My flight to Paris was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon departure. At midnight Wednesday, I had only just begun the process of loading up my belongings into the backpack that we'd finished sewing a few hours earlier. The slow and gradual process of selecting gear and clothing from the accumulated options continued throughout the night. Each item was carefully deliberated over. For example, I have a good quality compass and a good quality whistle. Should I pack those two items or the more cheaply made combo which also had a thermometer built into the casing? The expression "weighing in the balance" describes the basis of this kind of decision. By Thursday morning, my loaded pack with 1 litre of water weighed 13 kg. A little on the heavy side, but the glass bottle of maple syrup I packed will be given away very shortly.
After packing, I said one set of farewells and then headed off to church for the last time. After being anointed and prayed over, I said another good-bye and then headed off to collect my pack and catch my ride to the airport. At this point I also took the picture of my pack which I posted to my blog earlier. I got to the airport in good time and said my final set of good-byes. I breezed through check-in and security, and realised that if not for the knife in my pack and the bulk of my sleeping pad, I could have brought my entire kit for the next seven months on board as carry-on.
The flight went relatively smoothly, but I didn't get more than ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep at any one time. I arrived in Paris on schedule, made contact with an old friend, collected my luggage, and then ventured into the fantastic world of the Paris public transportation network. I don't think I kept Sharif waiting too long at our rendezvous point. If I did, he was too polite to say so. He bought me petit dejeuner and then we headed out to find my hostel. After dropping my bags there, we wandered Paris in the warm sunshine for a few hours before having lunch. Shortly afterwards we parted and I headed back to the hostel for the 3:00 pm check-in time. By the time I finally got to my room and showered I had been sweating into the same clothes for 24 hours. The shower itself would have been disappointing if I hadn't known what to expect of a European hostel. As it was, I felt a great deal better afterwards.
Le Montclair Hostel is on the same block as the Mairie for the 18th Arrondisement, which contains the region of Montmartre. On my last visit to Paris, I had found myself in the church of St-Pierre-de-Montmartre, where I spent a wonderfully serene afternoon. It's not a large church and it was utterly desecrated in the Revolution, but it is small and old and beautiful. It took about twenty minutes to get there, and I was quite disappointed to see that its facade was covered with scaffolding and the entrances blocked. After pausing for a bit of refreshment nearby, I decided to head to Notre Dame. Although I got some pretty decent (and thoroughly pedestrian) exterior shots, I'd missed my chance to go inside by 40 minutes. After watching the crowds in the square for a time, I began to realise how long it had been since I'd had a proper night's sleep, and also that I hadn't eaten anything in eight hours. On the way back to the hostel I remedied the latter situation with a vegetarian platter from a Turkish restaurant, and remedied the former shortly thereafter.
It was 6:00 in the morning when I woke for the first time this morning and made the decision to go back to sleep. The hostel serves a complimentary "breakfast" from 7:30 until 10:00, so there was no point being up so early. And now here I am, fortified by a full ten hours of sleep, a few croissants, and two cups of coffee. I'm ready for what the day may bring, with no hint at all of jet lag. Maybe I'll even make it to church today! Gotta ask Sharif if any Orthodox parishes serve Vespers.