I got there Friday (took the new Thalys train, which made Martin insanely jealous), and immediately got into a battle with the hotel receptionist. I needed to find Rhonda and Margaret, but I only knew their first names, not their last.
"Hi, I need to look up someone's room number, but I only know their first name."
"No, I need to look up a number."
"That's the problem, I don't know their last name, I only know their first name." Emphasized by one finger pointing up, but no, unfortunately it wasn't the middle one.
*sigh* "Do you have first" - again the finger - "names on the list, or only last names?"
"What name you need? Dar-no-fall?" Faith's name, the name I had checked in with.
"No, I need to look up a room number for someone, by their first name."
Finally I just leaned over the counter, scanned down the list, jabbed my finger at the name Rhonda, and said, "That's probably it."
"Oh. Two-oh-five!" he said, with a bright, expectant smile.
I muttered a thanks and walked away.
So I did find them, and they were awesome - the kind of people you feel immediately comfortable with. That was not so with their cousin Karen (an anorexic aerobics instructor who doesn't know how to cook, has never even taken the top off her stove, and eats nothing but crap... all I saw her ingest was cappuccino) and her two kids Ryan (22) and Adele (18), but hey, you can't have it all. So we went out to dinner and then climbed the Eiffel Tower - at least, Adele and I did - and got home around 0.45.
The next day, Friday, I got up at five to wander my way to the airport to meet Faith, did eventually find her (a miracle) and we spent most of that day shopping and riding the Metro. I wasn't the pleasantest of company after having had 10 hours sleep the past two nights combined (Wednesday night was Marco Borsato), but we managed. I finally bailed and went back to the hotel to get a couple hours' sleep, and then Faith came in with the things she'd bought and woke me up and we went out again to do some souvenir shopping and let her see the Eiffel Tower, which she'd missed because she hadn't been there the previous day. We got home at a decent hour, but she and I laid in bed talking until some ungodly hour of the morning so it was another late night. Thank goodness for naps.
Saturday, however, was the really nice day. We got up at 9, ate the crappy hotel breakfast again, then headed over to the train station where we were supposed to meet our group at 11.45 for the Monet's Garden bike tour. (That's not in Paris, it's in Giverny; the company has a bike shed near the train station there.) We were early, so we went shopping, and Faith bought a bikini. As she was putting her clothes back on in the dressing room, I said, "Faith? Uh... how much time do we have?" There was a pause, then, "Um... five minutes." So she paid really fast (and got an Intuition razor as a free gift, which she gave to me) and we ran to the train station... and couldn't find our guide. Turned out Faith's watch was slow and we were late. We did make it, but not without a lot of confusion, panic, and running.
So we got there, got the bikes (AWESOME bikes, fat tires and easy to pedal and shift gears), went to a nearby market, bought lunch, went to a picnic spot next to a river (Mom: we were actually in the southern edge of Normandy...), then rode to the actual gardens. And it was totally irrational of me, but I was getting so angry at some of the people in my group. They kept ringing their bells just for fun, and bumping into each other, and losing their balance at the slightest thing. I've been living in a country where biking is a major mode of transportation, and to go from that to this... I could have expected it - did, actually - but it still made me (irrationally) very angry. The whole group went far slower than I'm used to, and every time I heard a bell, I moved to the right like you're supposed to and looked over my left shoulder to see who wanted to pass me. Only nobody wanted to pass me, because it was just the group being stupid. Oh well - at least the bike had nice fat tires so I could ride no-handed.
So, the gardens! Colorful, beatiful... and very crowded. I was disappointed about that; it really took away from the atmosphere. But it was nice to see 'for real' the images that I'd seen in Linnea in Monet's Garden when I was little. (That book was there, in the gift shop, along with a bunch of other stuff; the place was huge.) We went through the water lily gardens (you can walk on the Japanese bridge now, but I kinda think you shouldn't be allowed to) and then the normal flower gardens, and then through the big pink house itself. Then some poking in the gift shop and then the bike ride back. Train back to Paris, where Faith and I did some last-minute shopping before everything closed up - I got 2 cute little dresses for E25, amazing. One is the proverbial little black dress, and the other is a blue-and-white flowered one. Both are halter dresses and very comfortable. Faith and I also bought cellulite cream (it was 2 for E30 and we were curious if it works) and I have presents for Mom and Dad and Catie, too. ;) (And yes, Mom, I got your sunscreen!) Ducked into a restaurant for dinner, sat next to a Dutch family (I tried to talk to them, but the dad wasn't very friendly), then headed back.
So now hear about the night receptionist, a big black guy. Last night, Faith was trying to look up the airport taxi service in the phone book, and we were standing at the reception desk to do it. She had to run upstairs to get her flight info, so I stayed downstairs and kept looking. The guy asked me my name and where I was from, so I told him, and then he asked, "How old are you?" I answered that I was twenty, but then asked, "Why?" He didn't really answer, but his eyes shifted from my face to my boobs and back again, and he muttered a couple of words I didn't catch. I ignored him, heaved a mental sigh, and went back to the phone book, but a few seconds later he asked, "Are you married?" Staring at my chest as he asked. Needless to say, I found a reason to leave. Fast.
Speaking of my boobs (here I go sounding like dooce again) - why is that every single picture I have of me from the past few days has a cute little smiling face and then an EXPLOSION of a chest? It's not even funny, it's so bad. Especially the ones from Monet's garden and the ones where I'm leaning against Martin at the concert. Jesus. Maybe I can't blame Reina for asking if I'd had an enlargement...
Verdict: It was nice, but not awesome. I'm glad I went, because I saw some things I'd been hearing about all my life, but I'd never want to live there. I missed the Netherlands, actually, because I know I'm going home in a week and I want to spend my last few days here, not in some other city. That reinforces for me again how at home I feel here. It’s not just 'abroad' in general - I wouldn't live in France or Africa or Poland if you paid me - but it's this country. I'm not looking forward to the 21st.
So now I'm home, and Scott has apparently been living like a slob. The kitchen is a mess, with a full trash can, pizza boxes balanced on top, dirty dishes in the sink and on the stovetop... and, the worst indignation, he still has not bought toilet paper. I left on Thursday, for crying out loud, and it's Sunday night. There were approximately two-and-a-half sheets on the roll when I left (I did that on purpose, to make him realize that it doesn't just magically appear, that yes, I HAVE BEEN BUYING IT all year long... plus I like the idea of always-dignified Scott having to hop into the kitchen, in front of the window, with his pants around his ankles, to grab something vaguely paperlike), and instead of buying new TP, he's simply moved the roll of paper towels into the bathroom. Seems to be planning to live like that. Oh well, doesn't bother me - I'll be going to Emmen either tomorrow night or Tuesday morning and I won't be back except to grab my stuff on the 20th, so I'm sure I can survive till then.
(P.S. I just tried to publish this, and it’s a good thing I’m in the habit of highlighting and copying everything before I move on to the next page, otherwise I would have lost everything. Stupid connection. Also, something hurts at the back of my mouth on the left-hand side, but it’s not a tooth. It hurts to move my tongue in certain directions. Which means it hurts to chew. Weird.)