Wednesday, 16 July 2014

My Paris

Let's banish all thoughts of fleshy torches and sweaty, sunburnt men getting blow jobs in Magaluf (if you don't know what I'm talking about, see my last post) and cast our minds back to Paris.

The memory of that weekend is shimmering before me, but my eyes are so tired from staring at the screen as I typed my furious rant earlier that I'm not sure I can blog for long.

With no time to loose, let's close our eyes quickly and open them to see-

-me, sitting on a plastic chair in Victoria coach station, feeling a little bit drunk.

I pulled a box of couscous out of my bag triumphantly, only to discover I had lost the plastic fork somehow between leaving Marks and Spencer's and checking in.

Hell is being so hungry that you feel sick, staring at a box of couscous and deciding whether to eat it with a pen or a piece of paper.

No- hell is other people, on a coach, for nine hours.

I only took a small bag with me so I was one of the first people on- that's my top tip for coach travel, because if you have to queue up and put your bag in the luggage compartment, you lower your chances of bagging a window seat and nobody wants to be an Aisle Kyle, or a No-View Hugh.

Ok that's enough of the coach journey, it was bad enough the first time round- I don't want to live it again.

As we got to the coach station it all became familiar, the pale grey industrial buildings and that early morning Paris light. I was first off the coach and marching to the metro before most people had grabbed their bags, but it didn't help me- there was a huge queue for tickets, held up by a man in a cowboy hat struggling to understand how the machine worked.

Two Romany travellers lured away half the queue with the promise of another ticket office, but I ignored them, smug in my non-touristy knowledge that it would be some kind of scam. Just as I was beginning to worry that maybe I should have, erm, told everyone else in the queue not to follow the fake metro workers, I realised the machine only took coins and I didn't have any.

The coach station isn't far from Julia's, so I decided to walk instead, hoping there would be some kind of pedestrian crossing underneath the périphérique - there isn't.

Luckily I didn't get that far to find out, because as I rounded the corner I came to a long tunnel where the two Romany Travellers were loitering. They looked a bit sheepish as I walked past. Bloody hell what have they actually done with those twenty people they led down here ten minutes ago? I wondered. When I reached the end of the tunnel, I saw that there was in fact, another ticket office and it was open.

I bought a Ticket Jeune (3,80 euros for all day travel, amazing compared to London), asked for a pen and wished the ticket seller a good day. I realised that although my transformation into fully-fledged Parisien never happened (and was never going to) like I hoped, at least I have become a person who is Dead Good at visiting Paris.

(By the way, Julia told me that the Romany Travellers do actually have metro tickets to sell that the government gives them- I always thought it was a scam.)

On the metro I couldn't stop looking at the door handle- I felt like I'd been looking at it forever and had never stopped looking at it. I'll probably say this word a lot as I write about Paris- but it was so surreal.

I was there sitting on the metro, visiting Paris after a year away and at the same time I was sitting on the metro a couple years ago, struggling to imagine life beyond Paris and at the same time I was sitting here now, imagining it.

Maybe that dirty door handle was a bridge across space and time, or maybe it was the valium I'd taken three hours before (my friend gave me one so I could sleep through the night, but I couldn't take it until we got off the ferry in case I fell asleep and the coach left without me). Whatever the case, it was like I'd never left and like I wasn't there at the same time.

Coming up from the metro...

If I was a character in a film I'd hate myself, but I was almost overcome with the city as I reached the top of the metro stairs and saw it before me as a picture I was stepping into. It was raining softly and the streets were empty, just like the streets I used to walk through on my way home sometimes just after the sun had come up. I walked in the warm silence (and only had to look at my map once) feeling so happy and calm.

Julia's flatmate opened the door in his underpants and told me to make myself at home before going back to bed. I love Julia's apartment- I think I talked about it just before I left, but it's built around a courtyard, the hallway made of windows that let light into every room.

I had a shower and then ran out again to go and meet my old au pair family. I'd contacted them at the last minute and the mum had halted their going on holiday the night before so the kids could see me for a quick breakfast. (They were only driving to their country house, but still I thought it was nice.)

I'm so so tired, but it's been nice thinking about Paris again. I'm going to sit in the dark crying my eyes out to the Amelie soundtrack and then go to bed:


  1. I just love your honesty and humanity (this comment to cover both posts as I'm on touch screen). Caitlin's got a new book out - you should get cracking as you'd give her a run fof her money any day!

    1. Thank you! I was worried afterwards my other post was too shouty. I love Caitlin Moran, she's suddenly huge isn't she? (In popularity I mean.)