We took a night train from Munich to Paris. We booked a 6-person sleeping compartment, but it worked out great because nobody else was in our compartment. Sleeping on a train, in a tiny bunk, isn’t something I would want to do every night, but it did allow us a full night of sleep before getting to Paris. This seemed like the better option than wasting about 10 hours during the day especially since I knew we wouldn’t be in Paris for a long time.
The first thing we did when we got to Paris was go to a little cafe outside of the train station for breakfast. I was trying to get Wi-Fi, so I would be able to get a map (directions) to our hotel. When I asked the waiter about Wi-Fi, he just looked at me, walked away, and came back with some croissants.
Hmm.. okay. Then an American couple walked in the restaurant, sit down, ask the man about Wi-Fi, and he walks away and comes back with croissants. The couple look at us and asked us if we had Wi-Fi (I had my iPad out). I said nope, but now we all had croissants.
After breakfast, we went back to the train station to get our tickets for Chartres. Apparently I don’t say the name of this town even remotely correct because the man just chuckled at me when I asked for tickets. He then proceeded to show me a map of the metro, so I would know what to do the next day. — This detail will become relevant to know later on.
After dealing with those tickets, we ventured out into Paris. Lost and confused as always. However, I will say that Paris is fabulous about posting maps along the way at every bus station. This at least helped with trying to determine if I was walking the right direction. The problem was that even though it seemed like we were continuing on the same street, the next time I would check a map, it would show us on a completely different street (did we veer off? did the street change names?). This resulted in another almost two hour long hunt for our hotel. Turns out our hotel was really only about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station, but hey – we got our daily exercise and in the mean time we got to see lots of one little part of the city.
Our hotel room in Paris was the smallest one yet (and the most expensive). The shower was so small that I only half jokingly told my friend that if I ate one more croissant, I wouldn’t be able to fit into the shower. But since we were only staying one night, it didn’t really matter.
After settling into our hotel, we ventured back out into the city and immediately got lost. We probably circled the same area at least ten times. I am sure the man (and his dog) that we kept walking by found it humorous.
At this point in our day, I was wishing that I could remember more from my high school French classes. But, the French were way more helpful than I had stereo-typically expected them to be. For example, as we wondering the streets, a man selling newspapers asked us if we were lost. He was very excited that we were American. He said he had driven a taxi for a few years in New York City. Okay in all honesty, he wasn’t French, but still he lives in France now, and he was still quite helpful about giving us directions. Another example is the time that Kassandra asked how much something was and the shopkeeper answered in French. Another customer took it upon himself to help translate for Kassandra into English (and he actually was French – I think). At this same store, I found a stack of games in French. I know my family will find the humor of this picture.
We tried to go to a few places for lunch, but from what we could tell, the French (at least the places we went to) don’t have lunch menus. They have “specials” boards that list about three options for you to choose from. None of these options were in English, and although I would have been completely pleased just randomly picking one, Kassandra is a bit too picky of an eater to have lived that adventurously. At some point, I think I gave up trying to decipher menus and decided to just give in to Kassandra’s request to have Subway. So, we went back to our hotel room with Subway for her and shawarma for me (Really? I went to Paris to have shawarma!?!?), and we watched the Simpsons and game shows in French.
That was it for the day. We were exhausted, which was another common theme of our vacation. I thought I would never see the day when Kassandra would beg to go to bed at 8pm, and yet that is what she did almost every night of our trip.
The next morning after some breakfast Crepes, we headed back to the train station to go to Chartres. Unfortunately, at the train station we encountered some problems. Remember how I said the guy at the train station helped me with the map of the Metro? Because to get to Chartres, we first had to take the Metro to Gare Montparnasse, and then transfer to the train to get to Chartres. The man the day before showed me on the map that we would need to take Metro 4 going towards Porte d’Orleans. However, after navigating our way through the station to get to train line #4, our only options were to head towards Porte de Clignancourt or Mairie de Montrouge. Hmm… well neither of those were what the man had explained to me. I tried asking a few people for help, but I wasn’t really getting anywhere. Apparently my pronunciation of French place names is so horrible that nobody could really understand what I was asking. So, I waited in line at the ticket counter for thirty minutes to ask for help. The woman didn’t speak English, but after a lengthy conversation of hand gestures, map pointing, and ticket showing, I was able to establish that we needed to get on the train headed towards Mairie de Montrouge.
By this time, it was almost time for our train to arrive, so we had to run, as much as was possible with our bags and my bum leg, to catch the train in time. I found out later that the Mairie de Montrouge station just opened on March 23, so although the signs have been updated, none of the maps have been, and apparently neither have many of the ticket clerks. In the end, it worked out fine. We caught our train and off we headed to Chartres.
Paris will get another posting on this blog since we came back to it after Chartres. So, don’t worry – we saw more of Paris than a game shop and a shawarma restaurant.