Viva Espana: Day 1 – First Stop, Paris

Ok, I think we know the routine now… I’m still trying to avoid flying for a while (another year, actually, if I maintain my commitment not to fly for four years after getting back from a year (well, seven months) of travelling)…

Oh, you don’t know the routine? Sorry. First step, a train from Manchester to London; second step, Eurostar to Paris; and third step, next leg of the journey.

On this occasion, I’ve had a few hours in London between connections because, at the time of booking, it wasn’t certain that there would be a train running. If a dash from Victoria Coach Station to St Pancras was going to be necessary, I thought it best to allow plenty of time.

(No rail bookings are yet open for my return journey so it may well be a trip back up North on the coach. We’ll see).

The train pulled smoothly out of St Pancras and I began to listen to the conversation behind.

A young woman was asking the young man sitting next to her how he would describe her. He immediately asked why she wanted to know that… no nervousness there at all. To be fair, the warning of Admiral Akbhar was already ringing in my head: “It’s a trap”.

I couldn’t quite make out her reply. The man gamely continued: “I’d start with your personality and your work.” (Possibly a novel combination but maybe a safe one, especially if they are work colleagues or if he knows she is particularly committed to her job).

But then he started with: “Well, you’re French-Lebanese…” and the interruption was immediate: “You’re going with that?”

“Erm…” (Was he looking around and wondering if there was an escape?)

“Oh, it’s fine,” she said, in a tone that completely indicated that it really wasn’t. “I just think it’s interesting that you see both aspects to my heritage and I’d like to know why.”

I was intrigued to know how he was going to answer that but the train went into a tunnel and the increased rumbling drowned out their voices.

By the time the train was back above ground, the conversation was continuing on to other subjects – mostly character assassination of their colleagues: “Well, she doesn’t have a vision of herself so she is never going to be satisfied in her role.”

So neither I nor the woman found out how the man would describe her. With another two hours to Paris, this may have been the best outcome. Potentially awkward conversations in confined spaces don’t seem to end well for either party.

The train was 30 minutes from Paris, and darkness had fallen when I noticed the chap sitting in the seat in front of me gurning at his reflection in the window, which had now become a mirror.

It started in a fairly normal manner. He pulled on his hat and started checking his appearance: inspecting his teeth (presumably for stray spinach). He then moved to waggling his eyebrows at himself, rubbing sleep from his eyes, opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish, and, before I knew it, we were in fully-fledged gurning territory. He then stopped abruptly and rested his head against the window as if he was going to sleep.

Unlike previous trips (Italy (May 2022) and the South of France (October 2022), I wasn’t dashing for a third train when I arrived in Paris. I was still heading for Gare de Lyon, but I wouldn’t be leaving by train until the following day.

I enjoyed the overnight trains on my trip to Carcassonne and Toulouse, but I did miss seeing the scenery. So this time, I decided to stay overnight in Paris before continuing my journey the following day.

First: the fun of navigating the Paris Metro. Please don’t misunderstand me. The connection between Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon is fast and easy, and, theoretically, I know where the Metro station is at Gare du Nord… but somehow, finding it once I’m in the crowd has not run smoothly. I’m sure I have previously added around half a mile to the walk as I make wrong turns DESPITE following the signs (which seem to fizzle out half way as if the sign writers got bored with their task).

Finding my way OUT of the Metro at Gare de Lyon definitely has definitely taken far longer than it should. People have spent shorter time in the Circles of Hell in comparison with how long I’ve spent wandering the Metro station, like some lost soul doomed to haunt the subterranean halls.

It’s not like I’m unfamiliar with finding my way through public transport systems. The Moscow Underground was a doddle, and the mass transit systems of Beijing and Xi’an were a walk in the park in comparison to swapping from rail to Metro at these two Paris stations. And… to be fair to myself, I had no problem using the Paris Metro in March last year… mostly because it didn’t involve transitting these two major stations.

There was obviously something I’d been missing.

Determined not to be beaten, after disembarking the Eurostar at Gare du Nord, I secured my rucksack and marched purposefully in the direction, I hoped, of the Metro.

And I found it. And much to my bemused astonishment… less than 30 minutes later, I had successfully exited Gare de Lyon and was wandering off in search of the No 24 bus.

This third trip was obviously the charm. Something has finally clicked in to place. Now, I’m not sure where I was going wrong.

Unsurprisingly, there were several different buses calling at bus stops outside Gare de Lyon and equally unsurprisingly, all with different numbers. The twist was that the numbers all came in different colours with blue the most common. The No 24 was pink, and it was the only bus using that shade.

When your eyesight is not the best, every detail like that really helps – I can spot colour at a distance far more easily than I can read bus numbers.

All very straightforward. All I needed to do now was check in and find dinner.

Categories: France, Paris, Travel, Viva EspanaTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 comment

  1. What an adventure getting from London to Paris, as well as navigating the intricacies of the Paris Metro! Like you, I’ve heard interesting conversations while riding trains or overhearing them at restaurants, and they’re always entertaining…but maybe not so for the people engaged in it! Safe travels!

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