Okay, to begin, I left Pamplona at the crack of dawn on Friday. I had bought the earliest bus ticket to Bilbao so I could spend the morning looking around. I bought the tickets before I knew that I was going the weekend before. However, I was planning on going to the Basque Museum to learn about the Basque people a little more since I didn't do that the last night. Sadly, this did not work out. Carmen told me that I should go straight to the Bilbao airport because of Iberia's strikes. Now, my flight was with Air France, but she had heard that people had to change their flights to other airlines so she told me to go ahead and check-in to ensure my seat. This precaution was actually unnecessary because I actually had checked in the day before.
You see, I had told Air France to e-mail me my boarding pass to my phone. It's a new way of boarding the planes. The airline sends you a QR code to your phone and then they scan it at security and when you're about to board. Therefore, I was completely checked in the night before my flight. Crazy, huh? The problem with this was that I couldn't do anything to change my flight. Since I got to the airport so early, I asked if I could have an earlier flight. They couldn't change my ticket because I was already checked in, which is the downside to the QR pass. It was really cool though, to just have them scan my phone screen. It's easier to keep track of a phone than a phone and the boarding passes.
Anyway, I got to the airport about 10:00am and my flight didn't leave until 3:20pm. I had tried to switch to one for 1:00pm, but as I said, I couldn't. So I went over to a cafe and tried to get onto the Wi-Fi; however, it wouldn't let me. I wasn't special enough. The Wi-Fi was only for elite business people or people who worked there. The airports in Europe are very weird about Wi-Fi, in my opinion. Even the Paris airport Charles du Gaule (CDH), only let you have 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi and then you have to pay. One thing I really miss about America is the availability of free Wi-Fi. Good thing I brought my Kindle and had had the forethought of adding books on it. I had started to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower on the bus ride over and ended up finishing it 10 minutes before my flight left. I read an entire book in one morning. It's crazy the things you can accomplish when you don't have Internet.
After I arrived in Paris, I used my 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi to check in and tell my mom that I arrive safely and whatnot. Then, I took out an e-mail that I printed the day before with instructions Tyler that had sent me for navigating the metro. Her instructions were great and I figured out how to get to the hotel with relative ease. I would be lying if it were seamless, but I didn't get on the wrong train or anything--I just had to stop and read the maps in the station a lot.
When I arrived to my final stop, I got off the train and was really confused. Tyler had figured out a route for me using Google Maps, but the actual metro stop was on a different road than it appeared on the map. I was really confused and wanted to ask someone for help, but I can't speak French. I also had the wrong idea of where Montmartre (which is where we stayed) is in Paris so when I looked at the map I couldn't find where I was. I ended up going back in the metro station and found a blown up map and found my way to the correct road pretty easily. I was settled in the hotel around 8:30 or so. Tyler wasn't supposed to arrive until 11:00 so I had around 3 hours to kill.
I wasn't sure what to do, so I ended up walking around the neighborhood for a little. I went to the supermarket and bought some fruit to eat throughout the weekend. I tried to order coffee in French and that didn't really work. At CDG, I copied some French travel phrases and tried to use those. I couldn't figure out how to pronounce certain things. Luckily, most people who work at stores and restaurants know the English necessary to do business.
I felt weird walking around at night because I wasn't really trying to get anywhere so I just pretended like I knew where I was going. I ended up going back to the hotel for a while and watched some French TV. I watched this reality show where French celebrities compete in diving contests. It was really entertaining. I think if that show were to air in America it could be called, "Diving with the Stars."
I feel asleep and when I woke up it was 11:20, so I ran downstairs to see if Tyler was there. She wasn't, so I sat down in the lobby and waited. She came in about 5 minutes later very frazzled. She had been lost for an hour and a half with all of her luggage. Eventually, a French guy had helped her find the hotel. We got her stuff upstairs and caught up. We had a Sigma family Skype session with Sarah and then went to bed.
Side note: Tyler is my sorority big sister. We're in Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. Tyler is also Sarah's big sister, which makes Sarah my "twin." Since Tyler and I were both together, we thought it would be a perfect time to Skype Sarah because it's so hard to coordinate all of our schedules.
We kind of had a bumpy morning. We tried to buy metro tickets, but the metro station we went to didn't sell tickets. We spent a while trying to figure out what to do. Eventually, Tyler asked an elderly couple if they knew where we could buy tickets and the woman gave us two temporary passes! It was so nice. We went to a market and shopped for a little bit. We then went back to the metro and bought day passes. After that, we tried to find a Starbucks, which are everywhere, and couldn't for a long time. When we did, the power was out. In the next one we went to, the power was also out. Some kind of weird grid thing, I guess. We gave up on that and tried to find a Turkish/doner kebab place, which are everywhere, and couldn't. We ended up eating at a really bad Chinese restaurant.
Luckily, things went uphill from there. We found an operational Starbucks! That cheered us up considerably. It was freezing cold outside and the Starbucks warmed us for a good while.
We also went to the Moulin Rouge. We took a couple pictures outside (Tyler has all of the pictures of the both of us as she had an actual camera and I used my phone) and checked out the area that the public can see. If you want to watch a cabaret at the Moulin Rouge, you have to pay about 150 euros, which neither of us had. Maybe when I win the lottery or write a best-seller.
Tyler had a guide book that outlined a walk through Montmartre. We started out in a cool looking cemetery. Apparently, the original cemetery had to be destroyed, so they took the graves and compiled them into this one part. It looked like a city of tombs to me. The only person in the cemetery that we had sort of heard of was the inventor of the saxophone. It was too cold to try and find it, but it was cool that Mr. Sax was there. I wish we had stumbled upon it.
I also found the Vandoren office building! If you play a reed instrument or you have children who do, you know what I'm talking about. Vandoren is a popular type of reeds that the band directors always make you get. I thought it was cool to stumble upon the reed people.
It was obvious that there were some other people on the same tour as us because they kept stopping at the same places. It was kind of funny.
We walked through a garden dedicated to a WWII heroine which was cool. It also had this headless saint which was a little strange, but hey, it was cool.
We then went to Renoir's apartment. It was very non-descript and hard to find. The only reason we found it was because we found some American tourists with a Rick Steves' Paris guidebook and they told us where it was. The one Tyler had wasn't as clear, I guess. It was basically a regular wall. We decided to be creepy and we climbed on the half wall across from it to see over the big wall. It was a nice little garden area.
We continued along the walk until we reached a touristy section. We had made it to the Sacre-Coeur cathedral. The view from the cathedral is the highest part of Paris and you can see the entire skyline. Unfortunately, it was extremely foggy and couldn't see a whole lot. Nonetheless, it was beautiful.
However, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before going to the cathedral, we looked around at the gift shops. There were all these "artists" doing caricatures around the streets. Tyler and I had a miscommunication about whether we actually wanted one. I thought it might be cool to have one together. Two people started doing one of each of us and I didn't know what to do. I think we both thought the other one wanted one done. Tyler was jabbering away in French with her guy, so I just let the other one draw me. He talked to me in Spanglish since I don't speak French and I told him that I speak Spanish. When he was done, it looked absolutely nothing like me. He then told me that they normally cost 50 euros but that he was knocking it down to 30 for me. I told him I didn't have that. Tyler came over and just told me to walk away and we both told him we don't have that. He kept going down until he got to five euros and I ended up giving him 3. I felt kind of bad, but I didn't want the caricature anyway and Tyler didn't pay any for hers. We ended up throwing them away because they looked nothing like us. My brother and I got really good caricatures in Paris when we visited several years ago, but these were just bad because they weren't us. It was like the artists made up people to draw.
What really struck me as odd and bothered me, was that they sold souvenirs inside the cathedral. Notre-Dame did this as well. They both had gift shops and stands selling souvenirs INSIDE the cathedral! I thought that was crazy and half expected Jesus to show up and knock over some tables. Tyler and I talked about this, it's one thing to ask for donations but another to make a church into a business. Or at least take it out of the sanctuary. It just didn't feel right to have that going on inside a church. After all, that's the only time we see Jesus get mad in the Bible.
After the Sacre-Coeur, we hopped on a metro and headed over to the Concierge. This is a building that has been in France since the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of it (Tyler has them), but I can tell you that the gates in front of it reminded me of Buckingham Palace. The Concierge has been used for many things over time. It once was a castle for the kings and queens. During the French Revolution, it was used for keeping prisoners. Now it's museum.
The first part of the Concierge was an exhibit on the the changes in perception of castles over time. It was very interesting. The part about the middle ages referenced Arthurian legends a lot and featured a copy of a book about Gawain and a painting of a quest Lancelot went on. My inner Arthurian nerd geeked out.
Ahem. So after that, we moved on to the exhibit about the Concierge as a prison. We kind of rushed through it because it was about to close and Tyler really wanted to see Marie Antoinette's cell. She got to see it, but I glanced at it and thought it was a chapel and didn't go far back enough to see the reconstructed version--the people shooed us out before I could go over and see it. Ah well.
On the way to Notre Dame, we stopped by Shakespeare and Co., which is a famous bookstore. We were so cold that we ended up going upstairs and reading children's stories for a while just to dethaw somewhat. We found some good ones! We found this one called Bilbo's Song or something like that about Bilbo Baggins. We also read a couple of tales from Tales of Beedle the Bard and Philip Pullman's retelling of Rumplestiltskin.
When we ventured over to the Notre Dame, we actually walked into a sort of dedication service. Apparently, they're getting some new bells for the tower and they had them all lined up in the aisle. So that was neat.
The weather kept getting colder and colder, but we wanted to stop by the Eifel Tower and get some pictures before we turned in for the night. So we hopped on the metro and hung out by the Eifel Tower as long as we could stand it. We even got to see it glitter (no sun needed), which it does every hour so we hit it at the right time.
It was absolutely freezing so we decided to head back and watch the new episode of Vampire Diaries (a show we both watch) and catch up back home, but the Wi-Fi was out. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise because we probably went to bed earlier than we would have otherwise.
We both had flights at 10:20, so we got up at 5:30am to head to the airport to make sure we had enough time and so Tyler checked in for her international flight early enough. We made it to the the airport about 7:30. I was getting stressed because I needed Wi-Fi to get my boarding pass and the airport's 15 min of free Wi-Fi wasn't working. Finally it worked and I felt much better. Of course, I could have talked to the air france people but then I wouldn't have had as much time to spend with Tyler.
Alas it was time to go, so we said good-bye. I flew back to Bilbao and took the bus to the old part of the city. I wanted to find the Basque Museum but by the time I got there it was one o'clock and the museum closed at two and I didn't know exactly where the museum was.
It was really nasty weather; cold, rainy, and foggy--perfect for dementors. So I decided I'd stop in on a mass. I found that I understood a lot more than I normally so. Either the priest was easier to understand or I'm understanding the way a mass works more/my Spanish is better. Then I wandered around looking for a decent and inexpensive place to buy pintxos (pinchos) but most places were closed. I went somewhere, but they weren't very good. But I was so hungry that it didn't really matter.
I ended up paying a couple euros to get an earlier bus back because I was exhausted, cold, and wet and had nothing to do since everything closes on Sundays. I happened upon a statue of John Adams before I left, which was neat. He apparently helped Biblao at one point in a matter of diplomacy.
For some reason, the bus I was on had Wi-Fi and the airports don't. That's how I got the blog post done so quickly--I outlined it on my phone while I was riding the bus. It's just a bit odd to me, I don't understand.
When I got home, Carmen greeted me warmly and had made me some hot chocolate served with bread to dip into it. I can't remember if I've written about hot chocolate in my blog, but hot chocolate here is different than in the U.S. In Spain, when you order hot chocolate you usually ask for "Cola-Cao" (Cola-Cow), which is hot milk served with a packet of mix that turns your milk into hot chocolate milk. I don't like it because I don't like chocolate milk. Then you have "chocolate caliente" which is made with a type of chocolate bar that you mix with hot milk to make this really rich and chocolately beverage. It's very delicious. Needless to say, I was touched and it definitely hit the spot because I was still freezing cold. Coming back home was the first time since Friday that I've actually been warm.
Well, that's my basically trip! If you're wondering about the name of the title, Tyler and I had a joke going on about building a barricade if something went wrong. We made a lot of Les Mis references at the end of the day.
I hope you enjoyed my novella of a blog post. If I haven't scared you off, tune in next time for...