My hostel was in the most perfect location in all of Paris! ...le quartier latin (If this were San Diego, it would be equivalent to staying right in the heart of PB). The "Young and Happy Hostel" on le rue Mouffetard had front facing windows in a 6 person room facing out to a cobblestone street covered in shops, bars, and crêpe stands. I had only to walk a few feet to find a fabulous meal, drink, or shop. I was lucky to have found it, especially considering the place I was originally planning on staying was going to charge double and I walked out with all my bags and no idea where I was going. I could not have imagined a better first hostel experience - the people were amazing. Two beautiful and intelligent girls from Boston invited me out for a Guinness my first night in Paris. What a life-saver! I traveled around seeing the sites with the two gals and a great Australian kid for the next 5 days. We had so much fun! Meeting incredible new people has been one of the highlights of the trip so far and I look forward to even more once I arrive at school.
Though there have been many amazing moments, the trip has not been without its hiccups as well. I have learned that often when traveling (especially alone), anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This is probably especially true when traveling Allysha-style (which might be called by my mother "unprepared"). I rather like to think of it as being flexible and open to the perfection that occurs spontaneously. A week into my trip, I will say, however, that it is much more difficult this way, and I am considering revising Allysha-style to mean something more like "flexible but still prepared," which seems like it might work better. There is so much to this experience, from figuring out transportation (trains and planes and metros), finding lodging (hostels, homes, and hotels), to getting to la banque, la poste, dîner, et le café internet, that I could never have prepared for from the other side of the ocean. It is definitely a town by town experiment in survival. What a great opportunity to be thrown into the deep end of life and sink or swim. Mostly I like to think that I swim, if only a rather lame version of doggy paddle. (Having just shown this to Barbara, a wonderful friend of my grandmother’s who I’m staying with a few days, she says I am definitely swimming -a strong breast, at least... although every now and then it does feel a bit like sinking). Every time I have had some kind of trauma (the hostel I was supposed to stay at lost my reservation, the D-Day beaches are closed in January, missing my train stop, getting lost, stuck in the rain, and soaked to the bone) there has been a lesson, and I have ended up exactly where I needed to be - in the perfect place, at the perfect time, with the perfect people.
Over and over again, I am struck by the astounding beauty of the ancient architecture and art dotting every street. My very first day in Paris, I wound up lost in the rain for over an hour and was being harassed by some random Frenchman, when suddenly I looked up and Voila! Notre Dame. I was speechless, shocked that just wandering down the street one could stumble upon such extraordinary beauty. The entire trip has been like that. Today I am in Caen, a small town in Normandy (northern France, right on the channel, about a half hour from the D-Day beaches), on the last night of my solo adventures before arriving at school tomorrow. Arriving at my little hotel room, I was shocked to find that not only is there a completely unmentioned grand church a block away with magnificent pointed spires stretching far into the sky, but there is a castle, truly a gigantic fortress, across the street!! What an unreal place to be with structures out of legend cropping up everywhere and a tremendous castle on my way to the bank or the pastry shop.