I realized why I've had a little trouble finding my muse when I sit down to write about Paris. SPOILER ALERT!!!!!: It's because I write principally about things that go wrong, stupid things I do, and occasions when I comically fail to understand French people. I just complain a lot. It's pretty much the formula for this blog, and I'm sorry if I'm ruining the aura of mystery for you. I've tried to write about my trip to Paris a couple of times, but the problem is that I keep trying to write about all the beautiful things we saw, the pleasant cafés, the museums. Unfortunately, I'm completely unable to write about happy, beautiful, and interesting things.
Instead, I thought back on the crappy things, and the times when the whole trip almost went disastrously awry. I made a list (imagine me stretching my fingers and cracking my knuckles in a dramatic fashion). Now we're ready to rock.
So first, we were almost late for the train. Barely made it to the train station before the scheduled departure time. I blame it on the fact that Sarah had a huge effing bag, or maybe on the fact that I decided to start packing about twenty minutes before we had to leave. Anyways, I climbed the stairs into the train station at a lumbering sprint, trying to avoid tipping over, as the giant bag slung over my shoulder made me more than a little top-heavy. I skidded to a stop in the huge, expansive train station, and started looking for our train on the departure board.
French train stations are huge. Well, I've only seen like three, but they're all immense and open-air and awesome. It's like a big roof with probably two and a half walls. The beginning of the train platforms, as well as the waiting areas, are completely covered, but the trains stick out beyond the station for most of their length. And then the train station in Avignon was built almost entirely of steel and glass. You can tell where all the ridiculous taxes go.
So we looked around this huge place for a second, and saw the information for the TGV to Paris. It was forty-five minutes late. We decided to eat sandwiches.
Most sort-of-fast-food joints in France have really good sandwiches. I mean, baguettes with all sorts of fresh stuff on them and the like. What they don't have, however, is reasonably-priced beverages. Two euros, minimum, for a little can of soda. The Orangina I bought was three. Four euros, at least, for a 50cL bottle. That's like the kind that you get for $1.25 at Chicago Pizza. And even in restraunts, they're rarely cold. Cool, maybe. I don't know who's running the drink racket in France, but there's really room for some competition to knock the legs out of the market, assuming it's not being run by some French mafia. And even if it is, [surrender joke].
Anyways, our train eventually showed up, I managed to decipher the instructions being spoken over the PA system, and we made it to the correct seats. We spent the five extra euros necessary to grab first-class seats on the TGV (there was some kind of promotion), figuring that we might as well ride in style. It was about as totally sweet as expected, with large comfy seats, but there was a disturbing lack of free alcohol. Evidently that part of "first class" is only known to bankrupt American airlines. Sarah slept through the whole trip, while I went to the "idSomething" car in the middle of the train that was supposedly serving refreshments. In hindsight, one should never say, "Gee, that item looks good on the menu, but no one's ordering it. I should go ahead and try it!" Evidently in the refreshments car on the TGV, the baguette sandwiches suck. I think I chipped a tooth. And they gave me an expensive bottled water when I asked for the cheap one, but I was too bewildered to complain. I then proceeded to sleep through the final two hours of the trip as well.
We pulled into the Paris train station groggy and dazed. As we meandered down the platform towards the main part of the station, I started thinking about what to do next. Grab the Metro, I thought to myself, and head towards our hotel. Which is over in... Montparnasse, right? Let me get its name and address out of my bag.
The name and address I never printed out, that was most decidedly only stored in my Gmail account, online. On the Internet. I, however, was not on the Internet. I was in a train station in Paris. Sarah, having just woken from a three-hour nap, and severely confused by the time difference, was too out-of-it to be frustrated with my incompetence. Unlike me, however, she at least was fairly sure of the name of our hotel: the "Royal Bretagne." I sheepishly approached someone at the information booth:
Me: "‹So, ah, I know this is a little weird, but I left the address and, ah, name of my hotel at home. I kind of know it's in Montparnasse. I think. And it might be named the Royal Bretagne.›"
Her: Amused gaze.
Me: "‹Yeah, I figured you guys can't look hotels up or anything.›"
Me: "‹So, err, do you have any good suggestions of where I could get that information? Or some Internet access?›"
Her: "‹You should probably try going to Montparnasse, and asking around there.›"
Me (mumbled): It's 11:30 and I'm not sure it's in Montparnasse and I swear I'll burn the place down.
We rolled the dice and found a train to Montparnasse. There was a big map in front of the huge Montparnasse train station. It was a map of the entire neighborhood, complete with all of the hotels! We were in luck!
Our hotel wasn't on it. We were standing around in front of an empty train station near midnight in Paris, and had no idea where our hotel was except that it sure as hell wasn't anywhere close. If I were Sarah, I would have killed me. I, of course, had my laptop. Our next course of action was to scrounge for some kind of Internet access or helpful information desk, starting with the train station in front of us.
The information desk was closed, but we did manage to find an Internet kiosk -- one of the standalone devices with a huge touch-screen keyboard and other obnoxious inconveniences. But it was a portal to the Internet, and we were in desperate need of said Internet. Except, of course, the fucking thing was broken.
Then, while lying on the ground in the fetal position and sobbing into my backpack, I noticed a sign on the wall that, among other words, said the one I had been looking for: "Wi-fi." I pulled out my computer, which had about 7% of its battery life left, for some reason (see, in movies, you're always thinking, God, that's so artificial. Real people would have charged their batteries, brought more bullets, etc. No. These things happen not only to make stories better, but also to make me cry). Evidently in these French train-station networks, they let you sign on through five or six different providers, if you already have an Internet account with them. If you don't, you have to pick one of them and navigate their website in order to create an account. Some of them refuse to take certain kinds of credit cards that I carry, while others seem to refuse to offer accounts, and, instead, offer dead ends. Those are the ones I tried first.
With about two percent of my battery remaining, I told Sarah that she needed to find a power outlet, stat. The resourceful girl simply unplugged the Internet kiosk -- after all, it wasn't working. So I found myself, around 12:30AM, leaning against a broken Internet kiosk in an empty Paris train station. Not only did I find myself, but I finally found a wireless network that would graciously allow me to overpay for some Internet access. And then my god-damn why-aren't-you-accessible-offline Gmail told me that our hotel was, actually, about three hundred feet from the big map we'd been looking at. Since it was technically about a stone's throw outside the official neighborhood of Montparnasse, it wasn't on the map.
Too exhausted to be righteously indignant, and happy about finally being able to go to sleep, we walked out of the train station, across the street, around the corner, and into our hotel. I've never been more happy to see a hotel that so woefully misrepresented itself in pictures on the Internet as I was that night. But at least there weren't holes in the walls.
COMING IN PART TWO: La Rue de Chinese Restaurants, subtitled "Sarah is to Chinese food as Kotredes is to pizza;" Free Admission Day at the Musée d'Orsay, aka "Everyone, Their Mother And Their Poodle Lined Up Outside The Musée d'Orsay Day;" Paris on Sunday, aka "Paris On Look Through The Windows Of Everything Closed Day."
BREAKING NEWS: A bloody war in Jeffypoo's own camp late Monday, when 20 year-old Kevin Reed, an associate of Goatboy, was shot three times - once in the upper leg and grazed in the leg and shoulder - all apparently after Goatboy and his crew made an attempt to confront his elder clone about the lack of blog updates. El Jefe was in the radio station at the time of the shooting and was not involved, police said.
Police are also looking into shots fired, two hours after the Hot 97 incident, at Yellow Fever Management, which represents El Jefe (as well as Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliot and other top hip-hop talent). This incident shattered glass on the front door and left six holes in the lobby's IKEA furnishings.