Before traveling to a country that spoke a language I didn’t in Europe, I would pull out my trusty European Phrasebook in 14 languages my brother had given me and learn a few useful phrases like “I would like a ticket to______.”, “Where is the bathroom.” , And “I am looking for______.” While preparing for spring break in France, I had idly laughed at how the phrase for “I’m lost.” (which you should never say if you value your safety) in French was “Je me suis perdu.” Meaning literally: “I have lost myself.” As a Latin student, I understood the literal phrasing and thought it cute. I didn’t pay more attention to it because I didn’t intend to memorize this phrase that essentially means: “I’m helpless.”, but it stuck with me because my brain will remember the most random things, and the more arbitrary, the better.
Upon returning from the impromptu trip to London in which we must find THE pair of shoes, I found myself with a day in Paris before flying through Barcelona because it was cheaper than just getting to Rome.
With a fresh determination to travel cheaply yet safely, I got a decent hostel (not in the red light district), and set out to make sure I would get the very early morning bus to fly out of Paris, Beauvais. This meant that I needed to find my way back to the bus stop since I had blindly followed my cousin as we dashed for the last metro when I flew in. We made the metro, and having a guide was invaluable, but I didn’t have any recollection of how we got from point A to point L. It was also midnight when I flew in, so in the dark I was “a bit” disoriented.
And by “a bit” I mean I thought the Arc de Triomphe was on the East side of the city.
It’s on the West.
I took the metro from my hostel, which didn’t help to orient me by realizing what direction I was traveling. Therefore, when I got out of the metro, I dutifully followed the very local map: two streets to the right placing me on the road leading West into Paris center. That would lead straight to the Champs Elysees and the mall where I could check on the bus.
Off I went.
Except, there wasn’t a mall where I expected it to be on the street.
I backtracked. Still no mall.
I went back out.
Maybe I’m off one street. I can just cut through this neighborhood and get to the next.
That was a very bad idea. It turns out that the streets of a city that is a couple thousand years older than a car don’t necessarily go straight, or even anywhere at all. Dead ends, roads that unexpectedly curved away from a connection, allies I wouldn’t want to venture into, a “park” that was actually some private hospital’s grounds, and a few closed news stands later. I was completely disoriented.
I kept checking the little map I had printed out and looking for streets that would help me find myself. The problem was that I had gone exactly the opposite direction as I was supposed to, so the streets on the map around where I thought I was were on the opposite side of the Arc de Triomphe. I didn’t know French and was afraid to ask people for help anyway as that had not worked out for the better in the hard learning curve that is Europe for a naïve and innocent person that I am.
I was sincerely considering using the phrase “Je me suis perdu.” before I stumbled out of a side street into the terrifying roundabout that is the Arc de Triomphe.
I circled that until I found the Champs Elysees, realized the error of my orientation (because the whole time I was operating under the assumption that I was on the opposite side of Paris), and found the mall right where I wanted.
I found a person that worked for the Ryan air in the mall and had an amusing conversation that started:
Me: “Parlez-vous Anglais aut Italien?”
Her: “English, I little.”
Me: “Is this where I get the bus to Beauvais?”
Her: Eyes of panic that say I studied, but people speak FAST, and I didn’t catch that, and if I knew Romanian: poftim?
Me: Puo prendere il autobus da qui a Beauvais?
Her: Yes, avez-vous besoin de prendre l’autobus apre il centre commercial…
I spoke Italian, and she spoke French and thanks to Latin, our conversation went much better.