Tuesday, 5/24/2011, Paris France, Journal Excerpt
I'll be brief because I am tired. It's been a long day, and I have lost another hour in yet another time change from England to France. But today I was more energized than I have been in days. Got up at 5:00am and was at breakfast at 6:30am, and quite early for the Queen Mary 2's disembarkation call at Southampton. I vacated the cabin with my two small bags. In hindsight, I wished I'd stayed and done some yoga and Pilates. As it was, I was so early I had time to fill out my customs card for Eurostar and brush up on my French.
I sat outside the Royal Theater and did so until 7:45am. Then I went into the theater where all the other passengers heading to Paris on the train were to gather and was still flipping through my phrase book when Nicole arrived. We had a pleasant discussion about movies and television, then we got off the ship and unto a bus that took us, after 2 hours, to St. Pancras station. Nicole and I had a light lunch, then embarked on the EuroStar train. We were in two separate cars. Mine was Car 5. I got on and immediately set down my ticket. I stowed two bags above my head and sat down and then I realized I hadn't verified I was in the right seat. But now I couldn't find my ticket. A French man sat down next to me. I told him I might be getting up because I didn't have my ticket and I wasn't sure I was in the right seat. He assured me it happened all the time and not to worry. It was probably in my pocket somewhere. He was right. When I picked up my coat to stow it, the ticket was on the seat underneath. I had been sitting on it. What was strange was that I was in exactly the right seat!
The ride was 2 1/2 hours of rolling countryside, several short tunnels, then the long Chunnel itself—25 minutes or so. I sipped the Guinness I'd bought at the station and read my phrase book. And I congratulated myself that things were going pretty well. I had been ahead of schedule all day and even my confusion with misplacing my ticket had not led to catastrophe. I went over in my head my plan to get my train ticket to Germany as soon as I got to the Paris Nord station. I was meeting friends in Dresden on Thursday.
I got to the Paris station, saw Nicole get off the train, and waved to her. We walked out to the taxi area together and she got in line for the taxi. I said goodbye to her and went back into the station to make a reservation for Dresden. I couldn't figure out what window was the one I wanted. The only one for tickets seemed to have a long line. I stood in it for 5 minutes then realized I didn't have time for this. I asked at a small shop across the way for a disposable phone, but the young man said, "It is not possible!" I think he was wrong, but I had no time to find out. I had a car and driver waiting for me outside.
Turns out, he/she was nowhere in sight. I waited for 15 minutes at the taxi stand then asked some limo drivers who were standing in front of a sign that said "Limos and hired cars" and they said a driver would either be right there or around the front of the station. I thought I was already at the front of the station. I walked around to the “other” front and waited there for 25 minutes. No show. Then I went inside to try to call the emergency number for the tour group who set up the car and driver. I went to the phone and set down my small blue bag between my feet, hoping to use a credit card to charge the call, but I wasn't sure that was the right thing to do. So I went to the tobacconist nearby and I bought a telephone card. When I returned there were a couple of security guards standing around. I walked back to the phone and saw that my little blue bag was still sitting there. What a relief that no one had stolen it! A security guard came over and pointed at the bag with a question “Is yours?”
“Yes,” I said.
The other guard looked at me pointedly and said, “Be more careful!”
I have to admit that at this point I rolled my eyes in true French fashion. I had so much on my mind, how could I be more careful! What I wanted was their help dialing the phone, but they walked away and I decided that I could figure it out by myself. I dialed, but nothing. I probably dialed too many numbers—including the country code, but I couldn't see what I was doing because it was so dark in the corner where the phones were.
I went back outside. There were a million taxis, but no “limos” or other cars without taxi signs. I decided to just get into a taxi and get to my hotel. After two hours, I was finally at my hotel. (Actually I walked into the hotel next door by mistake first—they are all so close together. But I'd stopped counting these small problems at this point.)
I was so relieved to be at this charming little place called the Hotel Quartier Latin, which is all about the Left Bank artist scene. Photographs of writers and artists, plus doodles and writings from some of them, are hung along the walls creating a little art gallery.
Once I hung up a handful of clothes I needed for the next day, I splashed water on my face and headed to the lobby in search of a Parisian dinner. I asked the concierge for a quiet place off the main street, but he didn't live there and didn't have a suggestion. A British woman standing behind me, however, said, "Excuse me," and described a street a couple blocks over where there were many tiny restaurants and it was very quiet.
She was right: the street was cobbled and silent except for an occasional motor bike zooming by. I found a wonderful fondue place—tiny—with stone and mortar walls. Only one other couple was inside. I overheard them tell the owner/maitre'de that they were from South Africa and that a friend from the United States told them to eat there. Wow! How did I manage to stumble upon such a popular place? I ate a wonderful duck confit with roast potatoes and a pitcher of wine—“la pichet de vin rouge.” I wish to go back there when I return to Paris after visiting friends in Dresden and order the fondue—I must!
I walked nonchalantly back to the room and busied myself with social media for a while. It was late when I went to bed—about 2:00 in the morning. The time had changed ONCE AGAIN and it was one hour later than in England. I had wanted to be up the next morning in time to be at breakfast when it opened at 7:00 so I could get my train reservation for Dresden and find a disposable phone before hitting the Louvre. But with the new time, I decided to let myself sleep until 7:00. I was exhausted.
To Be Continued.
This blog is based on a blog that appeared on the electricrider.net sit in May 2011.