This was the thought running through my head as I sat in the Logan International Airport in Boston at about 3 a.m. I was not, technically, supposed to be in Boston, nor were any of the other 30 students and sponsors. I was supposed to be on my way to Paris.
Yes, the one in France.
Planning for this trip began during the 2006-07 school year, when Hillsboro High School English teacher Bob Woelk and art instructor Dustin Dalke began the preliminary preparations for a tour of Western Europe through a company called Education First Tours.
After a year and half, the trip became reality June 9 when all 31 of us loaded up and headed for Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. The flight plan was pretty simple in theory: Wichita to Dallas to Paris.
In reality, however, things got a little more complicated.
As the plane circled over the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, our pilot came over the speakers.
“Dallas is experiencing some stormy weather,” he said. “If things don’t clear up in the next few minutes, we are going to have to land in Oklahoma City.”
Things did not clear up.
As we sat on the tarmac outside the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, our pilot assured us all flights in Dallas were being delayed, so we could still catch our flights after landing in Dallas.
Meanwhile, our American Airlines flight to Paris left.
Once we arrived in Dallas, the airline sent us to Boston, which, as far as I can tell from my high school geography training, is located nowhere near Paris.
We finally got to Boston around 1:30 a.m. Woelk called EF Tours, which happens to be located in Boston, and they told him the airline was responsible for putting us up in a hotel for the night. At the same time, the airline told us that, since the poor weather was not technically their fault, it was not their job to pay for our hotel.
We were homeless.
As the phone ping-pong between the airline and the tour company continued, we bummed around the empty airport.
At one point I opened my umbrella, which I had packed for the drizzly European weather, and used it instead to block the ceiling lights as I tried to sleep on the cold floor.
Finally, we managed to scrounge up a hotel room, which the airline did not provide, but at the same time I’m not allowed to tell you that EF Tours paid for it.
When I woke up the next morning, I had the nagging feeling I was really supposed to be in Paris. But since the flight to France wasn’t until the evening, I took a mini-tour of Boston, which consisted of a replica of the TV “Cheers” bar and a quick glance at Paul Revere’s home.
I really like Boston, but the harbor seemed like nothing when I knew I should have been looking at the Siene river.
Having lost a day we should have spent in Paris, we finally boarded our international flight that evening. My personal excitement was dampened only slightly by the fact that I was sitting in close proximity to a large, hairy French man who smelled a little.
He also snored.
I, on the other hand, was unable to sleep through the six-hour flight. But the wait was well worth it when I stepped off the plane in to the Charles de Gaulle International Airport. In my grogginess, I vaguely remember saying, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
I spoke too soon.
You may be surprised to hear that the landscape outside of Paris is eerily similar to that of our own Kansas terrain: flat and farmland.
Because of the thick traffic, what should have been a 40-minute bus ride into downtown Paris ended up taking around 21⁄2 hours. I dozed off a couple times, and that was the only sleep I would get for about 48 hours because when we finally got to our hotel, we met Alex.
Alex was our European tour guide. He is in his early 40s, slightly balding, but has the energy of a 5-year-old. Even at 6:45 in the morning he was at full excitement capacity.
Every morning he would get on the bus microphone, make a clicking noise with this mouth (something like “tchika tchikah”) and say, “Good morning! Guten mooooooooorgen!”
Alex is easily the smartest German man I know. Actually, he’s the only German man I know, but this is beside the point. His native tongue is German, but as he said, “I learned to speak English in school. I had to learn French for the tours. And I fell in love with a Spanish woman.”
He is also an avid soccer, um, football fan, as is every other European man.
Since we arrived in Paris a day late, Alex was determined to give us a complete tour of the city before we left for Switzerland the next day.
On the agenda was Palais Garnier, the “Phantom of the Opera” house; Place de la Concorde, a major square in Paris, home to many historical landmarks, as well as the past location of Marie Antoinette’s guillotine; the Arc de Triomphe, a monument built in honor of those who fought for France under Napoleon Bonaparte; and the Eiffel Tower, which you may have heard of.
But perhaps the most amazing stop on our whirlwind Parisian tour was the Musée du Louvre. The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world, encompassing 650,000 square feet and 35,000 pieces of art.
The structure was originally built as a fortress under the reign of Phillip II in 1190 CE. It didn’t become an art museum until the French Revolution, when the royal collection of art was opened to the public.
We finished our day on the Siene with a guided tour of some of the many other landmarks that we weren’t able to see, such as Notre Dame. I dozed off several times during the boat ride.
Needless to say, after we finally returned to the hotel, I crashed into the bed. It had been a long 72 hours, and the rest of the trip wasn’t going to be any slower.