Breaking Out, and into Paris, France
January 1, 1970
by Kyle Franklin Johnson
I had made the decision to travel Europe sever months prior, in one of those drunken promises a person makes when in love with new friends and intoxicated on new surrounds, but I believe alcohol is the main ingredient in compulsive promises. To briefly surmise the events that led up to my arrival in Paris, I had a normal life, and I was leaving it behind. I was in South Korea for the second time in 2015, and I had just quit my job and put my house on the market. Several reasons for this. I had still the fresh pains of divorce, and I was making awful decisions, nightly. I wanted to answer to something higher than Myself, and the injustice of the North Korean people became a call I would answer. The truth is, I wanted to be needed. So, I applied to Liberty in North Korea, was accepted, and proceeded to dismantle my old life. The first step was to finally leave California, even for if only for a few days. S. Korea was the first foreign country I visited, and I loved it so much, I went back just a few months later, to make promises of future travels. I had done a lot of research before I flew out, always fearing that I had missed something important. But, as it is, it is very simple for Americans to travel Europe. We are allowed a 90 day Visa, at which time we would have to leave, or apply for more time. As for health insurance, I recommend it, but I did not get any, nor did I need to.
This is the first blog I have written, and though I am an avid writer, it has never been for public consumption. Till now. I wrote this between January 22- February 10th in Paris, France.
Hesitations & Lack of Reservations
I write this, having been here in Paris for, what feels like, a long time. Sometimes it’s hard to see the yarn on the wall, connecting every dot that brought me to this very spot I am now. But, I can clearly remember the obstacles, the reservations, the hesitations, but not my inclinations. I was worried I would be hated. Not for the parts of me that I had a say in, but the parts I could not control. I feared that Americans were not welcome, and that my ignorance of other languages would be the handicap that would do me in. Of course, my friends: Hanbi, and Mathias (whom I was to meet in Paris due to drunken promises made in S. Korea) did their very best to alleviate these fears, but, I still doubted. It did not help that I had already been traveling for quite sometime, 4 four months in total. This was more time than I have ever spent away from the familiar. I was scared, nervous, and even, at times, depressed. The tone upon my arrival only added to these fears. The taxi ride, well, the driver cursed other motorists, stomped his breaks, and even yielded to what I believe was a large rat, though it could have been a small cat with a hairless tail. Mathias met me at the airport and translated what the driver had to say, explained much of the city that we drove past, and started making a list of things we ought to do. He was a comfort. We had a wild time in S. Korea, and I regarded him as one of the few people I believed to be genuine. And so, we arrived at Hanbi’s apartment
Bed and Breakfast
I was to stay at Hanbi’s place for the first week, or more. I had not prepared much in the way of housing, and had no doubt that I would find a place, should I need it. She has a small flat, maybe 150(sq) ft, bathroom, kitchen, couch and a bed. I took the couch. The next day, Mathias and I woke up, went to grab coffee (filtered coffee is rare, espresso is the caffeine mainline) and a French Baguette. I had been anticipating this moment. I usually build up moment too much as to be disappointed once the time has come. Gladly, this was not the case! The baguette was actually warm! Crisps, flavor-filled, it could be broken in half and does not merely bend like many of it’s (subpar) counterparts in the States. This was bread I how I believe it was always meant to be, but had been perverted in the hands of corporations. I had gone to a place where the practices of old, still held true and used! Bread is a serious thing in France, from what I learned from my friend, Mathias. It seemed, freshly baked bread was always bought out of store that are “Mom & Pop” and they often advertise the type of flour used because many follow a specific flour and will swear up, and down about its superiority over other kinds and brands. The “ends” of the beaguett are (from what I was told) the sought after section, and I can only remember asking my Mother to cut the crust off, but here in France it was the favored part, and I could see why.
On the docket for the day: new sim card and RATP card (Régie Autonome des Transport Parisiens). The carrier for my new sim is called SFR http://www.sfr.fr/telephonie-mobile/sfr-la-carte/welcome/. A prepaid card that costs about €4 and is already loaded with €5. You have to have an I.D. to get a sim card in France, it is a law here. So, do not be upset when you have to hand over your passport. They have several pricing options:
- €5: 150 MB for one week
- €10: 1 GB for two weeks
- €25: 3 GB for one month
I wish I would have gone with 3GB for one month, I didn’t know my trepidation would keep me here for so long, but, I also have been using my phone more than I should have and I had not been looking for wifi like I should. Otherwise, it’s a good service. I hadn’t any issues and the connection speed is fast and reliable (***Note: one thing I had learned is that, though the Euro Zones are connected, and travel between its member countries are free, cell carries draw their lines at all boarders. You will be charged roaming). It was fairly simple of a process, but I do not believe that it could have been done as quickly and/or efficiently, unless Mathias had been there to speak on my behalf. The same is true of my RAPT card
it is actually quite bulky. You do not have to get one, but, if you are going to be there for more than two week, it maybe a better option. It works on zones and I was covered from zones 1-2, which is all that you really need if you are staying within Paris http://www.ratp.fr/informer/pdf/orienter/f_plan.php?loc=reseaux&nompdf=zones&. You can get monthly passes (like the one in my photo) but there is a fee to get one and it requires a passport size photo that can be taken at just about any station. Important Note***: The monthly ticket does not start from the time of purchase, but from the beginning of the month. So that means, if you buy it on the 15th of January, you will have to top off your card on the 1st of February.http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21137/forfaits-navigo-mois-et-semaine/ This same system applies to weekly tickets too. Starting monday and ending the next. I really needed a translator here, because even my Native French speaking friends struggled with the attendant. In all, I spent around €45 to be able to ride (unlimitedly) within zones 1-2, both the subway and buses.
I was finally in order. Honestly, had I prepared better, I would not have been lost. So, I am very thankful for my friends for guiding me and translating for me. And now I was ready to explore.