Woah. Today I felt both the worst and the best since the beginning of my trip.

The first half of the day was spent at the Musee d’Orsay, looking at all the Impressionist paintings I studied in high school, like Degas and Monet and Van Gogh and Renoir and Cezanne. There they are, a mere arms length away, hanging so casually! Like they are no big deal or anything. Hmph. Although to be honest, my favorite paintings were not the famous ones. Who decides which ones get all the acclaim, anyway?

I have two questions. First, does anyone still paint like the paintings I saw today? Grey beards so wiry and black eyes so shiny you have to lean in close to make sure it’s not a photograph. Or frames the size of a side of a house, crammed with arms and faces so dense and so real I just really can’t imagine it taking shorter than twenty years to finish. I hope that this kind of talent, passion, and patience are not lost forever. Second, did people really lay around without clothes all the time? For as frequently as there are naked people lounging in pools, parks, forests, mountains, rivers, etc., you get the idea that there were just piles of clothes laying around everywhere. Gee wiz.

I have a pretty bad habit of not eating as often as I should. I’ve really got to stop. But I’ve always been kind of lazy about my intake if there isn’t much of a real incentive for doing so. Like being free. Or being cereal. Don’t get me wrong, I adore food, but I will only invest in it and cherish it when I’m doing so with someone else. (Are you seeing a trend here?) Again, unless it’s cereal. And the milk in the refrigerators of my hosts is dubious, at best.

So, I let myself get reeeeeally hungry at the museum, because I was busy trying to figure out why everyone was naked, and then when I went to the cafe to get food, I was dismayed to find that the line would take about forty five minutes. Hungry Tiffany is never, ever a good thing.

Perhaps my blood sugar had plummeted, or perhaps day six was getting to me, but I didn’t stay too much longer after that. In alarmingly low spirits, let me assure you, I wandered to the Seine and sat down for a while. I was just kind of staring at it, depressed and thinking terrible thoughts, trying not to look at all the other people who were grouped happily together (lame, I know, but what can you do?), when a friendly, clear-eyed guy in workout clothes asked me in the worst French accent I’ve ever heard if I knew where the nearest bike station was. I just gave him a look and told him to speak in English. He said, “That bad, huh?” And when I whipped out my indispensable Paris book, maps all inclusive (thanks, Erin!), he recognized it as a Moleskin and there it went, two American English majors, out to conquer Paris. Or, at least wander around.

He was like a little puppy, literally greeting every single person we passed on the sidewalk, and not being able to enter a business without leaving it in hilarious multi-lingual uproars. Honestly, I liked hanging out with him just to see what he would do next. I kept telling myself to take a lesson from this guy. I think I might.

This is the second person I’ve met and talked to while in Paris that I’ve had conversations with at length, and both have evolved into very personal, meaningful discussions. The first was with a German guy at the party the other night. He was the only other non-French like me, and we both somewhat stink at the language, so we found common ground in English and spoke about our goals in life, philosophy, biking, traveling to outer space, computers you can control with your mind, and if there is a God (he says no, I say yes). It was lovely and made my whole day.

It was similar with Matthew tonight. He was being pretty goofy at first, staying lighthearted and kind of macho. But by the time we were halfway done with a beer, we were both exclaiming about how traveling is not what we expected, and being alone can really, really suck. (He is from Oregon, studies in Manhattan, and started backpacking solo two weeks ago.) He shared some crazy stories with me.

We parted ways and voila. I feel better than I have all week. I think slowly, so excruciatingly slowly, I might be wrapping my head around this whole thing.

One of many lessons learned: I have to start talking to people, no matter how much I feel like staying quiet. These are the best times, the only times I do not have a tight pain in my chest. But I mean really talking to people, not just the many, so where ya from? ones. I’m glad that these are happening. I was wondering if they would.

Can I tell you another thing? You have absolutely no idea how much your messages, large and small, mean to me. Thank you, thank you for being in touch with me, and for loving me like you do, in your own way.