GETTING BEAUTIFULLY LOST in PARIS, (Trains, buses, walking)
by a day in the life of an adventuresome couple; not your average AARP Seniors on December 13, 2011
First, it was time to do something different in the way of Paris’ awesome public transportation this day, so I decided to take either bus 42 or 48 to places I knew those particular buses stopped and would be a short walk to purchase the things I needed: Office supplies, shoe store, souvenirs, food stuffs. Simple, one thinks. Only, this time I didn’t take the stairs at this huge Gare de Nord, because my knees were bothering me and took the elevator instead. The elevator went to the wrong floor so I went back down. Then a woman got on with a baby in stroller and asked me to move in French. So I moved over. From my vantage point I thought she was fine, but I wasn’t going to argue. The elevator opened, she got out and I went to the next floor. The elevator then got stuck and I had 6 people looking in the glass elevator at me like – would you please open the door!! I’m pressing every button, nothing is happening. Finally one Algerian gal just forced open the door and let me out of that thing! Whew! When I entered the floor, I realized that it was NOT the floor for the BUSES, but the main floor for the METRO. (You’ve never seen so many floors for so many different trains and buses in your life!) So, I thought ‘What the heck – just go for it Marti- even though you haven’t planned the trip on the RATP site on your computer, go read the big maps next to the metro, and figure out the color coding and the direction and it’ll be fine .” So, I did. I stood looking at that map so long that atleast 5 trains came by which I did not take because I couldn’t figure it out very well since there were a lot of changes and I was typing furiously in my little iPod all these stops, locations, directions. Finally I had it figured out and got on the sixth train.
I was now starting out from Gare du Nord METRO, and would go to Reaumur Sebastopol in the direction of GALLIENA. No problem. I would get OFF at Arte Metiers. (My favorite station – as it ‘s all in bronze). When I got off at Art Metiers I was to go towards 11 Brown or Marie Lilas. When I did this it meant taking a multitude of stairs down, down and further down to the line. The train came just as I hobbled off the last step. I got on the train and it started and the next stop was at REPUBLIC, so I was going the WRONG WAY. I stayed on one more stop because I wasn’t fast enough to get off with the huge throng of persons, so I had to wait. Finally got off at some little obscure station, went back up multitude of steps and over to the other side and got on the right train towards St Paul, yellow line. Then I looked at my iPod and it was 4:48PM, so I needed to nix the St Paul stop altogether and not go look (again) at my favorite boots, (& see if they just might possibly be on sale), but now go towards CHATELET – last stop – so I could walk to my church where the knitting class was held. When I got off at CHATELET, I thought it was interesting because one could see the tops of the trains when walking over to the SORTIE (exit). Now, the tops of these old metro trains are not beautiful, let that be said, but seeing them from up high and looking down at the top of them, and the trains themselves and the two directions from that standpoint is an interesting view. There was a working escalator up to the street and that made my night, so I took it and out to Rue de Rivoli I came!
I gathered my bearings and mentally thought of the map I had partially memorized and started walking towards Pont Neuf. On the way I passed a multitude of beautiful stores, some with clothes that were quite affordable (especially ZARA) — this was no Avenue Montaigne, or Rue Honore SO I was pleased to see affordability. Also, There was my old standard, H&M, for inexpensive and fun knockoffs. Yes, even a Gram, such as I can wear some things, but they’re more for the grands. Well, I found myself over by the Seine, because the signs were good and took me there and when they showed “PONT NEUF” I went in that direction. But now I was walking along the Louvre, thinking, …”oh, just a little further and I’ll see the spires to the church”. Well, there were no spires, but there were a lot of loving couples along the banks of the Seine, one in which I offered to take a picture of the TWO of them so they’d have a picture together – and they were pleased for me to take it. Well, the Seine is a really long river and the Louvre just about as long and they were my two friends, side by side for a very very long time. I looked at my iPod, I had been walking over an hour. Jardins de Tuileries come after the Louvre and that passed me by as well. Finally I saw what I thought was Pont Alexandre, but didn’t want to go that far because the church was before that bridge, although David’s office was off that bridge, but it was the church that I was looking for at this time. I crossed the pedestrian SOLFERINO bridge and now was in the Latin quarter. I had seen the steeples (before I crossed the bridge) and knew I was close. But when I got there, everything was confusing, and the streets matched up to my book map, but it was very difficult to go in the right direction because there were large buildings or gardens that dead ended, keeping me from getting over to (what I thought was) the correct area. What I did come across while ambling about in uncertainty, were an array of lovely, old, unusual, shops. The apartment buildings I passed were totally architecturally pleasing and as much as there are stone buildings packing the Seventh Arrondissement, they’re like snowflakes, everyone is so different! It was an unexpected bonus. But, the legs are really tired now, the stomach is growling, it’s almost time for the knitting class to be over, and I’m now looking for a bus, any bus, that I can hop on. I realize this could be a huge mistake if it’s ANY bus, because God only knows where I will end up, but then I remembered that one of the big maps said that “69” was Champ de Mars, which is the area by the Eiffel Tower, so as long as I got off somewhere near the Eiffel tower, I’d be able to find my husband’s work. That is where I was headed now. However, bus 69 did not come and did not show it’s face for over 40 minutes. By now, I have written down, every boutique and shop on that street (as ones that I wanted to come back to later): Tartine et Chocolate, Jacadi, (window shopping, truth be told as nothing is on my budget there for sure) clothing shops,(Lou Lou) Children’s clothing shops with names like, (“Rose and Theo”) how fun is that? shoe shops, stationary shops, (Papetier Graveur) wine shops,(Joel Robuchon’s, THE CAVE), bookshops, incredible food shops, sushi bars, amazing little restaurants, Who would think that waiting for a BUS could be so much fun? Bus 69 did come, I hopped on, found a seat and watched where it was taking me. I still wasn’t very sure where I was. Then I saw the Esplanade des Invalides, and thought, ‘This is it ! This is where my husband works, right along here.” I hit the stop button, got off with others and started walking. I absolutely could not find which direction to take. I knew the Eiffel Tower, from David’s front door is across from it. I knew that Napolean’s tomb was to the left. Everything was turned around and it was dark and I was so confused, had it been 2 hours now? So I did what any frustrated and starving person would do – I stopped and looked at a menu in a cafe. The maitre ‘d came out and asked if I would like to eat and I said, “I don’t know, I’m lost. If I buy something, will you help me find out where I need to go?” He said “Yes” but honestly, he didn’t understand a word I said. I went in, ordered some onion soup and a glass of wine and it was so great to just sit down. My stomach was most thankful to be full again. Before leaving, one waiter looked at the map and then got the head guy to take a look at it. When he did, I pointed out where I was according to the street signs above me – Rue Grenelle and La Tour Mauborg. He took the map and kept moving it around, then his body moved around trying to get his bearings. It was actually a relief to see someone who WORKS here, and LIVES here not be able to read the map any better than I, so that sort of made my evening, when I was beginning to feel really dumb.
He finally explained what I needed to do, but he said, “go left” when he was pointing with his right arm, so I questioned him on that and then he said, “Sorry, meant right” – and I was sure that it was going to work this time, so I headed off in the “right direction” – assuredly.
What I then saw was that the Eiffel tower was very close (too close) and the Tomb of Napolean was STILL on the WRONG side. Ahhhh, I wanted it to be on the left side and the Eiffel tower in FRONT of me, then I would be able to find David’s work. I crossed the street, kept walking a long distance, turned around and everything was where it should be and though I should have recognized his building, I didn’t yet, and then it came into view and voila!
I had it! What a relief to find atleast ONE thing tonight that I had needed to find and even with maps, at night, it’s most confusing! BUT, now that I know where this is, and where I actually was and retraced it on the big map, I’ll know it like clockwork the next time.
All in all, getting lost IS the best way to see things in Paris, if you have the ability to walk long distances (which I don’t really), and if you want to find the most unusal stores ever, that you always wanted to (secretly find) but would have never found had you not gotten lost– it’s really not such a bad thing to do – in Getting Lost in Paris!! 🙂