The sites are great, but home is best

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 11, 2002

PARIS -- I now understand the frustration of being illiterate.

After arriving in the City of Light, my mood slowly darkened as everything was different.

Well, not everything. At least people know what side of the road to drive on.

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But that was about it.

Three subway changes and a 20-minute walk later, I finally found the hotel. I felt a small sense of pride, seeing that I couldn't understand a word. I managed to make it by matching up all the stops -- even thought I didn't know what they meant.

Where's the French-speaking mayor when you need her?

At least when I would get out of the subway in London, I could deduce what 'way out' meant.

I soon learned the definition of 'sortie' after watching everyone head off the train and up a set of stairs.

One French word in the bag.

I decided to turn in early, frustrated that I couldn't understand anything. Even trying to hop on the Internet was a chore, as the letters on the keypad are rearranged.

Plus, I was longing for a thick, char-broiled steak on my grill.

In short, I was ready to go home.

But things turned around quickly the next morning. I decided to give this day a chance and clean up my sour attitude.

The breakfast, included in the price of the hotel, was excellent. The attendant knew "coffee," but not "milk."

Obviously a problem if you're trying to have cereal.

But we cleared the hurdle and I was also able to enjoy a handful of fresh pastries.

Heading out the door, the first stop was the Eiffel Tower. Much bigger than I imagined. Standing beside it, I wondered how someone was able to build such a marvel -- plus do it more than 100 years ago.

The Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame were other highlights, but paled in comparison.

The furthest you could take the stairs was just under halfway up. That looked like a hike, plus it was about $4. If you paid $10, you could take the elevator to the top. I chose the latter (and didn't feel guilty, either).

The food is better here than England, but not as good as home. In fact, taking this trip reminded me how good we really have it in Austin.

The rest of the day turned out well. But it wasn't all of the sights and sounds that were interesting.

It was the people.

They came from all backgrounds and nationalities. They wore different personalities and clothes.

And in both cases, some were more revealing than others.

Regardless, it's been an interesting journey.

But I can hear home a-callin' my name.

And it won't have to ask a second time.

Dan Fields can be reached at 434-2230 or by e-mail at