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Trip Report Yet another live Paris report

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Naturally, it was dark and raining hard when I took out the trash just before departing for the train to Paris, and so naturally I stepped hard into a 5-inch deep puddle, drenching my Birkenstock clogs and socks that I was going to wear for the next 24 hours. Immediately, my mind switched into “worst-case” thinking – so, ok, it happened. My feet are wet. The worst that can happen? My feet will be wet for five or six hours. It’s not a disaster.

At the Garmisch train station, I used the instant photomat machine to get photos to use for the Paris Navigo pass that I’ll buy on Monday. The train came, and the heater in my compartment was on high. I slipped off the Birkies and dried my soggy socks over the heating grate. By the time we were in München, everything was bone-dry.

I took a private sleeping cabin in the CityNightLine from München to Paris, departing at 22.50. The compartments are small, but there is room to store suitcases and to stand up and turn around in the small space between the bunks and the bathroom cabinet. So, plenty big enough. The mattress is thin, though, and my bony hips would hurt after an hour or two in the same position, making me switch sides often. I got undressed, turned off the lights, and opened the window shade so I could watch the dark countryside and bright city lights glide by. I just love travelling like this.

After about an hour, I closed the shade and tried to sleep. After another hour, I was sorry I hadn’t brought earplugs to cut out the noise of the lumbering train, which was keeping me awake. Which was surprising, considering that I have no problem slumbering through the train’s lumbering, bright sunshine, children squabbling, and people talking on cell phones whenever I take a train in the middle of the day. Ah well, the vagaries of travel.

Morning brought a very nice breakfast of two rolls, butter, jams, cream cheese, applesauce, orange juice, and tea. Yum. I ate every bite. The train was an hour late, though, so I lay back on the cot and watched the rolling plains of France slip by the window with the duvet pulled over my legs. I thought about Vercingetorex, his tribes of Celts, and the druids that roamed these plains two thousand years ago. I wondered how things would be different if the Celtic civilization hadn’t been so brutally interrupted and overlaid with the Roman one. What would the houses and clustered villages look like?

Today, the farmhouses and villages are all tan and gray, some with green and red vines, as if they had grown right out of the earth and rock itself, just outcroppings with roofs. How different from what I’ve grown used to in Bavaria, with buildings of stark-white stucco and sharply contrasting dark green or brown shutters. France’s muted earth tones seem more unassuming and random somehow, compared to the brisk and joyous order we Bavarians bring to our houses and yards (and, yes, I am being super, SUPER generous including myself in the Bavarian “we” after only five years there).

As we near Paris, I’m trying to get internet on my phone. I’m just geeky enough to enjoy watching the little dot move through the countryside on google maps when I’m on a train. I had ordered a Lebara sim, had loaded it, had bought 250mb of internet usage, and had gotten a confirmation message. However, the phone was as useful as a brick. That’s going to be priority #2 today; I get lost in an acre of ground, even ground I know well, and I have built my plans around using google maps.

Leaving the Gare de L’Est, at last, I caught Metro line 7 to go to the apartment agency on Ile St.-Louis. While Gare de L’Est has wonderful escalators, the metro line does not. I have an “I-don’t-pack-light” suitcase, and down about 2000 steps to get to the metro wasn’t too bad. Crowding into the metro car with my “I-don’t-pack-light-suitcase” wasn’t bad at all. Going up 2000 steps with the “could-it-be-any-heavier-suitcase” to get to the street level was killer. Walking the streets with my “I-don’t-pack-light-enough-suitcase” wasn’t too bad. At the agency office, I learned that the apartment would be ready in just about 30 minutes, so I decided, since I really couldn’t move my arms anyway, to just sit on the couch and wait. And play with the phone and see if banging it a bit would me some internet. It didn’t.

A nice lady from the agency walked me to my apartment and its dramatic, curved, worn, two-story staircase. It took me no more than an hour to haul my “I’m-gonna-take-a-taxi-next-time-suitcase” up the stairs, and she showed me how everything worked in the apartment. By this time I was hungry, so I braved the rain and cold, risked getting lost forever on the Island, and ate at the Flore en l’Ile. I had tartar, which was oddly sweet. Yuk. Great wine though. Then I wandered around the streets of the island, noted some stores to return to, and went grocery shopping. Then back to the apartment to talk to Lebara, to do some work (I am currently teaching two classes online), to unpack, and to enjoy the views from my windows.

The Lebara folks are angels, by the way. They fixed me right up even though I had to call twice because I didn’t write down the necessary pin the first time. Angels.

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