Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ah, France

Two days in Paris so far, and I'm having a great time. I suppose it's actually two and a half days—since I certainly made some use of my Saturday, getting a SIM card and eating at McDonald's counts, right? (I also had a crepe and drank a glass of wine at a bar. As expected, no one talked to me. At the creperie I practically shared a table with a couple, who completely ignored me, per usual. The sense of personal space is quite different here, I was immediately reminded.)

Yesterday, Monday, I planned to go to Amiens, to see the cathedral. I took a class on gothic architecture in college and it was one of the places we studied. Not the best taught class, but I still remember a lot of it and I loved looking at the pictures of the cathedrals. The winner was Chartres, which I saw years ago when I spent two weeks in Paris after college, and then on my most recent visit here, Kent and I joined Amanda and Bryan on a visit. But still no Amiens.

I'd meant to go, on my own, and it just didn't happen. Re-reading the blog, I think I was a bit blue around that time and couldn't muster the energy for it. Then I went off on other travels and it got cold and Amiens was lost in the shuffle. This visit, I was determined to do a couple of things I didn't manage during my time living in Paris. One was to go to the tea house at the Mosque. Done! The tea was good, extra sweet, mint. The pastries were blah, so skip that. I didn't go to the hamman, since that doesn't appeal to me. I didn't eat in the restaurant, but it was popular—people were lined up to get in.

On Monday, most museums are closed, so I decided that was the day for Amiens. I paid for a little in-room wifi and booked a ticket in the morning. I went to Gare du Nord, failed to retrieve the ticket from the machine—you can buy the ticket online with a US credit card, but cannot use the exact same card to get the ticket from the machine. I managed to retrieve the ticket from a clerk, no problem. I was thinking it was good I'd gotten to the station early. I still had plenty of time to find the track and get a (second) coffee. But I couldn't find the track. I ran all around the station and I thought I was losing my mind. I wasn't: there was no train. Due to "perturbances" aka STRIKES. I could've taken a seriously circuitous route to Amiens, but as much as I like train travel, I saw no point in taking a indefinitely long trip to get somewhere that I was merely going on principle. Also, what about getting back? It's clearly a confusing situation for French-speaking people and trying to navigate it on my so-so understanding of the language seemed like a very bad idea. So, I got in a line—the wrong one—then another line—and got my money refunded. At least that part was easy. I got to the counter and the guy started right out in English: you want your money back? Why, yes, yes I do. Merci!

Today, there is a big national strike, so I'm not going to try again. Wednesday is my last chance, but I don't think I'll try then either. We'll see.

I ended up having quite a good day, though. I had a nice lunch, took myself on a walking tour and visited the best candy shop in the city. I went home and checked my email, work and personal. Nothing much of note there, which is good. I rested and then…went to the movies. An old American movie, just like I used to when I lived here. On my way to the movie, I got a flyer announcing a rally…more strike stuff. I'm going to the rally today and I'll take some pictures.

Sunday, was a good day, too, and much less frustrating. I met my friend, Claire, for lunch. Afterwards, we walked ALL around. Stopped at the aforementioned tea house then kept walking. We walked all the way to dinner time, so we stopped for dinner too. We had two big traditionally French meals—delicious, but a bit much. No regrets, but it meant that yesterday I had quiche for lunch and a sandwich for dinner and it was plenty…well, I had some candy too, but still, a lighter eating day. It's sort of funny to be eating everything out. I miss buying my baguette and cheese…but my room is so tiny and overheated, I'm not sure it's a good idea to keep any food in there, especially smelly cheese. I'm not complaining about eating out, even the cost doesn't bother me, but a more authentic trip down memory lane would've involved some mild cooking or at least reheating.

Ok, off to the protest!

Grateful for: a good trip so far.


  1. such a very nice article good journey .......
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  2. Oh the European strikes... we were in Peter trying to get to Pushkin a few months ago and our spoken Russian is insanely weak so it was ugly. Lots of wrong lines, long waits, confusing directions, and finally, no train but plenty of unscrupulous drivers... Argh. While I love train travel and public transit, sometimes I miss being self-sufficient when traveling.


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