Okay, now let’s pretend like we’re back to last Thursday, which would make it our last morning in London, before catching an 8 am. train to Paris, before flying out of Paris later that afternoon to Rome……
Steph and I had seen a concert Wednesday night and didn’t make it into bed until around 1 a.m., so we weren’t exactly sure what it would be like getting up at 5 a.m. to catch the train. With jet lag. To a new city where neither of us spoke the language.
Turns out it wasn’t too terribly awful. Must have been the excitement. We knew we would only have a couple of hours in beautiful Paris (or so we thought), so we had decided to hop on the subway from the train station and take it immediately to the Eiffel Tower. After that, we’d cop a squat at the closest cafe we could find near there and pack in all the coffee and crepes that we could….
Lucky for me (and Steph), my thoughtful boyfriend had lovingly printed out the Paris subway map for me, highlighting which stops we would need to take to get to some key places—the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre and our airport, etc. And that fantastic little map stayed tucked in my backpack with a ton of other important documents—print outs of flight confirmations, hotel address, maps of other cities, etc.
And then, as soon as we stepped off the train and into the train station and were enveloped in “crying” women (seriously, mobs of them), asking if we spoke English and shoving pieces of paper in our faces asking for money, the subway map was promptly forgotten.
There have been very few times in my life when I’ve actually been surprised by something. I live in New York City. I’ve seen a man with a top hat traveling down 42nd street on a pogo stick. I’ve seen a boy getting mugged. I’ve seen a person literally hanging out of a 12th floor window to clean it, with nothing even remotely holding said person in place besides shear strength. I’ve stumbled upon movie sets, routinely walked past cops with machine guns in Grand Central and, every day, depart my subway stop for work to the sounds of a lovely lady who, painstakingly, takes the time to alert me that “Jesus is coming.”
I’ve seen all of this, and yet, at this train station in Paris, within 4 minutes of stepping off the platform, I was surprised. These women were swift. They were relentless. And another person, perhaps a person who has not been through the craziness of living in a city such as New York, would have been in a worser position than my sister and I were.
Still, it threw me off a bit. Then I couldn’t find the subway map. And the map that I was looking at on the wall, yeah, that one seemed a bit different than the one I had studied (seriously, studied) that was somewhere hidden in the eternal blackness of my backpack. And this, my friends, is where my sister and I got into our first (and if I remember correctly, last) traveling tiff.
Standing at the map next to my sister, not understanding what I was looking at (and becoming ever more frustrated that I couldn’t understand what I was looking at), I glance over at the little one, who is not even looking at the map.
“You’re just standing there!” I’m exasperated.
Sister looks at me, in surprise. “What?”
“You aren’t even TRYING to help me at all!”
I unleashed all of my frustration at this stupid Paris train station right then and there on the little one, and she took it like a pro. “Cheryl, I don’t know how to read these things, and I think we should just ask someone,” she said calmly.
Fine, point taken. But I’ll be damned if I asked someone how to read a subway map! So after another five minutes of studying the wall, I finally figured out where we needed to go. Then, the ticket machines were broken.
So we stood in line for another half hour waiting to buy our ticket. But that was okay, because in that line I got a chance to calm down. Take in my surroundings. Realize it’s all going to be okay? (and that it wasn’t Stephanie’s fault).
On the subway, however, we had another trying moment. After waiting for another half hour for the subway to even arrive, Steph and I jammed our way (backpacks, purses, suitcases and all), on a subway that seriously is one of the most busy ones I have ever been on. Then a woman got on with a stroller, and at the next stop, the shouting began. People couldn’t get on (because of the stroller, of course), so shoving and French yelling ensued. Of course we didn’t know what was being said, exactly, since neither one of us speaks French, but we could get the gist. And it wasn’t fun.
After that, things were uphill. Well, besides the pouring rain and three-hour delayed flight to Rome, that is. Still, figuring out the subways after that were easy-as, and we made it to the Eiffel Tower. And we found our little cafe and we ate our crepes (mine Rum soaked, Steph’s with blueberries). And all was right with the world….
At around 2:30 we made our way back to the subway so that we could get to the airport to catch our what we thought would be 5:45 p.m. plane. It was not a 5:45 plane. A strike of airport workers backed up all the flights, and so Steph and I spent a few extra hours in the airport that would have gladly been spent in another part of Paris—but it was okay. In the end we got on the plane around 8:30, and landed in Rome around 11.
It was a really, really long day, but finally, after all of that, we were in ROME!
Bis bald, and the best to come, friends!