You're not really lost if you don't have a destination.

Do you ever feel like you are lacking direction? I have spent the entire morning trying to figure out how to ride the metro. It has been pretty frustrating. The first problem was getting a ticket. My conversation with the metro attendant went something like this.

Me: Bonjour.

Attendant: Bonjour.


Attendant: (Honestly, I have no idea.)

Me: Je ne comprend pas le Français bien.


Apparently she doesn't understand my French either.

Me: Un.

I held up one finger, communicating more with my hands than with my words.

Me: À Paris.

Attendant: Un Euro Soixante.

Thanks to that little digital screen flashing 1,60, I am now wandering the station trying to figure out which train to get on. Part of the problem is that I'm not really sure where I am going. I just wanted to get out. I haven't seen anything in Paris yet. The other part of the problem is that I have no idea where any of these trains are going. I was able to obtain a map from another metro attendant. That's one successful interaction with a native. Maybe I should feel proud about that, but pride won't give me any idea of where I am or where I am going. I wish I had a map for the map. There are a hundred French names and only a few of them seem to match the names on the train.

I'm starting to think that maybe I should just go back to the hostel. I've been here for literally over an hour walking down different hallways, following different arrows that all seem to point me in a circle. Besides, it took me at nearly as long to get to this station in the first place. I just kind of ended up here after wandering through Paris. And getting back to the hostel... well, I'll worry about that later, first I need to figure out where I am.

You probably think this is funny. You probably would have just jumped on a train an hour ago...

I'm now riding the 7 train towards some place called "Mairie d'Ivry". I'm not really sure what that means, the train pulled up and I just had to get out of that station. The next stop is Opéra. I think I'll get out there.

The station at Opéra is a lot easier to navigate. FYI, in French, sortie means exit... slowly but surely, one word at a time I guess. As I climb the stairs out of the Metro station I turn around to find the Academie Nationale de Musique. It's pretty cool I guess.

It's colder out here than when I first entered the metro station almost two hours ago. The sky is... blank. No color. No sun. No anything. I'd like to see this building on a sunny day... I take another look. I guess it is pretty cool.

I duck in to the nearest shop, a gourmandise. It's brightly colored, warm, and filled with candy. A sharp contrast to the gray Paris outside. I browse for a moment with no real intention of buying anything. But the smell of sweets awakens a hunger that has been suppressed by the stress of being lost. I see a large caramel and take it up to the guy behind the counter, handing it to him with a five euro note.

Me: Un caramel.

He says something that I don't understand and I'm not sure he is even talking to me so I don't respond. I look at the ground and wait for him to hand me the change. I leave the gourmandise and immediately unwrap my caramel. It's gone before I cross the street. I barely had time to taste it. There is no question that I am an American. I count the change in my pocket. Apparently that caramel was four euros twenty. If euros meant anything to me I might be having buyers remorse, but as far as I'm concerned it is play money. The conversion brings it out to somewhere close to six dollars but I try not to think about it. The important thing now is to find somewhere I can exchange this play money for some real food.

Down the street I see just what I need, a little piece of home. The golden arches of a McDonalds shine like a beacon of the familiar.  As I make my way towards the glowing beacon, I notice on the opposite side of the street another American invader, Pizza Hut. I chose the McDonalds because I don't need to cross the street to get there.

It make look like a McDonalds on the outside but it is something very different on the inside. For one there is something called the McCafe where they serve desserts and espressos. I see the employee paint a little garnish on a plate for a customer as he hands him his espresso and pastry. It looks very nice but I need something substantial. As I peruse the meny only thing I recognize is a BigMac. Looking a little further I see something called "chicken shake" and I nearly loose my appetite imagining what that could be. I'm too hungry to be homesick, I just need to order... anything.

I must have taken a wrong turn out of the McDonalds because nearly an hour later I still haven't found the Opéra metro station. It's been dark for sometime now and the night air is getting colder, biting at my nose. I hesitate to cross another street, looking for something, anything that I recognize.  A man approaches me.

Man:Pardon, Ou est le metro?

Me: Je ne sais pas.

Man: (mumbles something)

Me: Je ne parle pas Français. Parlez-Vous Angalis?

Man: Non Anglais, Français et Italiano.

Me: Non Italiano.

He shrugs, then shakes my hand and smiles at me. We are both foreigners, wanderers in a strange land. I hope he finds the metro. I wonder how he got here. I guess it is as they say in France, all roads lead to Paris. Maybe if I could figure out which of these roads brought me here, I could find a way to go home. Whichever road it is I think that you must be at the end of it...

 I turn right for no particular reason and a block later I run into a river. This must be La Seine. On the other side of the river is a beautifully illuminated, ancient looking castle type building. The light reflects beautifully off of the water. I can't help but think how cold that river must be. As I watch a boat move downstream a light catches my eye. It's the Tour Eiffel and it's beautiful. Lights illuminate the whole tower and at it's top large search lights revolve, illuminating the sky. What are they searching for? No maybe that's not it at all. Maybe they are shining out into the night for the searchers. A brilliant beacon for wanderers like me.

To be completely honest, the reason I am here in Paris still eludes me.  But for now, I am beginning to feel that I belong here.

Yours sincerely,

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