I took an overnight train from Florence to Paris last night and was lucky enough to have a Couchette all to myself – another indication that the tourist season is over. I was extremely grateful that the conductor saved me from having to sharing a couchette with this old, rude French woman and her vile smelling dog (the dogs smell worse than the people in France). I like dogs, I have a dog, but that poor dog needed a bath, a good brushing and a nail trim. She said he was a shitzu, but he looked like a stinky old wet mop. The other woman who got stuck with her was a very nice Italian woman, but both of them did not speak English, nor do I speak enough Italian or French to explain to them that they couldn’t have their shit strewn about the entire couchette – they were assigned ONE bed, not all of them. After waiting for a good ten minutes for the French woman to try and get her poop in a group, the conductor came up to me and asked, “I have a couchette open towards the front of the train, do you want it?” “Uh, hell yeah I do, dude and grazie!”
After being on the train for about an hour, I remembered what the sweet Russian girl, whom I met on the train from Madrid to Lisbon over TWO months ago, told me – the night trains in Italy are disgusting. She wasn’t kidding either. The bathrooms smelled so bad that when I did finally work up the courage to use one (either that or pee the bed) I had to hold my breath so that I didn’t vomit. Since I am not a puker, nor do I get nauseous easily, this may give you some indication of the health hazard that I paid 130-euros for. Of course, this information was recollected a bit late in the game, I must say, but none the less, I am excited to not only see one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but I also am meeting a dear friend of mine too – which means I will have company after over two months of travelling alone (I feel sorry for him already!).
I was able to enjoy the dirt nasty train in the couchette all by myself, though. Not that I slept that well on the cardboard beds with the pillow sheet pockets they give to change the seats into a bed (that took me a good 15 minutes to figure out – how lame am I?). The train arrived in Paris at 10:30am and the city was covered in a thick fog, indicative of the fall weather. My friend and I had agreed to meet at the train station, but his flight was late departing from the States. I had received notification that the flight had been rerouted, thus I told him that if he was not at the train station by Noon, I would make my way to his hotel after that. At Noon, when he had not arrived, I left the station and found a café that had Wi-Fi so that I could get the address for the hotel, because my dumb ass did not write all of this down ahead of time….remember I am not really into thinking that far ahead these days. I decided it was also a good opportunity to have some lunch so that I wasn’t pissy!
The waiter at the restaurant was very gracious and accommodating which gave me a nice first impression of Parisians. Lunch consisted of delicious fish and some unidentifiable sweet, green vegetable that had been slicked into thin pieces and rolled into a bed of pinwheels for the mystery fish with cream sauce to rest upon. Since I don’t speak French well, I have no idea what type of fish or vegetable combination I ordered, all I know is that it was quite yummy and it is always good to be surprised at least once a day in life. Now with a full belly, I set out to investigate the subway system so that I could haul my ass across town to meet my friend. I am trying not to take it personally that there are protests in every city I seem to visit these days……but since the French don’t really know how to riot, there is nothing to be concerned about as far as my safety goes, so I am moving on….
The subways in Paris are quite clean and easy to navigate. They run often and on time, so there is never a problem catching the Metro every 5 minutes, or so (more often during peak times). By 2:30pm, I was in the business district of Paris to meet my friend, who had just checked into his hotel not 30-minutes prior – perfect timing! After I got my things situated, I left to get coffee and crepes and enjoy the beautiful afternoon weather and visit the Cathedrale de Notre Dame. Lattes are 6-euros in Paris…..this city better have some good shit to offer if they are charging that much for some coffee and milk….and they wonder why Europeans are broke!? If they all switched over from coffee to crack, they might save some money….crack costs half as much and the high lasts longer than what you get from caffeine. Come to think of it, water costs 8-euros, but a bottle wine is only 1.73€ from themarket. Since everyone smokes like a chimney here too, I can only assume that cigarettes are fairly inexpensive, but who knows (again if they smoked more crack – they could get two fixes for the price of 1!). This may be why people in Paris look like beef jerky, however. All wine and tobacco, with no water makes a person a wee bit dehydrated.
Thank goodness there is no admittance fee for the Cathedrale, so that helped to offset the cost of the café crème. The water is free too, but I had a hard time fitting my bottle in the sink by the door, so I was only able to fill it up about half way (still better than paying 8€!). After eating some wonderful fried rice seasoned with salt fish and MSG for dinner, that holy water was mighty tasty, too. Now I am off to listen to my friend’s band play at the Jazz Club Etoile – another tick on the checklist for Paris……they have jazz and blues clubs everywhere and they don’t stop the music until 5 in the mornin’!