Grand Europe Arrival

Arrival in Paris, visits in London, a missed train to Manchester, foggy Liverpool and good fortune in Birmingham.

Moving to Europe was a new experience for me, firstly, for the obvious reason that I had never set foot on the continent before and, secondly, because I only knew three cities of my new country – London, Manchester and Liverpool – and I had no idea how to get to any of them.

I flew into Paris. My first impression of the so-called “most romantic city in the world” was rather poor. The city of love, to me, was nothing more than a waste bin. Cigarette butts littered the floor and junk of all sorts danced around the bushes. People were colorless, all dressed in mourning and I stood out like fresh blood in a bright red snowboarding coat, lacking the finesse of Parisian women. Noses were held high and directions given as a bonus but the disdainful look was free of charge. I also found the Eiffel Tower disappointingly small. So much so that it took me 5 days to go near it.

People were colorless, all dressed in mourning and I stood out like fresh blood in a bright red snowboarding coat, lacking the finesse of Parisian women. Noses were held high and directions given as a bonus but the disdainful look was free of charge.

I meant to stay 2 nights in Paris and take a train to London. That didn’t work out. The price I had planned to pay was 3 months old; on a budget, the EuroStar was luxury. Every morning, I went down to reception and would ask to stay an extra night. I wandered about Paris aimlessly, taking loads of photographs and learning how to use the 16 metro lines. I tasted my first macaroons and strolled Montmartre’s bohemian streets. I had crepes and kebabs and was freakishly followed in the metro near Moulin Rouge and hid in a Starbucks for hours. I had many café crèmes and not enough pastries. Paris was sunny in its February glory but chilly. – I feel like this paragraph may be misleading. I didn’t warm up to Paris this time around.

Then, I discovered buses. After many hours on one of them, I arrived in rainy London. We reached King’s Cross bus station. The next day it snowed. I watched as my shoes twirled in the drying machine. I saw Buckingham Palace and Abbey Road. I discovered pubs. I tasted ale and was unsure I liked it before my third pint when I decided I did. I went to the Borough Market, ate curry for the first time, decided I liked curry as well and admired the Gothic Cathedral close by. I photographed the London Tower Bridge under a cloudy sky and took a two-story bus to Piccadilly Circus. I missed my train to Manchester – I didn’t know I had to go on the platform. I had never taken a train before.

I bought a phone for £10 in Manchester. Best purchase I ever made. Four years later, it is still alive. It was my first phone with a SIM card.  The saleslady frowned at me when I asked her to explain what a SIM card is. I made a day of passing out CVs but Manchester wasn’t what I was looking for. It didn’t have the right vibe. Manchester knew I wasn’t the right fit too. I didn’t get any calls.

I got lost next to my hostel, never finding the correct turn for the right street, until I did.

After two days, I went to Liverpool, on the Beatles’ way. It was foggy, but the kind of dense fog that swallowed the whole city. I got lost next to my hostel, never finding the correct turn for the right street, until I did. There was no work in Liverpool.

Then  I found out about Birmingham; industrial city, second largest in the UK. I headed down and found a gray city. I took a very full bus to a B&B nearby and discovered Brummie rudeness. With my home sitting on my shoulders, I was unwelcomed on this bus. Thought too large, people shoved at my bag and stared. Once it was dropped off, I did manage to finally melt into the crowd. Even my red coat was toned down. People here wore bright yellow stockings with purple skirts and cream coats. I fit in.

I discovered commercial New Street and Broad Street’s clubs. I discovered the Canal. I started a bar job a few days after my arrival, getting the call while eating a burger – a really good one at that. I learned how to pour beer and re-learned English in a Brummie accent. I had to trust when asked to hop into a shady van in a smelly underground parking. I learned Scottish has its own thick accent. I moved in with 3 musicians and an ear-splitting opera singer. I discovered the Sunday roast dinner. I could go on but can roast dinner be topped?

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