Wow. Ok, I understand now what people are on about – for real. I got some of the Parisian vibe last week, but this time around is something else completely. I think it might just be because I’m not with a group of people and so when I want to stop and appreciate things, I can. And on Monday night when I was walking around trying to find my hostel, I did that a lot. It wasn’t at all a sense of ‘oh no what am I doing in a foreign country by myself’ but more like ‘how did I end up here?! In Paris?!’. It’s the first time I’ve felt this sort of excitement, which really is a pleasant surprise!! But it wasn’t touristy anymore – crêperies were filled with French conversation. Laneways with patisseries and cheese stalls.. is this really my life??
I’ve been very impressed with myself so far in terms of independence, to the effect of having “this isn’t so hard” as my new motto. I’m on the TGV at the moment to my new home (it’s surprising what a workout you can get on a high-speed train, just trying to keep yourself straight when centrifugal force wants otherwise), and while I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do once I get there, I’ve made it this far alright on my own.
On Monday I flew from Rome to Paris after a morning of sightseeing (some of the stranger sights perhaps, like a Roman pyramid and a non-view-obstructing flat-roofed church painted to look (from one angle) like a dome). Ok, I did learn a lesson on that trip about the need to validate a ticket before getting on an Italian train.. found that out when I was written a fine with $500 written on it. Luckily the decimal place was just missing!!
After arriving in Paris and catching the train into the city, I checked out Notre Dame since it’s right near my hostel and then took a bit of a ‘scenic route’ home. I wish I was hungry but after two lunches I thought it best not to give in to the crêpes… There were 4 Swedish girls in the 8-bed room I was in who conveniently arrived as I was checking in and so were able to help me carry my things to the 6th floor… There was a wall in the middle of our room though so it was as if I had the place to myself. I woke to an additional two roommates, though – they must have gotten in quite late.
A bit of breakfast and out the door to the Eiffel Tower, with a quick stop at the Australian embassy to check that the water damage on my passport is nothing to worry about. By this point I’d realised that I’d left my credit card in the train ticket machine the night before, but fortunately that was uneventful.. alright, I guess there are a few things that I could have improved on in my travels but I still stand by my previous comment about being impressed with myself!
I had the idea of brunch under the Tower in my mind, so spent probably close to an hour searching for the ideal setting. Nice cafe, no view; nice view, no cafe – what’s going on!! Well, I ended up right back near the embassy for an €8 coffee (I think they might have been generous with their own tip there), with the view I’d been searching for.
Off for a bit of shopping at the famous Champs-Élysées – hopefully for some shoes, dresses and jackets, but looks like I’ll settle for a French sim card and some macarons from Ladurée!! If I had to get to one of the SNCF train stations anyway to buy my TGV ticket, I might as well stop off at Montmartre for a visit to the Moulin Rouge, Sacre-Coeur and some crêpes with a stunning view..! New shoes, umbrella (red polka dots) and a ring can be my souvenirs for the trip. How practical! I walked home via the train station to buy my TGV ticket for the next day (today), and found that the early trains had sold out so I’d ‘earnt’ myself a sleep in. Another stay-at-home night, this time with a full hostel room of awkwardness.. It’s hard to tell who is French and who would speak English if I wanted to make conversation!
A soup-bowl of coffee (is this a normal French thing!?) before checking out of the hostel and setting out for the walk to the TGV station, stopping for petit dejeuner on the way. If I make an effort to go out for breakfast, I usually expect something significant, but French breakfasts seem to all be juice, coffee, bread and a croissant. I settled on a western breakfast of bacon and eggs and croissant which was so good that I’m concerned for my arteries. Which pretty much brings us to this train ride! Exciting!!!