My Friends and Me Eating Lunch at a Café

My French teacher organized an exchange program with a high school in La Rochelle, France. For the first couple of days, we stayed in Paris. For about a week and a half, we would stay with host families in the port town in the South. I learned and practiced French, made friends with people in another continent, and saw the famous sites of Paris. But out of everything I remember from my school exchange program to France, there’s one memory that stands out against the rest. It wasn’t the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower, nor the view of the Mona Lisa from inside the Louvre. It was the first night out with my friends in Paris.

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Our plane had gotten in early in the morning and I was exhausted after not sleeping at all on the flight. We had checked into our hotel rooms and spent the day wandering around the Champs Elysees, grabbing lunch at a café along the way, and walking around the Seine. After a long day of walking around, my friends and I went to get lunch at a small Italian place in Montmartre.

My friends and I sat down at one of the tables, smiling at the owners, who, with French-Italian accents, we barely understood. We all knew that water, unlike back home, would cost us money here, so we talked about the best way to deal with the situation. There were six of us, so I figured that three bottles of water, which I figured would be three liters, would be fine. We were mostly in agreement until my friend from Germany stopped us. He told us three wouldn’t be enough, and that we didn’t really understand how much a liter would be. Exhausted, and running on about 30 hours without sleep, we decided that he knew better and ordered our pizza and six bottles of water.

When our waiter came back, we glared at our friend and pointed at the bill. Each bottle of water had come out to five Euros. That was 30 Euros we had to split between us in cash, which we were short on anyway. And after pouring everyone a large glass, we still had five bottles left. We ate our pizza, and poured water upon water upon water. And slowly, what had once been anger had turned into the funniest night of the trip. We couldn’t stop laughing when one of us got the hiccups from drinking so much water, or when our German friend was wondering what to get for dessert and we suggested that whatever he get, he order six of it.

Maybe it was lack of sleep that we couldn’t stop laughing. I’d like to think, though, that we realized where we were and what we had. We hadn’t seen our friend from Germany in a year. The rest of us had maybe a year left with each other, about to see exchange students we had known for about two years, maybe even for the last time. We were also in Paris, with each other, while our friends back home were still in school. After we ate, and walked back to the hotel, the very first thing we did was go to the bathroom—we had finished all but one bottle of water. We spent the rest of the night playing cards in the lobby, laughing and joking around (“Hey, do you have any sixes?”), until, after 36 hours without sleep, we decided to call it a night, before beginning the rest of our trip together. 

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