Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(Mis)adventure in Paris

I suspect that most people have heard about our little (mis)adventure in Paris but we figure that we should document it on our blog. Brian's side of the story will be in black as it is intertwined with Jackie's side in purple. Here it goes:

From Lisbon we caught a plane and went to Madrid. I couldn't help but think of the plane that had crashed in Madrid just several days before we were to fly into the same airport. Our safe landing in Madrid was followed by thunderous applause from the cabin. Whew!! We only had a couple of hours so we decided to stay in the airport, eat some McDonald's, and then get on the internet. I decided that I did not really want to take a taxi to get to our hotel in Paris so I decided to research the possibilities a little bit on the internet. I paid a couple of euros to have the internet for 30 minutes. I searched for the best ways to travel from the Charles de Gaulle airport and saw that the cheapest was to go by train. We could save about 40 euros that way so I decided that is what we should do. The blog I looked at also included the stops on the train that one should take if going to the center of Paris so that was very convenient. After pulling up the map of the metro in Paris, I wrote down the route we needed to take. I felt that Jackie needed to know so I showed her our plans of exactly how we were going to get around Paris. I felt a lot better and was starting to get very excited.

I was pretty happy when Brian wanted to use the internet because I wanted to sit down. I let him map out our attack on Paris and I had complete faith in him. If he hadn't beckoned me to stand up and look at the game plan, I would've just sat there lazy and clueless. He showed me that we would be taking the blue line until it met up with the red line at Chatelet Les Halle. Brian butchered the pronunciation so I read the name carefully and attempted it aloud in my best French accent. (Slightly better that Brian's but still pathetic.) I didn't worry too much about the route because I knew Brian had it under control.

Our take-off was smooth and we landed in Paris around 6:30 pm. As soon as we landed Jackie asked if we could get some water so she could take a certain pill. I didn't want to search out for water because I was sure we would run into sometime soon, I just wanted to follow everyone else towards the baggage claim. It took awhile to get our bags, as passengers from four different planes gathered around one tiny carousel. We found our bags and headed towards the metro. It took us a while to find the right ticket, the automated machines were not helpful in my opinion. When we arrived at the trains, there were already two waiting. One was going to leave at 7:45 and the other at 7:55. We put all of our stuff on the 7:45 and as soon as I sat down and got comfortable, Jackie mentioned how she still needed water. D'oh! I was trying to be a good husband, especially on our honeymoon, and yet I was already failing. What would her brother, Reg say if he found out I was letting his baby sister die of thirst. I looked out the window and saw an Evian vending machine. Hmm, that's convenient, I thought. I stood up to go get a bottle.

I stopped at the doorway and looked at the clock. The big hand was on :44. I turned around because I didn't have enough time. I then quickly turned back around and realized I was being challenged by the train schedule. I couldn't let it win. I got this, I thought. Just watch me. I rushed out the door and got to the machine as soon as I could, I looked and found four different options for water, 41, 42, 43, and 44. I put in my two euros and pushed the number 42. I didn't even look to double check the number because I was trying to conserve time. I only looked once I had pushed it and saw the arm uncoiling to release a bottle. While I was waiting for it to drop, I decide to save even more time by grabbing my change from the bottom. 35 cents in euros is like over 50 cents in dollars. Dang, no change yet. The bottle drops so I reach in and grab it. I hear the change drop so I use my free hand to collect that, only it doesn't work. The coin return is now jammed! This can't be happening. Money is tight so I was not going to let this machine take it from me! I'm pushing and pulling but to no avail. There is an identical machine to the right of it so I verfied that I was opening the coin return correctly. I had been so I go back to the machine. At this point a loud, monotonous sound comes over the loud speaker. This dang machine won't give me my money back! I give up and turn to head back to the train. I take one step and the doors close. I rush over to the train and begin to bang on the doors. I look up and Jackie has the most terrifying look on her face. She begins to hit the button on the door, I'm trying to pry the door open with my super strong arms. It's not working. The train is picking up speed and so am I. It's not going to work so I yell, "Get off at the stop!" To which she responds, "Which one!?" My mind goes blank. What was the name of that stop, dang it. "Um, Charles de Gaulle!" The track ends and I watch my beautiful bride ride off into the Parisian underground.

6:35 - We land: "Um honey? I need some water to take my pill." 6:47 - At the baggage claim: "Maybe there is a drinking fountain. Did you see one?" 7:05 - In search of train tickets: "I was supposed to take it right when we landed." 7:26 - Brian battling the automated ticket machine: "Do you think there is a vending machine?" 7:44 - Safely and comfortably seated on the train: "I still need water to take my pill." He sees a vending machine about 8 feet away from the train. He says that he'll just go and grab one from the machine. Is there time? He hesitates at the door and then says, "Oh I have time," and makes a run for it. I am a little nervous but then I see him with the water in his hand and knew he'd be right back. He's not coming back! He's trying to get the change! He just checked the machine on the right! Honey! It wouldn't come out of that machine! All of a sudden there is a loud buzzing noise and the doors are closed! I run over to them and try pushing the button and frantically looking around me for anyone to help me pry the doors open. Brian has an oh-no-what-have-I-done look on his face and yells that he'll get the next one and that I'm to get off at "the stop." When I asked which one, he made a reach for his pocket to grab the instructions he had written down in Madrid but realized there was no time he yelled what looked to be the first name he could think of, "Charles de Gaulle!" The platform ended and I was alone.

I turn around to see 6 different people look away real fast so as not to appear as if they were staring at me. Did that really just happen? Ha, I can't believe it. Now Reg is definitely going to kill me. And if I don't find her, my Dad will most definitely kill me because we haven't delivered any of his grandkids yet. I walk over and sit on the other train, the longest ten minutes of my life. A young man leans over and asks, "you didn't tell her to get off at the next station did you?" I told him that I told her the stop to get off at and that she knew. I didn't want to look like an idiot in front of this guy. "Ok, good, because this is the express train and it won't stop at all of the other stops, so as long as you didn't tell her to get off at the first station." I really hope Jackie doesn't get off at the next station. I looked up at the map, but only to an uncomfortable site. The next stop was Charles de Gaulle terminal 3, or something like that. I told Jackie to get off at Charles de Gaulle. What if she gets off at the next stop! This guy says we won't stop. I hope she realizes that the Charles de Gaulle stop I was talking about was actually our stop on the second line, after we make the switch at Chatelet les Halles!

The guy was misinformed because we did stop at Charles de Gaulle terminal 3 but I did not see a beautiful, stressed out American on the side so I stayed on the train. After that we didn't stop until we got to the big stations in the downtown area. It was the longest 35 minutes of my life. Of course the lady traveling with the little, annoying dog had to sit next to me to make the journey even more painful. The same guy that said we wouldn't be stopping at all of the stops said we would probably arrive before the other train at the stop, Chatelet les Halles. It turns out he was wrong there as well.

I went back to my seat and tried to maintain my composure. Everyone that had witnessed the scene was sneaking sideways glances at me, just waiting for the inevitable breakdown. I was keeping it together while I tried to decide how exactly I was going to get all of our luggage off the train with the 30 seconds that the doors are actually open at each stop. I'll put his back-pack on my back and mine on the front. Then I'll chuck the duffle bag out the door and hope I don't break the Azorean nativity scene we just bought for my mother-in-law's birthday, while simultaneously heaving our unnecessarily large and heavy suitcase onto the platform. I looked up at the train route which listed all of the stops and recognized Chatelet le Halles from Brian's note in Madrid. Then I heard the announcement, "Next stop: Charles de Gualle, terminal 3." I am in no condition to get off this train right now and there is no way that this is the stop he meant. I was barely keeping my composure as it was. I needed a little time so I didn't get off. Then I started to worry, what if Brian thinks I'll get off there because he told me the wrong one. He doesn't know that I remember the actual stop at which we were to switch trains.
That is when the tears began to flow.

I was attempting to make the tears as subtle as possible, but a lady next to me that had boarded the train 2 stops after I did and hadn't witnessed the scene leaned over and asked, in English, if I was lost. I responded that I was not but that my husband and I got separated. She understood it as we were broken up and I wasn't handling it well. She patted my leg with a you'll-get-through-this conviction and said, "It'll be okay." Then I explained about the water and the doors shutting and it looked as though a light bulb lit up in her head. "Oh!" She asked if I knew where to get off and I did but that I didn't know if he knew I did. She kept telling me to call him but I had his cell and niether of our phones work in Europe without paying extra money anyway. She wouldn't let it go though. She said that she would stay with me until I found him. Carolina was her name, and we spent the rest of time talking about her son who was off to study in Hong Kong. She had assumed that I was a student as well, recently arrived in Paris, and lost. She was actually Italian but was fluent in English, French, and Spanish. I was calming down and just thankful to have someone to help me get the bags off the train!

We FINALLY reached Chatelet le Halles and were able to get all of the bags off the train with ease. We sat down right outside the doors and all we could do was wait. We kept thinking that the train was coming but it was always another trackwe were hearing. 4 times it happened! The 5th train was the express we'd been waiting for. I told her he was wearing a blue shirt. I carefully checked the faces of all of the passengers de-boarding the train out the same door I had. (I just assumed he'd have used the same door.) I almost started to cry again when I didn't see him but at that moment she yelled, "Blue shirt! Blue shirt!" I turned to the right and saw a bright blue shirt in a sea of khaki. "Brian!" He saw me and I turned to Carolina with a huge smile and we celebrated with a big hug. He ran up with that stupid bottle of water and held it out for me. I hugged him with happy, teary eyes and vowed that I'd never drink Evian again. Carolina wished us well and we thanked her profusely for all that she had done. I wouldn't let Brian leave my side for the rest of the trip!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Next Stop: Lisbon

After a couple of nights in Coimbra, we headed back down to Lisbon to stay there our last night in Portugal. In the morning we would wake up and leave for home but we decided to make the most of our time in Lisbon.
Sweet aqueduct, huh?. We arrived in time for the rush hour traffic in downtown Lisbon. Notice anything funny about the picture? We decided to follow the crowd and charge the shoulder for a little bit. About 40 cars passed us in the shoulder and we new our exit was the next one so we decided to charge it. We didn't want to spend all of our Lisbon in time in traffic!

We swung by San Fransisco on our way there. Actually, this bridge was modeled after the Golden Gate bridge and built in Lisbon. To the left of the bridge is "Cristo-Rei", the statue modeled after "Cristo Redentor" in Rio de Janeiro. Nothing but a bunch of copy-cats.
Yo girl
Not enough time to get any closer

"Padrao dos Descrobrimentos"
I love this statue. My friend Brady showed me a picture of him in front of it a year ago and ever since then I have wanted to see it. It translates to "Standard of Discoveries" and is dedicated to all of the influential people in Portugal that helped discover the world. It has 30 different people on it including Henry the Navigator (at the helm), Vasco de Gama, Bartolomeu Dias, and Ferdinand Magellan
We had to hussle to make it to the statue before it was completely dark
Torre de Belem
Built in the 1500's to commerate Vasco de Gama's discoveries (sea route to India)
Yo girl
The Palace

Praca do Comercio
Big plaza downtown where youth like to hang out

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Welcome back Sister Donkin!

From the Azores we flew back to Lisbon, rented a car, and drove the 200 Km or so to Coimbra, an area where Jackie spent about half of her mission. As you will see, Coimbra is a lovely town with all of that old, European charm. The biggest attraction there is the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in the world today. It was started in 1290 by Dom Dinis, moved between Coimbra and Lisbon and then finally settled permantely in Coimbra in 1537. Two other places we went that you'll see pictures down below include Portugal dos Pequinitos (Little Portugal) and Quinta das Lagrimas. Portugal dos Pequinitos is a theme park where they have shrunk all of Portugal's famous buildings and statues and put them in a park. It also includes little sections of all of the different countries that Portugal establish around the world. Quinta das lagrimas is the place where one of the craziest stories in the world took place, hands down. I'll explain the story through the pictures.

Here is the family we stayed with in Coimbra. They are an amazing and wonderful family. They absolutely love "Sister Donkin". Beatriz, the mother, called me "Elder" for most of the time we spent there. Thanks for letting us stay at your house, the bed, the food, everything. Foi muito bom!
The ladies of the house didn't let "Sister Donkin" out of their sight. Not your typical honeymoon, I guess.
An old church on campus
A street Sister Donkin used to walk down a lot

The old plaza, or in other words, Pass-a-long card central
A corner in the Pass-a-long card central, where Jackie is reenacting a scene from her mission. (A bird pooped right on top of her head in this spot)
Jackie on the cell we borrowed for those days in Coimbra. This is the campus square at the University of Coimbra.
King Joao, who moved the school to Coimbra permantely

What time is it?

Jackie, just chillin in the school's dungeon
"Honey, people want me to take a picture without my sunglasses, let's try"
That's more like it
If you go inside the old library, don't take pictures. Oops.
Here's the door to get inside the library
Here's the door to get inside the library at Portugal dos Pequinitos
Here I am at real the University
Here I am at Portugal dos Pequinitos. Sweet, huh?
Knock, knock
Chillin in the African section at the theme park
"And if there was more world, there we would arrive" They sure are proud of all of their discoveries.
Little Azores. We were just there!

"Where in the World is, Carmen San Diego?"

Here we arrive at Quinta das Lagrimas. They charge to go here now, like one Euro a person but we were out of cash so we had to sneak in when the guy at the gate was distracted. The quick story goes like this: Prince Pedro was married to a woman but fell in love with the maid, Ines de Castro. The picture below shows a little stream where Pedro and Ines supposedly sent love letters in the stream. The forbidden love was discovered by his dad, the King, to which he had Ines killed.
Supposedly she was killed here, and that is why the rocks are red in some parts. Anyways, Prince Pedro turned into Pedro the cruel and killed his father and anyone who had something to do with Ines' death. So, he became King, and now is where it gets crazy. He had Ines de Castro dug up from her grave and removed. He claimed to have married her and then required that everyone in the court come and swear allegiance to the proper queen by kissing her hand. (Yuuchkk!)

Here we are at the waters of Luso. There is a natural spring here where people will come from nearby to fill up their water bottles, as seen by this family. I didn't want to take a straight up picture of them so I had Jackie pose and then I snuck this picture.
Filling up the bottle
Let me at it!
On the drive back to Lisbon, we stopped by some ruins that date back to six or 700 hundred years before Christ. I'm guessing this is the old school jacuzzi.

An old entrance way
The Roman influence. Tiled floor