(Written not long ago)
So, I’m on the Eurostar. The reality is not nearly as glamorous as I had imagined, but, then, I am travelling second class. Like a chump (I kid). I do think I said ‘excuse me’ to Pam Grier, or a remarkable doppelganger, in the terminal, though.
That the train is already creaking when we are still in the banlieues is worrying.
Anyway, my relationship with Paris is difficult to sum up, but it suffices to say that I eventually came around to liking it. Since I am not feeling very poetic (or whatever it is) about it, though, here are a series of lists about my time in France:
Pastries consumed: 5
Oranginas consumed: 3
Movies seen: 1 (Inception – had meant to see more than this)
Times gotten lost: approximately 600
Times gotten so lost that I just hopped into the next Métro station I came across just to get found: 2
Number of times Canada’s contribution to the two World Wars are mentioned (in passing) in exhibits at the Musée de l’Armée: 4
Number of times US is credited with winning the First World War: MANY
Average wake up time: 7am
Oddest hotel rule: No eating in room
Great Frenchmen’s gravesites seen: 2 (Napoleon and Serge Gainsbourg)
Number of conversations entirely held in French: 4 or 5 (argh – my accent baffled the French)
Possible celeb sightings: 2 (Woody Allen and Pam Grier)
Things I didn’t do:
- Go to the Louvre (couldn’t face the crowds)
- Drink wine (got intimidated by snootiness/lack of knowledge)
- Eat a fancy meal out (too broke)
- Visit the catacombs (got lost, then missed last tour of the day
Stupid things I heard other tourists say:
- ‘Get out of the way! I’m posing!’ (Napoleon’s Tomb)
- ‘Hey! Hey! This store sells tiny Eiffel towers! Hey! Aww, you missed them.’ (Near Notre-Dame)
- ‘Could I have this salad…Niquoise?’ (near Musée d’Orsay – yes, I am showing my arrogance)
Reasonably priced things
- Admission to the Cinémathèque française (€5)
- Public transit (€1.20 per trip if you buy a carnet)
- Lunch at Flunch (basically a cafeteria – giant meal + dessert & coffee €10.20)
Ridiculously priced things
- Beer in a brasserie (€4 – 5.50 for a demi – not a demi-litre, but a demi-demi litre)
- Soft drinks or mineral water in many brasseries (€4.20)
- Almost everything else.
Dodgy things I saw:
- Early morning team meetings of the army of scammers aggressively selling plastic Eiffel towers and other ugly shit to tourists.
- Carnet ‘entrepreneurs’, mostly old men who buy carnet (10 tickets for €12 Euros) and then sell the individual tickets for €1.50 each)
- People hanging over railings at Barbès – Rochechouart station trying to sell cheap fags and ‘genuine’ D&G watches.
- A dude, dressed a bit like a New Age guru, going mental at a ticket agent at the Cinémathèque because he wasn’t allowed into a film screening late, even though he had a ticket. He then yelled ‘NE RIEZ PAS DE MOI, threw a credit card/ticket machine, and tried to run away with his girlfriend (who was carrying a yoga bag made of Tibetan prayer flags). It didn’t work. (Ommmm.)
Things I learned from French advertising
- Carte Noir coffee is so good that it’ll make you think that you’re having sex with ghosts
- You shouldn’t snack between meals (per warnings on all unhealthy food advertising)
- ‘Jambo’ is a perfectly acceptable word in Kenyan tourist advertising
Places that are scary
- Anywhere tourists are congregated en masse (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysées, Montmartre) because of the crowds and the scuzzy scammy people.
- Gare de l’Est. It’s gross.
- Streets around Sacré-Coeur
- Ivry (Long story involving a walking route with no escape (Seine on one side, motorway on the other) and my stubborn determination not to turn around)
Recommended things to see
- Musée du cinema
- Musée d’Orsay
- Jardin romantique
- Cimetière Montparnasse
- Shakespeare & Company
- Musée de l’Armée/Les Invalides
(Of these, the Musée d’Orsay was the only really crowded one.)
Nearly at the Chunnel (do people still call it that?)
332km/h under the sea. I think I’ll go panic quietly now. London, ho!
Later: Survived tunnel (obviously). Funny how coming to the UK feels like a homecoming. Maybe I’ll write about my first, miserable trip to London 11 years ago some time.