Three hours to kill in Paris
Crossing a major city from one train terminal to another is always a trial, especially if you don't speak the language. There they are, streets denoted by signs with strange symbols on, buildings different than what you are used to seeing and unusual aromas. At first a small wow factor arises, only to be followed by some expletive announcing your complete frustration and beginnings of panic realizing you might have gotten lost, wondering if you'll ever find your way back to the terminal you emerged from so you could start over and not miss the train at the other station. Paris is no exception and their Metro leaves a few things to be desired. A change in departure day from London, a while back, saw me save 140 UK Pounds to get to Biarritz, plus I would have a decent layover on the way.
Gare du Nord, was its usual madness, so the 30 minute ride to Montparnassea welcome relief. I had expected the Metro to be crowded, but a seat was found immediately. I just sat down and waited for the right sign to appear, got off and took the belt to the station.
At first I wondered if anything was wrongParis is never this easy! I guess it was one of those days when the French were absorbed in other things.
Training it from London to Pamplona is a long journey. The Eurostar ticket only takes me as far as Biarritz and if it's the wrong day there is a 2+ hour wait for a train to Hendaye then being stuck in San Sebastian (very expensive and boring) for the night. Other days, you buy the extra ticket on the French train or be smart and get it at Gare Montparnasse for less. I chose the latter, then wondered what I was going to do with myself for the next few hours. Time for an explore.
The area around the station isn't anything to write home about. A large black skyscraper looms in the distance and some smaller ones in the opposite direction. There's a big cemetery not far away, but I'm not interested in the dead. Then you have the triangular street patterns running off in all kinds of directions enticing you to become hopelessly lost, wander around for hours and miss your train. One of them had restaurants of different nationalities on (all the world's food except French).
After about an hour it must have been break time in the offices, because everyone and his mother were suddenly on the streets, all of them speaking French (I don't speak the language) and walking in a straight line became impossible.
Finally I saw a little café, got a cup of coffee and sat down to people watch. Hundreds of them charging about with gusto and muttering away, like their tongues had split in two and were trying to find the other part to complete the word. I had the remains of a box of the little Spanish cigars I like, so just sat and stared for a while. There wasn't much more to do, hey it's just another big city like all the others. Always making sure I took 3 turns to end back where I could see the station and not go beyond the big black skyscraper.
Eventually it was time to board the train. I meandered onto the platform, climbed aboard, found my seat and continued the journey.
I know some people like Paris. Years ago, in the early 1970's, I was en-route to another destination and took a quick look around. Even went up the Eiffel Tower and wondered what all the fuss was about. The thing was dirty, the elevator didn't work right, it smelled and the locals were unfriendly. So I grabbed a metro to the end of a line, stuck out my thumband left. Now, it's just a place I go through to get somewhere else.
Aug 13, 2018
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