In my last few hours in the US, I started thinking “How long is a year?” I was sitting on the couch and talking; “Okay,” I said, “I have four hours here, and then a year not here.” My mind couldn’t quite make sense of this contrast of times. What have I done for a year? How does one plan for a year? My father picked me up at 10:45 to go towards the airport. After a short photo session we went to S+S Deli and Restaurant in Inman square for a last meal of bagels and lox before heading out to the airport. I took a 2:35pm flight from Boston to Reyjavik.
On the flight I at my bagel and knishes and continued reading Steve Coursin’s excellent book, Sword Dancing in Europe: A History. I have thus far tended to jump around to the parts that concern dancing that is still being done, but the accounts of dancing in historical documents around Europe are pretty amazing on the whole. Within an hour, however, my body had decided that it hadn’t slept in far too long and I was jolted awake by the captain announcing that we were beginning our final decent. Though it was 11:30 at night, the sun was still a red globe right on the edge of the horizon. Though I was not quite far north enough (or close enough to solstice) to see the “White Nights,” the sky never got particularly dark, and the sun rose early.
Have I mentioned that Iceland is obsessed with being iceland? In particular, Icelandair is really big on Iceland. everything from the napkins, to the pillows, and from the seat back covers to the inflight video was filled with various Icelandic sayings, poems, factoids and history. When we got to the customs station this continued in the form of ads for a bank that had huge pictures with sayings like “A man who has no brother is naked on his back.” I took some pictures of the postcard versions
I got my passport stamped (score!) and switched out the SIM card of my phone. I noticed that there was a flight leaving for Paris in an hour and I tried to switch, but they said the only seats available i would have to pay for. Oy, such ridiculousness! I had already swiped a blanket and pillow from the airline and went to go find some place to sit. I found a table and wrote postcards for a little while before heading to an empty hallway nearby to play some banjo. I sat next to a model viking ship, looking out at what I am choosing to believe were volcanos, and playing old time tunes. It must have made a funny image, because several pilots stopped by to stand and watch. I also did a little photo shoot with my banjo and the viking ship! I decided to explore a little bit more and walked down the hallway away from my gate I passed these tall statues that turned out to be guardians of the four directions. Some icelandic tradition I assume.
Statues of the 4 directions I really want to stay a few days here on the way back from my project! After determining that everything in the airport was closed I headed back towards my gate. On my way, I saw two girls playing bananagrams, so of course I had to ask to join in! They were two students from Pittsburg, Bridget and Jenny, who were heading to London for a few weeks. We got to talking, playing bananagrams (which is just such an amazing game!) and played the most complicated game of Egyptian Ratscrew I have ever played (doubles, sandwiches, runs of three, slap all 7s, cards that add up to 10). It eventually got to that point in the night (morning?) when everything sounds like a fun idea and so things started to get crazier. What started with sitting in the wheelchairs became wheelchair jousting, swing dancing, racing and wheelies. Eventually we tired of this game (well people started coming into the airport and we decided it was better not to continue the activities) and they convinced my to play some songs on banjo. Actually, they convinced me to sing an icelandic lullaby that was written on the pillows we had stolen. The end result (maybe video later?) was a made up tune sung in icelandic and english with an accompanying interpretive dance. Also: Icelandic airport security uses scooters to get around. We were so jealous!
The shops started to open up and we went over to get some breakfast. Everything was in Krona, and none of us had any idea of the exchange rate, so that was sort of a shot in the dark, but we enjoyed breakfast and I finished off my fruit salad from S+S. We really started to crash pretty hard once we had food in us, and so we headed off to our respective gates to rest briefly and catch our flights.
I left Reyjavik at around 7:40 am and I was asleep again before the plane took off. I woke up half way through and ate a croissant sandwich of ham and cheese before falling asleep again. Landing in Charles Du Gaulle we were sent up and down a long moving sidewalk that went in rolling hills through the airport. This finished in a central courtyard with lots of slanted moving sidewalks in little tubes criss-crossing each other in midair. Sort of futuristic! I got the the baggage claim and stood with all the other passengers for the bags. Unlike the other passengers however, my bag did not arrive. Oy, this did not seem like a good start to a year of travel. I went to the baggage inquiries counter to ask about my bag and the man directed me to a different counter just down the hall. This man in turn referred me to a third counter a little further down. When I finally hit the 5th counter, i was legitimately worried about my bag. The man spoke some english and had me start filling out a form. About half way through he looks up from his computer and says. “Oh, your bag is here!” He takes me into a back room and pulls out my bag! Apparently, while they were not able to fit me on the earlier flight, they had fit my bag and didn’t see fit to tell anyone (let alone me) about it. All’s well that ends well I guess!
I left the airport without getting my passport checked (Anyone know why this is? Is it coming from Iceland? Should I care?) found an ATM and started waiting for the bus. The AirFrance bus was rather convenient, taking me from CDG Airport to Gere Montparnassee, while conditioning my air and playing videos of VocaPeople. The city was pretty fun to see, even by bus and totally exhausted. There were huge buildings, ornately carved facades, people camping, motorbikes weaving in an out of traffic (and down the wrong way on one way streets) like nobodies business, shops, bakeries, and bikers. Similar to Russia, McDonalds has free WiFi (pronounced WeeFee). I got of the bus and after some confusion as to which of the various kinds of trains I was supposed to take, I managed to buy a ticket to Bellvue (in French no less!). Mell, the caretaker for the family where I am staying, was kind enough to meet me at the train station and walk me down the beautiful winding roads to La Source, the house where i will be staying for the next few days. He showed me the place and told me about the village before heading off himself, saying that benji will be back at 7 or 8.
I wrote a bit in my journal and took a much needed shower and nap before heading out again. By the time i got up from my nap it was already 10:30 and everything around me was closed. I considered taking the train into paris central, but it shuts down at 1 and i really didn’t want to get stuck in the city the first night. As I was wandering around I was approached by three people who asked me in french where they could find food. I replied that i didn’t know, and didn’t speak french and they told me that in fact they were all traveling as well. I met a Russian girl, Nika, and a couple living in Berlin but originally from Moscow and Ireland. We determined that the only place open was a pizza place near my house, so we split a pizza and a bottle of wine while the people in the shop played video games on the wall TV.
Back at the house I met Benji, my host. Our grandparents had known each other in France and my mother had spent time at this house when she was in college. He went to Amherst and then taught English in Marseilles before moving to Paris a few months ago. We chatted for an hour or so and then decided it was definitely time for bed. And now, dear reader I must leave you for sleep. Please comment and say hi, and I’ll write more soon!