It’s official. I have done something I had prided myself on never doing before. Though, it was bound to happen eventually. After all, I did decide to stop in Paris, and I don’t speak a word of French. I couldn’t even ask “Do you speak English?” which is something I can do in both Spanish and German (and English, of course). But it happened, and I’m glad it happened now and not later in my trip. I’m glad I didn’t miss a plane or something, those are much harder situations to fix. You can probably tell by now what I am going to say. That’s right.
I missed my train to Stuttgart.Uh-huh. Not impressed. And the worst part is that I allowed myself plenty of time to arrive at the station before my train! I knew what trains I had to catch, and I was fully prepared. And that is where I went wrong. I strayed from my plans, deciding to take what seemed to be a more direct route. Instead of changing trains three times, I figured I may as well catch the bus direct to Gare de l’Est. It was all going well, until the driver starting speaking French over the speakers and the other passengers were murmuring in discontent. We arrived at the next stop, and next thing I know all the passengers are getting kicked off!
The line was cancelled, and there were no more buses going to Gare de l’Est.
I waited at the stop for a while, not knowing what was going on, until I was becoming more and more panicked. I now only had 35 minutes to get to my train, and I had been meaning to be there by now! I asked a lady why there were no times for the bus, and in a very garbled mix of French and English I got the idea that there were no more buses. So I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, and had no idea of where to go.
Moral of the story: stick to your plans!
After calming myself down, I walked to the nearest Metro station, and managed to figure out how to get back on track with my transport. I eventually made it to Gare du Nord, and ran most of the way through – adrenaline does amazing things, I ran up so many stairs carrying my 17kg suitcase – only to get stuck at the gates. My ticket had expired, thanks to my delay with my buses. Knowing that an hour and a half must have passed, I almost broke down. My train to Stuttgart had left, and I wasn’t even in the right station. I couldn’t see any ticket machines nearby, so I was stuck.
I feel sorry for the men working at the information booth. When I finally found it, they had to deal with a borderline hysterical Australian woman, who spoke rapid English in a weird accent (I blame the French). Fortunately, they were kind enough to let me through to the ticket booths free of charge, where I could buy another 1.5-hour ticket and make my way to Gare de l’Est.
Arriving at the station, I wandered for a good half an hour trying to find the ticket booth for international trains. I could see from the departure boards that I had an hour and a half until the next German train departed (destination: Frankfurt). Upon finding the ticket booth, I was hoping to either get my ticket changed or buy a new one, only to be told that since I had purchased an online ticket, it was at a special price and therefore could only change it online. So off I went. Locating a seat was the easy part. Connecting to the free Wi-Fi was also pretty easy. I logged on to the Deutsche Bahn website, and followed the instructions on my ticket to refund it. I had hoped that I could exchange it for a later train, but it was not to be so.
To avoid forking out another 125,00 Euro for a new ticket, I decided to use my rail pass, and just buy a ticket to München when I needed it next month. However, when I tried to book a reservation – as is required to be able to use a rail pass – I was kindly informed by the website that I could not reserve a seat for an international train without purchasing a ticket.
I had no choice but to pay for another ticket.
Eventually it was all sorted out, and I’m on the train! The French countryside is beautiful and green, a colour we don’t see much in South Australia, especially not in summer! Unless it is the wine vines, but even then it is a different green. And I now understand why my Dad could stand at the doors of his high-speed train from Montpellier to Paris all those years ago! We are travelling between 308-318 kilometers per hour, and the scenery just flashing by, it is amazing! Actually, I might just go do that. I’ve sat enough over the past 3 days that I don’t need to any more, and with the bruise on my hip and my dodgy knees, sitting is definitely the last thing I need!
The rest of the trip to Stuttgart was pretty uneventful. I had no one sitting next to me the entire time, so I had my space and my quiet. The trains were cool, my student guide from Stuttgart Universität was lovely, and I’m at my temporary home for the next few days until my host family arrive home from their holiday.
To be completely honest I probably won’t go back to Paris. The rest of France, maybe, but Paris? Even though I didn’t get to see any of the historical or cultural highlights, I think I’ve been immersed in enough French for a lifetime! That and if I had to catch another Paris bus I might actually just give up. So thank you for giving me a comfortable bed to sleep in, yummy food for breakfast, average coffee and lovely people. Thank you to the random gentleman who offered to carry my suitcase down the stairs to the Metro station for me, and to the kind woman who let me through the gates when I couldn’t get it to work. People like you make a city, and if I were to come back to Paris, I look forward to learning more of your hospitality.
Tomorrow should be a relaxing day, and I will probably post in the evening or Monday.
Bis Bald alles x
P.S.: One thing that I have noticed, not just with my accent, but with my way of thinking, is that as soon as I arrived in Paris, I was thinking auf Deutsch (in German). Every time someone spoke to me in French, I wanted to reply in German, and it was a conscious effort on my part to actually speak English. Then, every time I spoke English, I had a different accent. Some mix between French and German. Let’s just say I definitely didn’t sound Australian! Not that I usually do, but it wasn’t even my usual weird mix of Australian, English and Canadian accents. Hopefully this translates into my pronunciation and familiarity with the German language during my stay. This will be interesting.