Hello, everyone! My name is Michael Girouard, and I’m a senior at St. Dom’s this year. I’m writing this column (serial, journal…call it what you will) because I was fortunate enough to spend the majority of last summer in Paris, France, and I want to tell the highlights and the many things I learned about traveling as an American. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I am enjoying writing it! Already I’m filled with some intense nostalgia…

Not only was I flying alone for the first time, I was flying internationally for the first time, and I made a fascinating choice of choosing some obscure airline called IcelandAir for this adventure. As a poor high school student who couldn’t afford AirFrance, it was the best deal, and it came with a layover in Reykjavik. Pretty cool, huh? Well, not exactly.

I arrived at Logan Airport a couple hours before my flight, and not a single booth was open for this airline. I asked around, told people I was flying with IcelandAir, and even got a few chuckles from some arrogant AirFrance workers. At that point, I was a little nervous and wanted the scoop. Was IcelandAir even legit? What had I gotten myself into…?

It turns out that it wasn’t so bad. They eventually showed up (a little too close to departure time, if you ask me). The food wasn’t bad, and I slept most of the way, reflecting on what I hoped to get out of this trip. More on that another time…

Having no idea what to do once I arrived in Iceland, I sort of just walked around, got my passport stamped after being scrutinized by an angry Icelander behind a glass window, and casually moved my way out of the flow of traffic. Bad idea. Horrible idea, actually. I’m not exactly sure what was yelled at me in Icelandic, and I’ll probably never know, but I’m guessing it was along the lines of, “Hey, you! Yeah you, the blatantly confused and pathetic American. Get back in line!” Reading his tone and expression, I did exactly that. The rest of my one hour layover was much less eventful, thank God.

The plane landed at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, and I naively scoped out the window to see the Eiffel Tower. It’s basically the tallest structure in Paris. I’ve got to be able to see it from the plane. No such luck.

I got off the plane, grabbed my luggage, and searched for the man who was supposed to be there to pick me up. Again, no such luck. At this point I’m a little panicked because I’m alone, in a foreign country, with no means of communication, no sense of direction, and no driver. Peachy. I eventually mumble something coherent to a very nice French man who let me use his cell phone to call my host mother. She suggested a taxi, and it seemed to be my only option at this point. Unfortunately my only option dropped me about 45€ (and that was after some serious “But I’m a poor, stupid American student…I don’t know what you’re saying” bargaining and pouting).

Although my travel experience at that point was slightly less than desirable, I decided that it was character building. After all, I hadn’t even begun to experience all that the City of Lights had to offer…

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