On Sept 15th, 2011, I began the lifestyle that will define me for the next few months; that of a backpacker. My goal is to explore the world, learn about other cultures and meet new people all through the aid of digital tools and social media. Armed with an unlocked iPhone and 7 days worth of clothes I am making my way based on recommendations of friends and followers.
When I arrived in Paris via the Eurostar from London, it seemed like everything was going according to plan. I had a restful train ride in which I wrote, edited photos and caught up on that week’s episode of ‘Breaking Bad’. When I got to the station my friend Kirsten was there waiting for me at the gate with a big smile on.
Kirsten is over in Paris for grad school and had moved here just days before my arrival from Chicago. The original plan was for me to stay with her on my arrival and she had anticipated to have an apartment but due to a series of reasons was unable to secure a place beforehand and was staying with someone from her college alumni association. Luckily she had managed to contact me ahead of time and I scrambled in London to find a hostel for Paris.
She needed to pick up her monthly train pass so I took the opportunity to purchase a series of train tickets as well. The next thing on my agenda was to pick up a prepaid SIM card for my phone so I could proceed as planned with the crowd sourcing of the trip. In England there were vending machines at the station so I assumed the situation would be similar in Paris. Not so.
When checked into my hostel I asked the guy at the desk about getting a SIM. I was told that the country has recently cracked down on them, due to anti-terrorism legislation you now need to supply ID and fill out paperwork even to buy even a temporary pre-paid SIM. With little to go on Kirsten and I head off towards the Louvre shopping area to run errands and I figured the guys that the Apple Store would be able to supply more info.
Once there I was able to check in and get my bearings and the staff informed me that there was an Orange store nearby that might be able to solve my problem.
Sure enough, once we arrived at Orange there was a gentlemen who was extremely helpful in getting me setup. For 9,90€ I had what i thought was a working SIM card with 500mb of data in just minutes. We got next-door to the post office and suddenly nothing worked. I popped the SIM card out and plugged it back and suddenly things worked again. Then moments later, they didn’t.
I went back to Orange and eventually discovered that I needed to top up the phone with an additional 10€ to make it work on data, and on top of that, it wouldn’t work until tomorrow anyway.
After a little bit of cross cultural customer service battling I was able to get my money refunded and returned the card. I set out looking for other carriers but soon found myself frustrated and resorting back to a paper city map.
The plan was to catch back up with Kirsten and her friends at a gelato cafe across from Notre Dame around 7. By the time I found myself in the area however I couldn’t locate the cafe in question and spent my time walking up and down the street peering into restaurants for someone I knew before eventually giving up. Tired, hungry and surrounded by expensive food I resorted to the cheapest thing I could find that I knew I could get quickly: Subway.
I tried looking for wifi connections I could use to figure things out but it turns out that the same law that restricted SIM card purchases also restricted open WiFi
Refusing to let the night be a complete bust I trekked back to Notre Dame and spent my time sitting in the courtyard people watching. As I sat there soaking in the incredible architecture, detailed craftsmanship and the camaraderie around me I determined that even though nothing had gone as planned, it didn’t matter, it was still a beautiful night. Also I was eating gelato. Gelato rules.
After some time wandering around I head back towards my hostel and found open WiFi at a bar near the Stalingrad plaza. When I finally got to catch up on tweets, fellow Chicagoan, Elaine noticed I was in Paris and so was she, I then hopped a train and headed her way.
Small photo set posted, more coming soon.