Currently on the train home to Pau from Paris. It has been one hell of a trip to get here thus far.
Here’s how it was supposed to go:
3:40 am – Wake up and walk to Termini train station in Rome
4:30 am – From termini catch the 40 min bus to the airport
5:25 am – Arrive and get passports verified at airport
7 am – 9 am – Flight from Rome to Paris (Beauvais)
9:30 am – Take a bus from Beauvais airport to downtown Paris lasting 1h15
10:30 am – Take 2 metros from there to the train station of Montparnasse
2:40pm – 7:40 pm – Train to Pau
8 pm – Get a ride home from Elly’s host fam
Here is how it went:
3:30 am – Alarm rings, I’m already awake. I feel like I didn’t sleep at all, but I must have caught 2-3 hours because I didn’t hear our roommates enter.
4:10 am -We arrive at Termini and catch the right bus to the airport
5:20 am – Elly gets her passport verified, Vanessa is declined and the worker says she has the wrong flight. Her plan leaves at 5:45 that night, not 7 am. Turns out I have the wrong one too. Ryanairs website is really confusing and I managed to accidentally book flight 9635 instead of 9631. Genius.
5:25 am – We plead with information to let us switch flights. They say we would have to each buy a new ticket because we already checked in online. We checked in over a week ago for all the flights, because it is required that you check-in 15- 2 days ahead of time. A new ticket would be over 200 Euros.
5:30 am – Vanessa lights up a cigarette and we begin the countdown of 12 hours till boarding. We try to check in, but they won’t let us until 3:45 pm.
8 am – Debate taking the bus back and spending the day in Rome, but decide we don’t want to spend the money and wait in the lines to catch the 40 minute buses. Get breakfast at the airport instead.
11:30 am – Get kicked out of the half-empty cafeteria because we are not eating lunch. The airport is very small and there are no other tables to sit at, so we go outside till check in time.
3:45 pm – Check in and get ripped off for the worst sandwich of our lives. As if we weren’t in a bad enough mood already…
5:45 pm – Line up (or cluster, because Europeans can’t ever seem to grasp the concept of a line, but definitely know how to push, shove and cut in front of you) outside of the gate
6:15 pm – Our plane is supposed to be leaving now, and the board says it’s on time, but no one is even boarding
7:00 pm – finally let us through the gate. Then we are herded onto buses and have to wait for everyone to fill up 3 before the buses drive across the runway to the proper plane
7:30 pm – Our plane finally leaves Rome. Pilot explains that all the planes are delayed because of a strike. The French are always on strike! Even high school students go on strike!
Elly is getting into the train station at Pau about the same time as we leave Rome.
I begin to panic on the plane. We had planned on trying to catch the last train to Pau at 11:30 that night since we missed our 2:40 pm train. Not sure how this will work since we won’t arrive until 9:30 pm and then have to wait in line to take a bus to Paris that lasts over an hour. I ask a Parisians woman next to me if the train station is open all night. She says it closes. At this point in time I haven’t had more than 3 hours of sleep in the past 36 hours. Haven’t showered in 2 days. Am very stressed, anxious and oddly hungry. My imagination is filled with visions of the movie “Taken”, me smashing the bottle of Italian liquor I bought for my host mom to fight off hobos, knocking on the door of the Sacre Coeur to see if I can stay in their guest house, staying in a bar until closing at 3 am, sleeping in some nook in the metro or near a train station, wandering the red light district trying to find that hostel I stayed in with Sarah and asking the police if I can sleep in a cell for free,
Then the plane starts to go through some of the worse turbulence I have ever felt. The old woman next to me takes out two phones from her purse and switching sim cards and taking out parts. She doesn’t look like a terrorist….but I don’t trust anyone right now… Shortly thereafter the cabin lights go off and a stewardess comes on the line to say we are making a landing with all lights off and that it is a very normal procedure. I wonder why I have never ever heard of this “normal procedure”? The plane felt very hot and I wasn’t profusely sweating by any means, but I definitely was glistening (the most ladylike term applicable) and probably looked beet red. I was breathing very deep slow breaths, trying to focus on not letting anyone notice my condition, lest they think I was about to be sick. The turbulence only gets worse and worse. I don’t get nauseous from planes, but I do panic when we are about to land and the plane is swaying heavily from side to side. Part of me keeps telling myself to get a grip, then the other part of me, having a mini panic attack starts to think, “This is it. This whole day has just gotten worse and worse and it’s all leading up to the finale: death!”
The landing gears come out and just before we hit the ground the plane rocks heavily to its side one final time. Vanessa and the old woman both look terrified. We finally touchdown and I yell at Vanessa, “This is one of the worst days of my life!!” She starts to fan me with her airplane ticket, “I’m not going to be sick” I tell her, “but if this panic attack gets more real maybe we can stay at the hospital for free?! Sorry about this by the way.”
Not going to lie, there may have also been a few leaky tears of anxiety, fatigue, panic and fear. As previously revealed in my blog about my arrival in Pau, I don’t hold together well when exhausted.
Vanessa was very patient and reassuring saying, “It’s okay, if it wasn’t you it would be me”
As we stop, the old woman asks if I am okay and wishes me a nice stay in Paris before she leaves.
10 pm – We get into the airport and I use my emergency cash to buy Vanessa and I tickets for the Beauvais-Paris bus. Vanessa ran out of money and the rest of mine is in a purse I had Elly put in her bag because Ryanair only lets you take one carry-on.
Vanessa looks for an ATM as I start to speak with a woman at the information booth. She isn’t French and her English is not very good. I kept having to explain everything over again and then she told me the train station closes at 11, but when I get into Paris I can take metro 1.
‘Where do I take it to?”
“Wherever you want to go”
“But I don’t know where I want to go. We don’t have a place to stay.”
“It connects to all the other metros in Paris”
”Well can you tell me where there is a hostel in Paris or where I can take it to get help”
“No, we only help people staying in Beauvais. Just take metro one”
10:15 pm – We board the bus from Beauvais to Paris. I dig through my journal for the business card of Vintage hostel, which I stayed in the last time I was in Paris. Sure wish my phone wasn’t fried right now so I could call them.
Vanessa: “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know, maybe see if anyone else on here is going to a hostel: ‘Hey, are you going to a hostel? Mind if I follow you around the streets of Paris in the middle of the night?"’
Vanessa (with sarcasm of course): “’Yeah, can we just tag along?’ haha great.”
I notice the 2 boys across from me are speaking English and start to listen in on their conversation. The one close to me is from Toronto and he seems pretty down to earth so I lean over and ask, “Excuse me, sorry to bother, but are either of you going to a hostel tonight?”
The Canadian says he is and we’re welcome to tag along if we want, but he can’t remember if this hostel lets people check in after 11. Then he casually remarks, “And it looks like it’s raining, so I guess sleeping on the streets isn’t an option…”
11:30 pm- The bus arrives and Vanessa and I help the two guys find the metro. I look at the map of the Canadian’s hostel and remark, “I stayed in one near here last time. Kind of a sketchy neighborhood…..you’re right in the middle of the red light district”
As we wait for the metro he calls the hostel to make sure he can still check in and hands me the phone to ask the desk clerk if he has extra rooms.
“yes, I think we have 2 extra beds”
“Um okay great and how much?”
“For 2? 80 Euros.”
“Eighty? As in 8-0 or 1-8”
“Eighty, 8 0”
“Um….okay…uh, be there soon”
I get off the phone and tell Vanessa. We start to question the possibility of wandering the streets all night or staying in a bar. That is way way way above our budget by this point.
As we exit the metro we come out right in front of The Moulin Rouge. “Welcome to the red light district!” I tell them.
A French guy around our age attempts to help us as we look at our map, but is confused as well.
“Hmmm…” he says, “I think it’s that way, but you should go across the street and ask for directions. Get directions from the Boulangerie, not the sex shop, they’ll just tell you shit”
We get directions from the baker, but they don’t seem to be accurate. Then this creepy guy approaches us and offers to help in exchange for a cigarette. I wouldn’t have taken that deal, but the Canadian does and the man points us back in the opposite direction. As we walk back, we pass the baker who calls us over and redirects us. He had given us good directions the first time, we just missed a step.
12am- Arrive at the hostel. I ask about the 80 Euros and the man tells me they have 2 formulas because they are a hotel and hostel. 80 Euros was for the hotel, hostel is 25 each, plus free internet and free continental breakfast. Thank you Jesus! The three of us check in and then walk to the Sacre Coeur for the best view of Paris one can find! I had thought St. Peter’s won my heart over, but was once again thoroughly impressed as I looked in awe at the Sacre Coeur. It looked gothic and eminent by the nightlight. Very very different from day.
In front of the church some young Parisians had parked there cars and were drinking and dancing in the moonlight.
Walking through the cobblestone streets and down the hill back to the hostel I once again fell in love with Paris.
2am – The Canadian asks if we want to go out to the bars. I almost laugh. All I want is a shower and sleep.
3am – After 24 hours of travelling from Rome to Paris I crawl into a safe, warm bed.
7am – The concierge knocks on our door for an alarm. I get out of bed eager for my free breakfast, but Vanessa just wants to sleep. I try to get her up because our train leaves in 3 hours. She says she would rather sleep than shower and wants me to go back to bed till 8.
I go downstairs to get breakfast and the man tells me he is just about to run to the bakery and will be right back with bread.
7:15 am – I eat the most delicious croissant of my entire life. It is still warm from the oven and absolutely perfect…..mmmm….I love France.
8 am – I wake up Vanessa and she goes downstairs to get her breakfast
8:45 am – We walk to Starbucks. There is a Starbucks across from the Moulin and oh how I have missed a real cup of coffee. French only drink about 4 ounces of coffee or simply an espresso straight. A size “Tall” seemed enormous and I can’t believe I used to drink that much!
9:00 am – We catch the metro, go the wrong way, get off on the wrong stop and climb a mountain of stairs.
9:15 am – Realize our mistake and return to the metro
9:50 am – Finally get off with 20 min before the train leaves. Our tickets were for yesterday’s train and Vanessa says to me, “Okay here is the plan: We try to plead with them not to make us buy new tickets. Explain that the strikes made us miss our train and go for the sympathy card. If not, we’ll use the bitch card”
“How bitchy do you feel?”
“Good,” I tell her, “Because I feel defeated from the airport staff”
10 am – After walking through the station and panicking at being unable to find the platform easily we arrive at information. The line is huge.
Vanessa looks at me and says, “Well we’re going to miss our train”
I remind her, “The next one doesn’t leave for 2 hours and it lasts 7-8. This one only lasts 5”
“What are we gonna do?”
”Want to just get on and see what happens?”
“What the hell, let’s do it! What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Get kicked off…we couldn’t be deported for something like this right?”
10:03 am – board the train and sit down at a table for about 2 minutes before getting kicked out of someone’s seats. The seats on trains this long are assigned, but we have seats from yesterday of course, so we don’t know where to go.We settle on wandering the train until it starts and then finding empty ones. Luckily, we find a deserted room in the caboose and sit there. Anxiety sets in as we await the ticket man. How illegal is it to ride a train you don’t have the right ticket for?
10:30 am – Ticket man comes around. I keep telling myself to look calm as he grabs my ID card and ticket. He looks at me and smiles as he lifts them up to verify.I wearily half-smile back. He punches my ticket and Vanessa’s without a word and leaves. Maybe he just saw the names, or maybe using an unused ticket for a later train is alright….I don’t know, but I am just thankful to be on my way to Pau and not about to be kicked off this train.
12:38 am – Current time as I type this. Vanessa is passed out across from me with her mouth open and I-pod headphones falling out.
5 pm – estimated time of arrival to my bed in Pau.
As you can see my vacation was quite adventurous. I have a lot to write about the actual trip, but I’ll get to that within the next couple days – A bientot!