Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Alpenglow has partnered with Indiana University Outdoor Adventures to develop some international courses in Europe to celebrate Indiana University's 200 year anniversary! Calling it the Grand Expedition, Alpenglow and IUOA have developed 3 courses: French Alps Mountaineering, the Swiss Adventure, and Trek Austria. These courses will run in the summer of 2020 (see our Courses page), so Alpenglow headed off to Europe this July to do some recon for the courses next summer. Prior planning leads to smoothe courses! While it was a work contract, it sure didn't stop us from having fun along the way!
First stop: Paris.
Curt and I, loaded with our new #osprey travel backpacks, headed to the Los Angeles International Airport. We had no idea how quickly our adventure would begin.
At the checkin counter, we quickly learned what the Schengen Zone was: 26 European countries that have special rules for international travelers, one of which is that your passport has to be valid for at least 3 months after your departure date from the Zone. Curt's passport expired in September. In order for him to travel, it needed to be valid at least until mid-October. Cue nervous perspiring and wide eyes! So as we are figuring out that Curt can't travel that day and deciding if I should go on without him, another earthquake hits. Eyes get wider, sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive as we watch the giant sign overhead swing back and forth above the crowd of hundreds of travelers. We all stop talking at the ticket counter and just watch- waiting to see what the crowd does. I realized that we could be seconds away from widespread chaos and stampede if the crowd started to panic. We watched helplessly as we all just stood there waiting for what was to happen next. Thankfully, no one panicked (I think many didn't realize what was happening either because they were on their phones or they were focusing on moving mounds of luggage).
Back to the original crisis- Curt can't travel that day. It was Friday afternoon and there was no hope in getting a passport at least until Monday. We found a cheap for him to fly Monday evening. It all hinged on him going to a government building in San Diego on Monday and getting an expedited passport the same day, then getting back to LAX in time to fly out. Tight turn around, especially when relying on the government to do something quickly! But we had to worry about that later, I had to get on my flight and fly to Europe for the first time ever...by myself...
Exhausted from the adrenaline rush, I slept basically at 10 hours to Paris. I landed, stood forever and a year in the passport line, got my #passportstamp, then embarked on my first public transport experience in Europe. Man, they make it easy! Coming from a place where I rarely ride public transport, I had no idea what the rules were and how to get tickets and how to read the schedule, etc. But it was easy enough to figure out with a bit of info from my friends in Paris about which stop to get off on.
I emerged at 7:45pm from the underground train to my first view of Paris! The streets were cobbled and narrow, old buildings boxing everything in, people in stylish yet comfortable clothes walking everyone, smells of food and cigarettes... I've arrived!
Our friends Caleb and Liz were living in Paris for the year for Caleb's grad school program. They kindly met me at the train station and promptly ushered me to the nearest bullion-style dining. We had wine, snails, bread, and a whole fish - all were delicious!
I was missing my travel partner. Oh yeah, they lost my baggage so I had none of my belongings. I was more than overwhelmed by all the sights, smells, and sounds... and the emotional experience of being excited, stressed, guilty that Curt wasn't there, tired, basically of the feelings. But I had made it to Paris!