, but close to it. By the end of the line, I was done with bus tours and got off at the Louvre.
I debated going into the Louvre, but it was already 3:30 pm and I knew I wouldn't have time to see really anything. So I loitered around the Lovre for a while, made friends with a girl from Australia - we took photos of each other, then walked to the pont du Arts to people watch. I lingered there, then walked across to the Left Bank side and walked along the enbankment back to Pont Neuf. I stopped to look at the books for sale, but they were all in French. I thought of buying one just to have, but then I'd have to lug it around to 2 more cities.
I came back to the hotel utterly exhausted but managed to get some work done and have dinner.
Today (Monday), I had the morning free so I walked down Rue de Rivoli to get some croissants for breakfast at Paul. The streets were already bustling by 10 am! I did some shopping on Rue de Rivoli (all for me!) and came back to the hotel to get ready for my meeting. Today's meeting was in Ruel Mailmason, which is in the suburbs of Paris. I had to the take the RER (regional train) to get there. I was a little nervous but found it to be very easy - the train part that is. I figured out which train and which line to take. It was about 8 stops away. Once I got there, I couldn't figure out where to find the office building. I walked into a modern looking building and found a cafe to have lunch at. No one spoke English except for the Chinese bartender. I had a crabe salad (crab meat and tomatos - there's no lettuce here) and found out that my business partner was located just upstairs.
I had an interesting meeting that I "think" was good. I couldn't tell. I don't think it was bad...just different. I made it back to my hotel by 5 pm and have been working since.
Tonight is my last night in Paris and I know I will feel homesick for it. There is nothing like it. Every person in this world should travel to Paris to experience it. Its everything you imagine it to be.
Tomorrow I have another meeting in the outskirts of the city. Then I head to Germany - Munich for a few days, then Dusseldorf, then I fly home. I doubt I'll have much time to explore Germany as I'll be in meetings all the time. But I'm ok with that - because I don't think anything can ever compare to Paris. "I miss home dearly; I need to do laundry badly, my lugguage weighs a ton, and all I want is a home-cooked meal. Yet, I don't want to go home. I know it'll always be there, but my experiences here won't."