Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stopover in Paris

My train left promptly at 8:45.  A gentleman sat down next to me and started a conversation with me.  He was Tunisian but lived in Philadelphia.  He still had a touch of an accent.  Initially, I just listened and didn't really think about what he was saying too much.  He owned a restaurant in the city and it was byob. 
He was interested in light conversation--where was I staying in Paris, was this my first visit, did I know how to get around, did i speak french, how long would i be staying, etc.  I didn't reveal too much.  I wasn't extremely paranoid, just cautious.  I mean, I wasn't meeting anyone in Paris, I didn't have accomodations arranged (yet) and I couldn't read if his intentions were dishonest or not.  I thought about the conversation and realized that he was harmless.  He didn't push to meet up with me or anything like that.  He just wanted to talk while on the train.
We parted ways when we arrived.  My first thought was map, bathroom and then head out to the city.  A map was an easy fix.  Bathroom required euros.  I had forgotten that aspect of the french part of the trip.  I approached a cambio in the train station and handed the guy $200.  He gave me 141 euros.  Ouch.  Not a good exchange rate.
I found a bathroom and headed out into the city.  I figured if I walked along the Seine River, I would be fine.  Find Notre Dame, the Lourve and Eiffel Tower. 
I did.  Notre Dame was my first encounter.  I thought of my dad and how ironic my first stop was the church.  I snapped a few photos and continued on my route. 
I stopped at a cafe for lunch and a glass of wine.  Sort of a requirement while in Paris.  It began to rain and then I questioned my decision to not bring along Agnese's umbrella.  I just didn't want to make space for it in my bag.  I had a book, change of clothes, toiletries and a journal.  It was kind of uncomfortable and heavy.
Regardless, I enjoyed the wine and then left for the Eiffel Tower.  When I was 17, I visited Paris for the first time.  I was in awe of the Lourve, Eiffel Tower, and other sites of this lovely city.  This time, though, it was an odd vibe.  Rainy, overcast and just unsettling, I suppose.  Looking back, it seemed like a waste of time/money.  I spent the night in a clean hotel and waited for my return train to Geneva.  I did enjoy the wine and cheese of my evening meal.  Brie, bleu, triple cream and french fries were delicious.  The rain prohibited me from exploring more of the city.  Or, perhaps, I was just a little disinterested. 
The following morning was leisurely.  I slept in and woke to realize that the Bold & the Beautiful was broadcast in french.  Sorta funny.
I checked out of the hotel and began my walk back to the train station.  It was misting out and I had a limited amount of time to get to the station.  I got a little turned around and arrived eleven minutes before the train was supposed to depart.  I grabbed a coffee & a croissant and inquired to where platform 19 was since I couldn't see it.  This woman instructs me to head down the platform on the left and that i would see it. 
I did as she said and didn't see anyone else boarding or any indication that it was the 19th platform.  I stopped a security guy and asked him.  Of course, he didn't speak english.  I was starting to freak out that I was going to miss my train.  He motioned for me to follow him and he led me up a staircase, out of the main hall and to another area full of trains. 
I found mine and entered the 15th section.  My seat was occupied by someone.  WTF?  I tell the person that he is in my seat and he moves.  I settle in and relax, finally.  I would have been screwed had I missed the train.  I had a 4:30 meet up with Agnese and then we would be heading to Turin, Italy.  I couldn't risk taking another train out of Paris.
Thankfully, I made the train, had coffee and was fine.  My train mates were kind.  A swedish woman extremely talkative and wanting to talk about politics and a couple from China.  They, too, were heading to Italy in a few days after a brief stop in Geneva.  The man spoke English while his wife understood it but didn't speak. 
I am glad that I went to Paris, if only, for the wine factor.  Next visit, though, I would skip the city and go to Bordeaux and other surrounding areas.  I would also learn a few phrases in french to be respectful. 
I returned to Geneva, inhaled a tomato panini, downed a glass of wine and jumped on a tram to meet up with Agnese.  We were going to beginning the Italian adventure in four hours.  I was excited and ready to eat more pizza.

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