LE SENTIMENT: ETONNE (translation: amazed)
Mate, I’M IN FUCKING PARIS!!!!!!
Now, I know am one for falling in love with places quite fast and forcefully, but Paris has worked its charm with wonders. It’s absolutely magical! And who said the French are rude? Every one I’ve come across is an absolute sweetheart.
So upon leaving the airport I followed a swarm of newly-landeds to le metro (get me!) and lined up to purchase my ticket. A marvellous man named Ronald (name tagged, we didn’t swap Christians – also, a fab idea I thought, he had two labels on his lapel stating what languages he spoke. So I didn’t have to stutter my ill-pronounced “parlez-vous Anglais?” – I already knew he did!) informed me very nicely that the machines didn’t actually take cash bar coins and I had to go the actual being manned counters.
And the lady there was lovely! Told me where to head and what lines to catch and off I trotted. (Well, staggered. I’m still attempting to ground myself and balance out the weight of a backpack both back and front).
I felt rather guilty – as I blankly tried to read the train route on the sign, I asked two French ladies next to me if the approaching train passed by Gare du Nord; in one’s bid to be of aid to myself, she didn’t step on board in time and the doors firmly closed, separately her and her friend. It was like a movie moment as the train picked up pace and pulled away, the two women with their palms on the door trying to inch it open. (She smiled after a fair few of my profuse apologies).
(And yes, the train did in fact pass by Gare du Nord. Luckily another was a mere four minutes away).
And how clearly mapped out are the trains! A map of the line above either door illustrated extremely clear cut all the stops, with a flashing light representing the progress of the train. So I was in no doubt as to where my place of departing was, and I had 35 minutes to gaze out the window at the outskirts of inner Paris.
But fuck, it is chilly. Bitingly to the bone cold. As I emerged, unbalanced and all as I clambered up the stone steps from the underground, my face literally split into an ear to ear grin as I took in the sight of my first proper Paris street. I even did a little squeal and slight air tap of the feet (no meat feat with 17.2kg on the back and 9.4kg on the front). Paris, Paris, PARIS. What the FUCK! I’m in PARIS?!?!
After a few lengths of rue de Dunkerque gazing in awe at the sidewalk cafes, the impressive architecture of the collossal train station and in stupefaction at the huge numbers of smokers swanning about, I decided to stop half heartedly looking for my place of lodging and actually hunt it down. Another four or so up and downs proved no avail, so I started looking about for a person to ask where St Christopher’s Inn, straddled by Belushis bar, was located.
My first port of call proved a failure in the shopkeeper not speaking Anglais (plus I was a bit distracted by the eons of full on porn magazines behind her head). The line at the McDonalds was far too long to ask one of the operators. But someone must have been smiling down on me, as along the street, clutching a stack of letters, was a postman.
How swell! He enthusiastically gave me very complicated directions as to how to get to the hostel, which was pretty much 100m in a straight line from where we had been standing.
So to St Chris’! I had a fab yarn with the Dutch dude on the counter who apologetically informed me I couldn’t actually get into my room until 2pm (it was currently 12 on the dot) but I was welcome to unload my gear in a locker downstairs.
And coming up the stairs from the basement, there was Jess!
Now, Jess is my new pal who was on my training trip for Contiki; we were going to be a partnership pair until I pulled out on her, but as Paris was booked in I decided to still keep in plan and accompany her on her explorations. And during our yarns in the last few weeks we have actually become genuine friends.
So now here I am three hours on. Jess and I went for lunch (Japanese, saving the snails for tomorrow I think), met up with a few guys from the Contiki training (all Aussies of course), then finally had the most glorious shower. (How good is being clean?).
Now we’re about to hit the pavement to the Notre Dame and then tube on to the Eiffel. Expect a plethora of pics! Will keep you posted (literally).