This post is real time – why not mix it up with a bit of “Back to the Future” in amongst the ongoing trip report!
Bus, Train and Tunnel from London – Simultaneously!
“What time is your Eurostar train?” everyone asked. “Oh No!” I replied, “I’m on the bus! £34 return!” Go hard!
The bus was luxurious: heaps of leg room, great seat recline, toilet and wifi on-board and a personal power point for charging phones and laptops. A second lever increased the gap between adjoining seats. Wow!
The trip was overnight (saves on accommodation costs!) and I was lucky that the girl beside me moved to two empty seats giving me two whole seats to spread out over also. I had a fair sleep! Except, I had to stay awake to watch our bus, board a train, to go through the underwater channel tunnel. Mad.
1.30 am – time to sleep with the subtle rocking of the bus on the train.
A Coffee, a Man and a Newspaper
7 am – Paris arrival. Decide not to use the toilet at the bus station – 50 cents and I have no change. Walk to a café to use their toilet and have coffee. The café bar was crowded with guys having their stand up shot and croissant before heading out into the rush hour crowds.
“There’s someone in there”, said an older man, as I made my way to the loo. We soon were chatting over coffee (the merits of rugby versus football, travel versus being happy where you are, you know) which ended with an invite to his village 180 km away. Definitely one day Jean Louis! It was great to know that I could still make some sense in French.
8.30 am – Off to the metro. Collect free newspaper at entrance (in London, it’s the “Metro” in the morning and the “Evening Standard” in the evening…. Here its “Direct Matin”). I felt immediately like a local, living my dream, at least for one week, of “living” in Paris!
The Francophile Dreamer Admission
I found my mother’s old “Teach Yourself French” book when I was about 7 and around that time also discovered that the old red box in the laundry room, which happened to be a record player, also had shortwave radio. If I twiddled the knobs carefully, I could listen to French radio from New Caledonia or Tahiti, among other languages. I used to try to understand or guess what languages they were. My first love, languages (and some would say talking too much!), grew from there!
From wandering the farm as a kid imagining living in Paris, staying up all night in smoky bars with philosophers and revolutionaries… and/or living in a French village, marrying a sexy Frenchman and having bilingual kids… (Oh my God, am I admitting to that??!), here I was at last. Previous trips had been great but this time I was on my own, just me and my daydreams. Heaven.
A Chat and a Promenade
9.30 am. Checking in. Free upgrade from 10 bed dorm to 4 bed. Speak French again with the (it turns out) Swedish receptionist. Speak Japanese with some guests. My dream international life!! Have free coffee (more!) and croissants. Charge phone. Viber a few people to confirm my safe arrival.
11 am. Free map of Paris having been reviewed, I set off. I walked all day until 7.30 pm or so, except for a half hour in a café when I needed to re-charge my phone, camera. Ceasar salad. Unfortunately due to my late start, I didn’t complete the full journey, out there again tomorrow!
I love the old shops and cafes, the millions of independent little book shops, the canal boats on the river, the historic buildings dripping with ancient Greeks, Romans and brazen hussies, flower markets, the law school and court buildings emblazened with “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, packed cafes with people enjoying creamy sauces and wine for lunch, oozing tones of the French language, and all the other people and languages here too. Aaaaah!
A Chocolate, Cream (and Wine?) Finish
6.15 pm – Finish at Sacre Coeur, the Basilica up on a hill overlooking Paris and just a block from my hostel. No sunset tonight, bit hazy. Cannot say “No” to a hot chocolate sauce and whipped cream combo with a chocolate coated marshmallow and caramel sauce on top. Mmmm.
7.30 pm – Back to hostel. Blog to type up and emails to do. Someone has a whole bottle of wine at the next table … think they might be my new friend!
More photos here.
Paris is romantic for sure! What springs to your mind when you think of Paris? Where’s your favourite romantic place? 🙂