Day one in Paris was an experience. On the Eurostar I sat next to an Indian Singaporean man of about 70 who had been in the army and now did management consulting. We had a great chat about training people and life. He thought I had an air of calmness, something that other people have said about me too and I find it quite odd. To me I’m just normal! It’s nice to hear though. He reckoned I should take my career into academia or management. So that was interesting.
I helped him off the train and he bought us our first French meal, coffee and cake at the train station. We said bye and set off in different directions. I hadn’t printed a map of where I was staying. I only had a street address. I hopped on a bus with the number 65 as suggested by the hostel’s email confirmation, but after 15 mins a few things occurred to me:
1. The names of each stop on the bus were quite possibly areas rather than street names.
2. I recalled the hostel being a 20 minute walk from the station so 15 minutes on the bus might be too far!
3. I may have hopped on the right bus but headed in the wrong direction…
I asked the couple behind me if they knew Rue Pajol. They pulled out a book and looked for the street. Even if they had found it I couldn’t understand anything they were saying. Rather than learning the phrase “I don’t understand”, I just nodded, said “merci” and got off the bus. I’m a bit crazy I expect.
I then popped into a newsagents and the man lent me his map book. Finally I found Rue Pajol! At the opposite end of town! I hailed a taxi and fortunately the man spoke English. He also gave me his number and said “after work I take you around in my other car, I show you sights, you take photos. Yes!!?” I sighed. “Maybe,” I replied.
I’m just glad he found my hostel! I walked in and realised they had put me in a private room when I had paid for a female dorm. I should have told them but the prospect of an ensuite was too great. I think it came back to bite me though as I had issues with the room card.
So anyway I got the subway to Madeleine which is a nice area. The subway is very easy to use, thank god, just like the tube. I couldn’t resist ordering ravioli and wine and got chatting to the guy next to me. He was from New York and was just on his stopover before studying in Shanghai. He actually grew up in Nairobi. He also pointed out that I was eating an Italian dish. Damn. But damn it was good!
I set off for the Eiffel tower and it was surreal, for a few minutes. After that it quickly became an iron tower in that brisk setting that is real life. I mean it was wonderful, but I do find it funny how things can be romanticised in films and in one’s mind and then when you see these things in front of you it’s never quite the same. I went up it (I recommend buying a ticket online to skip the HUGE queues) and the view was just stunning. I highly recommend going up rather than just looking at it from below.
Back on the ground are plenty of hawkers and they’re rather annoying. It’s a real shame that they can put a dampner on this beautiful place. I did constantly feel on edge a bit.
After that I walked to the Arc De Triomphe and got dinner. The waiter put me in front of the arch for a view so that was really cool.
Then I checked the email a woman had sent me (I had met her on a London walking tour earlier in the week) and she recommended Montmartre by night. So in that direction I headed!
She was absolutely right. THIS was France. Cafes, restaurants, street painters and guitarists lined the streets. The chairs were all red and brown, unmistakably French. I strolled to the church and a band were playing. I got to hear the French-accented version of Happy by Pharrel and One by U2. It was cute really. I also tried a Nutella crepe. Omg you have to have one.
The only downside to the night was heading home down the steps and ignoring calls from leering men. I don’t know what they’re expecting. That ‘hey baby’ will get me in their arms? That they’re the first man to try calling out? It’s scary for all women. But as the man in the train put it ‘men are dogs’. On a side note, apparently this is why they are supplied with condoms in the army, even if they have a wife at home. It sickens me.
I’m all for solo travelling but after yesterday I highly recommend that women visit Paris with a man, even a gay man, to avoid the harassment.
Now I’m off to the Louvre. Hopefully. If I can get this room card issue sorted.
Til next blog!