I'll be honest: my first day in Paris started off pretty crappy. I have too much luggage, through no fault of my own, since for once in my life I was actually a very responsible packer. But thanks to program requirements I'm carting around a laptop, various other wires, cords, and equipment, as well as approximately 29 pounds of student files and paperwork. Which, thanks to the "no wheels on luggage" stipulation, I am draping off of my lanky frame in the form of three quite heavy bags, and seriously, a wheeled bag would be heaven right now, and this is one time I'm kicking myself in the rear for being such a rules follower. Having finally navigated from the airport via the RER to my hostel, I dropped my bags in a disgusted heap in a storage closet and set of to kill about 4 hours before I could check in to my room. I left a voicemail with a friend who also happens to be traveling in Paris right now to try to meet up with her later, and then set out to find some money. I put my card in the first ATM machine I came to, and it spit it back out again. Interesting. I tried again. Nothing. But no problem, I moved along to the next ATM. This time it let me get all the way through the procedure, taunting me, before informing me that my bank does not allow this kind of transaction. What the...? Frantically I ran from bank to bank with the same same result. *Gulp.* My stomach was growling, I was tired and my feet hurt and I was becoming more anxious about this money situation by the minute. Luckily I had 4 Euros left over from a previous trip with me, which was just enough to stop into a cafe for a soul-restoring croissant and an espresso. After going on a wild goose chase looking for a bureau d'echange that was open on a Sunday I headed back to the hostel, getting lost on the way, of course, to ask for their advice. Head to St Michel, they said. If there is a bureau d'echange open, it will be there. This involved getting on the Metro, and not having enough centimes left for the trip, I could only hope the ticket machine accepted my xenophobic bank card. I tried it with one card. No dice. Then the other. "Carte muette," it said. But there was a guichet open. "Excuse me," I said to the woman, in French, bien sur, "but what does 'mute card' mean?"
"It mean's it's mute," she explained. "It means...it doesn't want to talk."
"Ahhh," I said.
"But here, I can do it here," she said. "You just have to come to the window." I bought a packet of 10 tickets in case my card continued to not feel like talking at inopportune times. I felt a little better. My bank card was xenophobic and my credit card had suddenly developed a debilitating case of shyness, but I had transportation, and I had arranged to meet my friend and her husband, who, if worst came to worst, would hopefully bail me out with some cash in the correct currency. Luckily it didn't come to that, as I right away found a bureau d'echange that was open, where I immediately cashed in the entire $250 advance on my salary for a depressingly small amount of Euros, and thank god for that advance because otherwise I would truly be up a creek. The echange guy thought I was Italian and threw in a couple extra Euros because I was "jeune et belle." God I love France.
Lodging for one night: 55 Euros
Carnet of 10 Metro tickets: 11.70 Euros
Not having to eat dinner alone in a foreign city: priceless