Last week, I took a train to meet up with my best friend, Jackie, and her family in Paris for a few days.I rode the Thalys, which is a high speed train that travels up to 300 km/h, or 186 mph. The train stopped a few times to pick up more passengers as we made our way through the Netherlands and Belgium, but I arrived in Paris late Monday afternoon in just over three hours.
When I arrived at Gare du Nord in Paris, I bought a bus ticket and walked to the bus stop following the Google map screenshots I’d meticulously taken before leaving Amsterdam. While standing at the bus stop, I realized it was rush hour and my bus wouldn’t be there for another 20 minutes. Not a problem. I was in Paris!
When my bus finally rolled up, it was obvious from the outside that it was already full. A few people got off the bus, but then everyone that had been waiting started piling on, so I did too. I squeezed myself into the smallest space I could find between the other riders standing in the front. It was the most jam-packed bus I think I’ve ever been on. To add to the fun, the traffic around us was crazy. Cars were coming from every direction, motorcycles and mopeds were whizzing by, and everyone was honking, including our bus driver.
Because of the traffic, we sat at the same light for about 15 minutes during which two people behind me started to yell at each other in French. They got louder and louder and then other people started yelling at them and then the driver started yelling at everyone in French over the intercom. Then, people started getting off the bus even though we weren’t at a bus stop! I had no clue what was going on, so I squeezed my way to the front to ask the driver what was happening. He just laughed and said he told everyone to calm down. Well, all right.
I realized later that because we sat at the same block in between bus stops for so long, he probably gave people the option to get off early. At that point, walking was definitely the better option. I rode the bus for another 20 minutes until I arrived at my stop in the neighborhood of Montmarte. I did not realize that Montmarte is also a hill and that the apartment where we were staying would be up said hill. It’s probably better I had no warning.
I trudged up the hill and made it to the apartment building within 10 minutes. Then, I realized I had no way to actually get in or let Jackie know that I was there. Oops. Fortunately, the streets of Montmarte are lined with cafés and most of them have free wifi. I plopped down at the bar next door, ordered a beer, and pulled out my phone. Once I connected, I received a message from Jackie saying they were running a little late because they were stuck in the roundabout of the Arc de Triomphe. I had absolutely no problem with sitting at that café for a little while longer to drink more beer and read my book.
About thirty minutes later, I heard someone call my name. They were here! After being stuck in traffic, they’d finally returned their rental car at Gare du Nord, the same station where I’d started. Because they’d been sitting in traffic for such a long time already, they decided to just walk to the apartment. It turns out that it’s only about a 20 minute walk, so I would have been better off walking instead of taking that sardine bus. At least now I can say I’ve experienced rush hour in Paris!
The next two days were such a blur. We ate so much delicious food and walked miles upon miles around the city. We saw all the classics: the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. We even climbed the 300 steps to the highest point of the city to where the Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located. We didn’t know there was a funicular! It was totally worth it though because we made it just in time to see the Eiffel Tower glittering at midnight.
Jackie and her family left early on Wednesday and my train didn’t leave until mid-afternoon, so I spent the morning at a café sipping a café crème and reading my book. I decided to head down to the 9th arrondissement for some shopping before catching my train. I wandered into Galeries Lafayette, which is an amazing, upscale department store. I must have spent an hour alone on the shoe floor.
My first time in Paris was so much fun and experiencing it for the first time with my best friend was amazing. And in a few weeks, I’m going back with Matt and one of his best friends, Wade. I can’t wait to explore the rest of the city.