The English Channel: Lipstick and Coffee

The mantra of the past week has been: “With a little lipstick and a cup of coffee, we can conquer the world.”

So far it’s held true. I’ve walked on the earth in three countries since April 3.

The new hotel offers free coffee with breakfast and Eileen decorates my face daily with fuchsia MAC lipstick that she bought on Champs-Elysees—it’s the best way to start all Parisian adventures—and oh are we conquering…

I said goodbye to Barcelona at 3:45 a.m. Monday with no regrets, even though we stayed in the strangest hostel on the planet.

Hillview Hostel, which has recently changed it’s name to Mellow Hillview Hostel, was quite the experience.

When I was planning my trip to Spain back in the beginning of February, we decided we didn’t want to limit ourselves to one city, so we had only booked three nights at Graffiti.

About a month later, hostels were not only a lot harder find but they were also filling up fast. I found Hillview on Hostel Bookers and fell in love with the price, (108 euro for eight nights.) I jumped on the reservation.

We walked for about 45 minutes up staircases and obnoxious hills with our packs full to the brim to reach the view of the hill FROM the top of a hill: hence the name Hillview.

There is much more I could complain about with this hostel, but what’s the point?

We did enjoy our oddly endearing stay there.

The Pakistani chef made every night spent in the kitchen into an event. He cooked curry dishes, sweet eggs, (eggs with sugar,) and curry dishes, and because we were his favorite guests, we were given all of it for free.

At Hillview Hostel we had our very own chef named Ali. He sang, danced and made us endless curry dishes!

I practiced my Spanish with a spicy middle-aged couple from Northern Spain. They mostly wanted to talk about U.S. conspiracy theories, so that was fun.

I never even got the man’s name, but he wanted me to teach him one specific English phrase: “You are a liar.”

The look on his face when he said it correctly for the first time was priceless. His big smile kept laughing out, “you are a liar” all night.

I’ll miss all the people calling me guapa, but I can’t be sad to be in Paris.

I’m writing this as I sit in the Jardin des Tuileries and I’m submitting this to The Echo via Paris’s city wifi—how cool is that??

The hardest thing about being in France has got to be the language barrier.

I don’t know any French.

Let me repeat that for emphasis—I do not know any French.

I have a small panic attack every time I go up to a bakery to buy a baguette or sit down at a cafe for dinner.

“Parlez-vous anglais,”—“Do you speak English?”—is a very useful phrase, but it is a terrible icebreaker.

The French do not appreciate my lack of tongue and will completely ignore my question at times. Eileen’s two years from high school can only get us so far, so sometimes we sit quietly and other times I point and say, “S’il vous plait.”

Yesterday we were navigating the metro during what must have been rush hour.

After people would get on the railcar, they didn’t much feel like making room for anyone else. I got into the car quickly, but then the dissonant beeping began and the doors started to close on Eileen. She stepped back onto the platform safely, but I was trapped inside.. alone.. and I may or may not have had my hands and face dramatically pressed to the window as I may or may not have yelled, “Eileen!”

Eileen smiled and waved goodbye as the metro separated us for the first time in 13 days.

I can only imagine the look of horror on my face just as much as I can only imagine what the packed railcar was saying to me—did I mention I don’t know French, yet?

In an instant, I composed my American-ness and decided toss the theatrics.

We were able to meet up just fine at the line change.

This is where I sat to write my column today–just thought you should know.

(No worries, Mom!)

This experience made me realize I should learn French ASAP.

Before I left Sunderland, I bought a little Parisian guidebook. Probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because there is a two-page phrase section in the back!

Now I can say things like, “Je ne comprends pas,” and “Excusez-moi.”

My life revolves around communicating—I’m a journalist—so it is continuously frustrating that I cannot express my thoughts to the people around me.

Thank goodness I have Eileen!

Some people have broken the stereotype and been nice to us, too–especially our server at Le Brio, an excellent little cafe called about five-minutes walk from the hotel.

The entrees consisted of a lot of cheese, but I absolutely loved it.

It felt like a dream to be sitting on the street corner with a street performer’s horn singing from a distance and a complimentary cocktail sitting in front of me.

Just like Barcelona, Paris has a heartbeat.

Barcelona and I will always be friends, but Paris hasn’t quite let me in the club. I don’t think my heartbeat matches France’s fluttering cardiac muscle, but maybe that’s because I haven’t inhaled enough cigarette smoke yet.

Acclamations et des bières,

(You bet I used Google Translate for that.)


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