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Monday, March 10th

Today is my last day in Europe. My flight doesn't leave until after noon, but since it will take me a while to get to the airport I don't have time to really explore any more of Paris. I spent some time walking around Porte de Saint-Cloud and took some time to have breakfast. I stopped by a convenience store to buy some food and wine to take back and try to use up some of my Euros.

I decided it was getting close enough to the time I should leave so I went back to the hotel and got my bags and left for the Metro. I have my route all planned out. I'm going to take the #9 Mairie de Montreuil to Michel Ange Molitor where I'll change to the #10 Gare d'Austerlitz to Cluny La Sorbonne where I can transfer to the RER to Charles de Gaulle.

The first part went OK. I made it to Michel Ange Molitor. However, when I get to the #10 the train is part way in the tunnel, there are Metro personnel, police, and paramedics, and a crowd of people standing around on the platform. I'm not exactly sure what happened since I don't understand French, but after waiting a few minutes and starting to see people leave I decide it's time for me to find an alternate route. Looking at the map I find that I can get back on the #9 and take it to FDR where I can transfer to the #1 Château de Vincennes to Châtelet where I can catch the RER.

I made it to Châtelet and I know I need to catch a RER-B to the airport, but there are two RER-B trains and only one goes to the airport. I get on to the first one that stops hoping it's the right one. I asked the person sitting next to me if this train goes to the airport and it turns out I'm on the wrong train. I get off at Gare du Nord (the next stop) and finally get on the right train. From Gare du Nord it goes non-stop to Charles de Gaulle. At arriving at the airport I check out one of the monitors and find out which terminal my flight is leaving from and go upstairs to catch a shuttle bus to the terminal. After finally figuring out which shuttle bus to take (and realizing I could have taken one of the last two busses.) I make it to the terminal.

After wandering around the terminal for a few minutes trying to find the gate I finally see a sign in English with my flight number on it, AA41 to Chicago. The security is very tight. I first have to talk to a security person who asks me a lot of questions. She then goes to the ticket counter for me and gets my ticket. I then have to go to a table where they open and inspect my suitcase. Finally I'm allowed to go to the ticket counter where I check my bag. As I start walking toward the security checkpoint I notice it's closed and I'm told that I'll have to wait until they reopen it. After waiting a few minutes they direct me away from this area and close the ticket counter I was just at. It turns out someone left an unattended bag and they have to bring in the bomb squad to blow up the bag. While I'm looking at the monitor trying to figure out which gate my flight is supposed to leave from I notice a young woman who also seems to be traveling alone, so we start talking. She was visiting her sister in Italy, but it was cheaper for her to take a train to Paris to catch a plane than to fly out from Italy.

More people are arriving for my flight with lots of luggage and look very confused as they're directed away from the ticket counter. I'm glad I left early, otherwise by now I think I would have been completely stressed out. Since my bag is already checked and I have my ticket in hand I know they won't leave without me, so I sit down on the floor, pull out a magazine, and pass the time. Finally they allow us to go through security and immediately line us up to board the plane. I had planned on using the rest of my Euros to buy some food at the airport, but since the restaurants were inside the security gate I didn't get a chance. I'll just have to hold on to them until my next trip to Europe. While I'm waiting I hear over the PA that they're looking for the owner of a brown suitcase. You would think after the first evacuation people would be wise enough not to leave they're bags unattended. (I wonder how many times a day this happens?) Before boarding the plane they make everyone go through one more security check. After four security checks they finally let me on the plane. OK. Now it's only nine more hours (two hours with the time change) until I'm back in Chicago. What a day!!

Conclusion

My thoughts on Paris: Paris est magnifique. It is a beautiful city with a rich culture and history. Paris has a great appreciation for artists. This is apparent with it's beautiful works of art both in it's many museums as well as out in the open with numerous monuments and exquisite architecture. There are many times where you'll find an artist sitting by the Seine or a park with an easel and paint brush allowing their creativity to flow. With an excellent public transportation system it is very easy to get around, although it's even more enjoyable to take in the sights by walking. There are many good cafés and restaurants and despite what most people say about the French, I found people in Paris to be quite polite. I had little difficulty getting around, and when I got stuck I found people that were very willing to lend their assistance. Unlike in Chicago where everything is oversized, most meals in Paris are light and properly proportioned. This shows in appearance as most Parisians dress very well and you don't see very many people that are overweight. With Paris being a large city it does move at a fast pace, but a more relaxed pace than London or Chicago. People seem to more often take their time and aren't as impatient as other large cities.

My thoughts on London: London is a very large crowded city. It's not as clean as Paris and the weather isn't as comfortable. It seems like it's either raining or very windy or both (even more so than Chicago as there's stores in London that specialize in umbrellas.) People seem to move at a faster pace and don't seem to be quite as friendly or patient as people in Paris. People in London also don't seem to be as style conscious as people in Paris. I saw quite a few overweight people, many wearing skimpy clothes that were way too small for their body style. Although there's much less of a language barrier, (it can be difficult to understand a cockney accent) I prefer Paris over London.


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