Paris: The first 2 hours
I’ve been in bed since 8pm going through my maps and notes for tomorrow, trying to remember and figure out all the little details. This morning I sat in my hotel room ’til 11am because I was literally too nervous to hit the streets. Navigating the metro and Paris in general is pretty tricky, and getting lost is not an option. I am notoriously and devastatingly awful at directions, which increases Graeme’s fears of a “Taken” situation quite drastically. I haven’t switched to international roaming on my phone, and I’m currently relying on free WiFi to lead my way. This makes it quite tricky with saving offline maps and routes and also trying to understand actual paper maps you guys. Remember those? Every time I ask the hotel about a metro line or route, they shove more maps in my hands and I’m like THESE DO NOT HELP ME because maps just make me panicky. Another obstacle is asking for directions because like 97% of the people I’ve stopped are also tourists (I cannot Japanese) or are locals and can’t / don’t want to speak English. Not even the lady in the booth at the Metro today. I mean how dare you work in tourism if you can’t tell me which platform to get on for one of the main tourist attractions in the city? Another interesting obstacle is that I seem to be mispronouncing most of the towns and attraction names. I discovered this at the airport when asking which route to take to Montmartre (I said Mont-mart-tray) and the lady was like that does not exist who even are you get out of my French face. Eventually after pointing at my notebook she was like “Ooooh – Momarrrrt. Line 2.” Or maybe it was line 12. I have forgotten.
I mean even on my very first metro trip from the airport, I figured out that the dot next to the name of the ‘suburb’ would flash when stopping at that station. Stunning. Except just before my station, we stopped and it was flashing. I’d heard that the doors close fast so I stumbled as quickly as I could with all my luggage (big bag, backpack and handbag) but the door wouldn’t open. I started panicking and an announcement blared from the speakers in FRENCH and I was like “omg I’m never going to see my family again.” Nobody else knew what was going on either, but it wasn’t their stop so they were like… whatever. In the announcement, I understood the work “security” and I think someone without a ticket had been kicked off. We weren’t moving for a very long time and were in fact, between stations. Eventually when we got going, it was my stop, and again the door didn’t open. I didn’t know that you have to manually turn the handle, but someone jumped up and turned it for me before I missed my stop, and royally screwed up my arrival.
I got to the right station that (on the map) (stupid effing paper maps that don’t give travel times) looked pretty close to my hotel. I figured I could walk, even with all the luggage. I am notoriously stubborn and always keen to save money. Also, remember that I couldn’t uber because no WiFi.
My hotel ended up being at the very top of a hill pretty far away from the station. I also didn’t realize that the streets literally have no names. Was that U2 song about Paris? Maybe they got lost too. I stopped so many people, and of course without WiFi, I was pretty screwed. Like 7 people tried to sell me kak because the only people willing to talk to me were the street vendors and gypsies. Another fun fact is that the metro doesn’t have (that I saw) wheelchair ramps or escalators. Instead, there were 4 – 6 sets of stairs to get to a street. My massive bag was on wheels, but at all the stations (all three) I had to pick my bag up with two hands and really struggled. This is a good time to point out how gentlemanly South African men are. Dozens of students and men jotted past me and nobody stopped or offered to help. I so badly wanted someone to take that bag from me. I also didn’t know that you have to push your bag through first at the metro gates, which open and close on motion sensors. This resulted in my main luggage getting properly wedged between the automated gates. A really friendly guy used his ticket to open the doors again, and pulled my bag toward his side of the gate. I had to kick it toward him from my side to try un-wedge it, and he had to pull a good couple of times. This meant that upon my arrival, my bag was with a complete stranger on the other side of the metro gates. He was really nice, and used his tag to open the gate again and handed my bag over to me. He was really kind. I wish he also carried my bag. Everywhere.
By the time I got to my hotel, I had callouses and blisters on my hands. It was hot, and I’d just had a 13.5h journey with very little sleep. I quickly unpacked and headed straight to the nearest bar for very many cocktails. They were so delicious. All like 7 of them.
It’s beautiful here, I’m having the most incredible time. I’m learning how to read the maps and I’m navigating the metro with a bit more confidence. My hotel and room is beyond any expectations I had. I’ll share all the GOOD and happy things soon. I spent the majority of today crying with joy, but more on that later. Goodnight, from Paris x
Pssst: Thank you Keri and Rosanne for helping me with directions the way that you have. You are both wonderful and lovely.