Paris, Trains and Other Goings-On

“I’m going to write my next blog post” about a terrible train journey I had. Well then. I suppose it didn’t materialise as rapidly as I would have liked, but I went to Paris for the past few days, which I think is a valid enough excuse.

I had a lovely time there, which I’m really pleased about, because I had worried that I would try too hard to not count myself among that plague of doe-eyed tourists that descends daily upon the city: the type that emphatically says “Paris” every few minutes, in a tone that simultaneously evokes an enamoured sigh, a sense of privilege, and overwhelming evidence of the idiocy necessary to believe that France stops outside this city’s final arrondissement. I thought I’d spend more time hating the tourists, rather than loving the city that they zealously trample underfoot, as they jostle with others of their in order to get the perfect shot of themselves looking like they’re holding the top of the Pyramide du Louvre by their fingertips. I did hate the tourists, but I found them surprisingly un-stressful. Maybe it was because the weather was perfect, or because I was in a group of one. There is something exhilarating about visiting a place alone, and this is precisely what I did for the majority of my last couple of days, because my friend with whom I was staying was at work during the day. I loved having free reign over the city, slipping with ease through herds of guided-tour victims as they queued in the heat for the Eiffel Tower, hopping on and off the metro without having to worry whether the people I wasn’t with were tired or wanted to do something different. Travelling alone, although it has its disadvantages (no sharing moments, no group photos, etc.), is the most personal way to see a place, tailor-made to suit your interest and timetable. I loved it, but did forget to have lunch a couple of times.

IMG_0913        IMG_1008 IMG_1018        IMG_1021    IMG_1026                                  IMG_1032

Paris was so much fun, in fact, and the train journeys so smooth (despite the homeward journey being a hideously boring exodus of about six hours, most of which was in the dark), that in my head I have come to forgive the catastrophe that was my train journey to Nîmes, and no longer really feel the need to bitch about it in a blog post. For those who may have been interested, I will give a short summary, but I don’t see the purpose of being hung up on it any longer, since it happened almost two months ago now, and the SNCF have been very nice to me recently, which leads me to think that any uncouth words on my part might result in my next journey being not so agréable. But anyway, here is the long story cut short:

A couple of months ago, despite my best efforts, I got on a train to Nîmes which then decided to go to Nice instead. I had done everything right, from finding the platform to sitting in the right seat in the right carriage, and it was only after the train had left the station that the driver deigned to announce that the train was bound for somewhere roughly three hours away by car from my destination. I made it to Nîmes in the end and had a really nice time there, but the reason that the train journey seemed so hellish was that it happened after a long series of unfortunate events that had blighted my first month in France, some of which I mentioned in my last post. I of course have a far rosier vision of things now, but at the time, I felt as if France had it in for me, and I had suspected from the beginning that something was going to go wrong.

That was a long time ago, though. More recently, I’ve been wrapped up in doing work for my Year Abroad Project, discovering Xavier Dolan, going to Annecy, which is a lovely alpine town by a Lake, and enjoying the InterENS. The InterENS are a weekend of sports competitions, food and soirées: basically Varsity between the ENS in France (Lyon, Paris, Cachan, Cachan-Bretagne/Rennes) and the Italian one in Pisa (or at least I think so, given there were definitely a fair few Italians around at the weekend). I didn’t watch any of the sport, because I was too hungover, but the parties were great. I still think the WEI was better, but that might be because it was hot, sunny, and not November. Still, the InterENS T-shirt looks cooler. It’s meant that I’ve not done any work for quite a while, but tomorrow is a day off, and I don’t have that much work anyway. Shame I can’t do anything with all this free time, though, given that my Erasmus grant looks like it will never arrive.

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