I was stuck in the airport at Dublin for most of the morning, since my flight left six hours after Grandma’s, but eventually I made it to Strasbourg (after a quick layover in the WORST airport in history: London Stansted).
My host in Strasbourg is a political activist and leader of the Strasbourg-based “LA STACION,” which is a LGBTI organization which promotes equal rights and legal protections and organizes events in the area. My original purpose of meeting hi was to interview him about what his work was like and about his reactions to the recent passing of gay marriage in France and subsequent violence that ensued. More on that later.
I got in pretty late, so I went to bed immediately, and the next day spent the day exploring the city to get a feel for what it was like.
The buildings look incredibly German, while everything is labeled in French and everyone speaks French. So… German city with a French heart. It’s a wonderful combination.
Apart from that, my time is Strasbourg was sadly uneventful. I spent most of the day catching up on writing (churning out six posts).
The second day came together crazily and unexpectedly. I was contacted by the owner of a flat in Elx, Spain and managed to seal the deal, and as a result would need to be in Spain by the first or second of May. This meant I would need to go to Paris immediately to apply for my Chinese visa since Elx is nowhere near a Chinese consulate, so I called up my good friend Camille in Paris to let her know I was coming. She wouldn’t be home over the weekend, so I called another friend about coming to Nantes while my visa was processed before making it back to Paris to pick it up and fly to Spain. Whew.
So I booked at Blablacar ride to Paris for €25 and went to the nearest médiateque (library/computer using combo building) to use a computer and edit some photos for the blog. But instead, the guy at the desk took forever processing my information and I ended up with a public library card for the city of Strasbourg. As a result of THAT, there was no time to do what I wanted to do because I needed to run and do a video interview with my host David who ran the local LGBTI center, La Station. More on that later.
So the interview went well and I immediately had to leave to catch my ride to Paris.
The driver was Armenian with dual citizenship in France and drove up in a big white rape van (with lots of mysterious boxes in the back). Our other passenger was a young French student from Paris who was headed home to see his family. We bonded over my terrible French.
I don’t know what kind of coffee addiction the peoe here must have, but it’s crazy. At 7:30 on the dot, Arthur (the driver) pulled out a thermos and in heavily accented French asked, “Would you like a little cup of coffee?” I just widened my eyes as he steered with his elbows, pouring himself a little capful of coffee to sip on like he were sitting at an outside restaurant.
But oh, the colors. Eastern France is a gem to behold at sunset. Fields of yellow rape flowers (god I hope that’s what they’re called and that person I asked wasn’t shitting me…) stick out over a rolling sea of emerald, and the sun burning slowly more red as it falls behind a wall of blue mountains. There were no good pictures to be had because our windshield was essentially a mosquito zapper, but you get the picture.
Our driver didn’t drop us off in Paris though, which made things a bit more difficult. One of the other passengers and I ended up taking a train into the city, where finally after two years I was reunited with one of my favorite people in the world, Camille.
The last time I was in Paris I stayed with her in a one room apartment and had an absolute blast, even though all of my stuff got stolen.
She was drunk when I came in and needed to work early the next morning, so we only had enough time to yell at each other, “I missed you! How are you?! You’re awesome?” before passing out completely.
The next two days, I stayed in. The whole day. I got up only to eat something in the kitchen and to use the restroom. Camille had left for the weekend and I was not about to skip the possibility of finally having a day off from traveling.
My other friend, Carolina, lived in Nantes and I found a cheap ride there, so headed out to visit for a couple days before coming back to Paris to spend more time with Camille, and left Sunday afternoon via Covoiturage for another French city I’d never been to.