The last night before the flight I was just too excited and nervous to sleep at all, plus a couple friends of mine came bursting into the apartment at 2 or 3 am to "wake me up" and make me spend my last hours with them. I had a painting I wanted to finish for someone specific, and was going to miss these friends a lot, so I didn't argue.
On the flight I was actually able to sleep on the plane for a few hours, something I usually find impossible due to being in such close proximity to a bunch of strangers. I had Aphex in my headphones for a good chunk of that flight and now think of that day whenever I hear those tracks.
My travel partner and I were trying to keep things light, keep it friendly, stay off the awkward subject of the fact that we had both committed to traveling to a foreign country together on the pretense that we were to be a couple, and that I had called that off but we were both still locked into the non-refundable and quite expensive tickets.
In the plane, the largest and nicest one I had ever been on, I was exposed to my first experience of hearing french all around me. It was surreal at first, but this is something I would grow accustomed to surprisingly fast.
We got to the huge Paris airport, exchanged money for some euros, bought some wine at the airport, marveling at how cheap it was (3-4 euro for a bottle of nice looking red!) and got a cab to the hotel, still quite early in the morning. They didn't have a room ready for us when we got there so we sat in the lobby with plastic cups and drank the wine, unsure of whether it was allowed or not and therefore being pretty discreet about it. We didn't have a corkscrew so I did the old trick of pushing the cork down into the bottle, splashing some of the wine up my sleeve in the process.
We got to the room and noticed that it was one bed, contrary to what I had reserved. This added to that unspoken awkward chasm that we were both attempting to ignore.
I wanted to sleep but I was too hyped up from all of the various stimuli, the excitement of finally being in France. So we went out to find some food. We sat down at a restaurant and the waiter came up to me and spoke in french to me. I was way too tired to say anything, let alone attempt to say something in french, so I stared blankly for an awkward moment until he realized and spoke in English to us.
I finally knew what it was like to be the foreigner.
After eating I was actually able to sleep. I passed out for 11 much needed hours, during which I had a dream that I had been on my way to the airport to fly to Paris and had missed my flight.
The crushing disappointment I felt in that dream was so real that when I woke up to find myself really in Paris, I was ecstatic, and all of the other stressful details seemed insignificant in comparison.
I excitedly told my travel partner about this dream, then we went out to wander the cobblestone streets of Montmartre, got hassled by a very persistent man trying to sell us roses, and found a very stereotypical looking french restaurant. I got some mussels that were actually pretty terrible, way too fishy for my taste.
The next day we explored the area a bit, went to another restaurant, and ended up getting a bunch of wine and beer and drinking in the hotel room.
Somewhere in the midst of our drunkenness we came to an epiphany. I had always wanted to travel to another country. He had also always wanted this. We both wanted travel partners for this. The pretense of romance with each other was what made us actually commit to these plans, and even though things played out quite differently than expected, it got us both there.
It all seemed to have a purpose, an order within the painful chaos, and we wrote it down in my notebook so we could discern the next day whether this was a valid epiphany or just drunken silliness. The next day it still made sense.