Paris Lost


This blog entry about the events of Monday, July 12, 2004 was originally posted on July 19, 2004.

DAY 268:  “Une carte Mobilis,” I ordered at the Metro ticket booth.  Asking for a one-day unlimited train and bus travel pass was the first thing I’d say for this and the next three mornings.  The Mobilis card is aimed for tourists who want to zip around hassle-free.  However, the sights would have to take a backseat to the errands I had planned that day.

After the included breakfast at the hostel where coffee bowls were bigger than the cereal ones, I was back on the Metro riding to the southeast corner of Paris to get to the Russian embassy, along with Parisians going to work during the morning rush hour.  The hustle and bustle of commuters was surprisingly nice; I felt like I was more of a resident of Paris rather than a visitor.  I arrived at the embassy around 8:30 to find a line twenty-nine people long already outside the gate waiting for it to open for visa services promptly at nine.  The guard, a big Russian guy in a suit, opened the gate on time and led us into an outdoor waiting area with a metal fence around us, like we were cattle in a corral.  He gave us each a numbered ticket — I pulled up No. 30 — not that it mattered because people cut when groups of ten at a time were allowed passed the second gate and into the building.

The office of the Russian embassy was much like an American DMV office.  You went on one of many lines, each one serving a different purpose — none of them giving you a much-needed cup of coffee.  After waiting outside for about an hour I was led along with my herd (Nos. 21-30) out of the corral and into the “Russian DMV” to wait on the tourist visa line.  I had all my documents ready for a speedy transaction — a filled-out application form I printed off their website with photo attached, my passport and a copy of the faxed host invitation from a hotel in Moscow that my friend and wannabe travel agent (and soon-to-be traveling companion) Sam set me up with — but it didn’t really matter because tour agencies had priority over anyone in the tourist visa line, and each tour agent cut ahead with six or more of their clients’ passports each.  I ended up waiting another hour on that line, even when I was two people away from the counter. 

Finally I was in front of the young immigration officer and gave him my documents.  I spoke in high school French until he just switched to English with a Russian accent.  “Everything is fine, but this must be on one sheet,” he said holding up the two pages of the application I downloaded on the internet.  He gave me the same applications on one sheet (front and back) and told me to fill it out and come back.  I thought I might have to wait another hour, but he said I could cut ahead when I was done.

RUSSIAN TOURIST VISA APPLICATION, Take Two:  “When are you leaving Russia?” the immigration officer asked me. 

“The thirteenth [of August],” I replied.  He pointed at the discrepancy in my documents:  it said “13/08/04” on my application, but my host invitation document only had me there until the third.  Stupidly thinking that I could just wing it in Russia like I had been doing in essentially every country thus far, I had my friend Sam get me an invitation for only three days in Moscow.

The officer looked at me sternly but let it slide; the duration of time between my scheduled arrival by plane in Moscow (July 30th) and my departure by train (August 3rd) was exactly two weeks, the maximum amount of time one could get for a visa without having to show supporting documents detailing your specific itinerary.  I didn’t have those supporting documents anyway because I started booking the train on a whim from a payphone in Madrid (while Jack was making out), something highly recommended to do.  (Artour, the Siberian travel specialist agent thought it was insane I was booking it three weeks ahead — the norm is six months.)  Any official proof of travel within Russia I wouldn’t have until I got to Moscow.

The immigration officer crossed out the “3rd” and handwrote “13th” and initialized it and told me to proceed to another window with another line.  I waited some more, submit my documents and went on another line to pay the whopping 106 euros for next-day service.

THE REST OF THE DAY I gave up Paris.  I forsake its culture, its architecture, its art, its modern world city vibe — all to sit on my bed with my laptop to catch up on my writing.  As tragic as that was (the weather was nice outside), I kept the words of wisdom bestowed upon me by writer friend and Blogreader matto in my head:  “You become a writer when you write because you have to, not because you want to.”  And so, in the battle going on in my head, Paris lost to The Blog.  Blog 1, Paris 0.

THE SOUNDS OF BIG BRASS INSTRUMENTS echoed through the canyon formed by the buildings lining the small streets of Paris and up into my sixth floor dorm room.  I had come to a stopping point in my writing, copied the files to my camera and went out to investigate the source of the music.  Just downstairs around the corner at a cafe, a group of about a dozen horned musicians and one drummer played for an enthusiastic crowd of cafe patrons and passers-by (picture above) that had to stop and watch for a while, including myself.

In the French summer, the sky really doesn’t get dark until about 10 p.m., which is sort of misleading for me because when it feels like it’s only six in the evening, it’s closer to nine.  This was annoying when I didn’t get out until “late” to go to the only internet cafe in town that I found with a usable USB connection, three Metro stops away — only to find it closed.

Tired and frustrated, I just wandered around the still lively pedestrian malls near Les Halles in the center of town until I just went back to the hostel.  I could have been our partying or something, but I forsake Parisian nightlife to wake up to get my Russian visa early enough to go to the Chinese consulate right after.  In the battle between responsibility and Paris, Paris lost again, but I knew I’d thank myself later.

Next entry: What A Difference A Day Makes

Previous entry: Open and Closed

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Paris Lost”

  • you feel like it’s 6, but it’s closer to 9….lol

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  02:47 PM

  • first….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  02:48 PM

  • damnit markyt!

    markyt 1, paul 0

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  02:48 PM

  • MARKYT:  Hahaha… I didn’t even see that until you pointed it out…  Guess it’s all sixes and nines in my subconscious.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  02:59 PM

  • 6 .... 9…6…9..69.69 ... hahaha ..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  04:35 PM

  • My kinda coffee cup!
    Your sacrifices are admirable. And it’s all for us - shocking! smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  05:12 PM

  • damn, that is one big cup of coffee. is it mostly milk like the cafe au laitr?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  05:53 PM

  • I remember those giant cups of cafe au lait.  Ah, heaven.  I’m in instant coffee hell.

    Posted by Liz  on  07/19  at  07:12 PM

  • NOELLE:  Glad it’s appreciated!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  09:04 PM

  • ALICE:  I think it’s about half and half, milk and coffee…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  09:05 PM

  • Mmm, half and half… Liz - sorry about instant coffee hell - I don’t know that I could deal! I grew up in Seattle on yummy coffee.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/19  at  11:30 PM

  • Great website! What kind of spy camera do you have?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/31  at  12:22 PM

  • GRANT:  The Sony DSC U-30, Sony’s camera for “people on the go.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/31  at  02:04 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
What A Difference A Day Makes

Previous entry:
Open and Closed


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