by Dan Daman, world traveller
I don't know if I've told you this, but I've been to Europe. Yep, early last year I climbed on board a Malaysian Airlines 747 and some twenty-two hours later I disembarked at Charles De Gaulle airport. That's in France, you know. I'd always felt drawn to France. Even though I didn't speak French, or know any French people, or really have any idea about the place, I'd always felt, well, French, in some fundamental way. Perhaps it was all those Asterix books I read as a kid. Anyway, arriving in Paris was like coming home. Except I didn't know who anybody was, or understand what they were saying. But apart from that, it was just like home.
Paris was great. If you haven't been to Paris you haven't lived. In fact, if it looks like you'll never get to Paris, it's probably best to just kill yourself. Paris truly is the most beautiful city in the world. Even the homeless drunks have a certain jenny say kwa. The whole city is so sophisticated and wonderful, and I felt honoured to be able to mingle with the Parisians, who are just ordinary people, only without all those cumbersome Anglo-American principles. Parisians are a misunderstood people. People think they're rude, but actually they're above politeness.
I didn't want to simply breeze through like a tourist, so I booked for three nights in a cosy little hotel near the Seine. I spent some time seeing the sights, but really, gawping at the Eiffel Tower is something of a cliche. Instead, I wandered the streets, letting my feet take me where they would, soaking up the life of the city. I dined on local fare (my favourite dish: a peculiar crescent-shaped treat called a crossaunt), visited dozens of art galleries, and relaxed by the river. I bought a French dictionary and several novels and found the language came easily to me. My favourite was Madame Bovary by Flaubert, which tells the story of a young woman who is turned into a cow by an evil magician.
I even found time for romance. Her name was Giselle, and she was a waitress at the cafe where I took breakfast every morning. We got to talking, and she agreed to meet me after work. We walked along the Seine, arm in arm, discussing the latest developments in continental philosophy, such as the Gouda Principle, whereby truth can be described as a piece of cheese. Then we went back to her place and made sweet love. Giselle later confessed that she was actually an American student named Heather, but since she had been living in Paris for some months we both agreed that she was essentially French, and that was the important thing.
Soon - too soon! - it was time for me to leave. Although Giselle/Heather put on a brave face, I could tell she was on the verge of tears, if not suicide. As I boarded my train at Gare de Lyon (literally "Where the lions change trains"), I felt a pang of sadness. Paris had come to feel like a second home, and now I was leaving it behind. Still, all Europe was in front of me, beckoning like a flourescent sign to a moth. I blew a kiss to the weeping Giselle, and took my seat. Au revoir, I said as the train sped out of the city, wondering what adventures lay ahead.
Three weeks later I returned home, thoroughly Europeanized. My friends were amazed at my accent - a curious mixture of French, German, and Italian, without a trace of vulgar Australian. Since then, of course, I have largely slipped back into my old ways, but still I feel Europe pumping through my veins. Each day I wake with a feeling of unassailable superiority, for I have been to Europe - and you haven't. Loser.