My blog’s falling into neglect like one of those children that dies from starvation in Easterhouse or something, then everyone turns round and goes “ohh, there were so many missed opportunities”. To summise, I’ve not written in a while.
The week after my last blog was very uneventful. Highlights included missing my train by 1 minute, and having to wait 3 hours for the next, and attending my first french birthday party (Lauri’s)….they don’t have birthday cake here. Well, they don’t have like a specific type of birthday cake you buy in Asda and fire some candles in, they just buy these big patisserie cakes, immense. Thankfully we learned the Happy Birthday song in French in primary school, so I felt well-prepared when the big moment came. Sadly, no one asked me to sing “tête, épaules et genoux, pieds” (Head, shoulders, knees and toes for the non-initiated) or “Je suis une pizza” (a Gavinburn Primary classic).
The next week was more exciting, with a trip to Paris with the one and only Claire Sannachan on the cards. So, arrived at the train-station nearest me, ie. 40 minutes walk but 5 minutes in the car with a lovely french woman who gives you a lift.
Train stations in general here confuse me. They make up prices as they go (I’ve been charged 11€ and 2.80€ for the same journey, as well as being charged double for a 15 minute journey what I paid for a 40 minute journey) and the timetables can only be the result of a drunken board meeting with someone going “know what would be the ultimate best use of our resources, to provide optimum convenience for the customers? If we had 3 trains in the space of 15 minutes, then none for 3 hours!”.
I digress. I arrived at my station and proceeded to buy my ticket (ignoring the option of english on the machine…how far I’ve come!) only for a man to come up and demand where I was going. When I told him he went “ahh this way”, leading me away from the platform and into the office. In the UK, I would question the logic of it being anywhere but the train platform, but here I just say “d’accord” and go along with things a lot. It turns out, not content with just having a train every solar eclipse, they’d decided to cancel this one too and put on a bus instead. So stood talking to my newfound pal, who proceeded to tell me his life story, and when I told him I was Scottish he told me he used to go out with a girl from Liverpool, who invited him over to visit in England and it turned out she was married to a “young black man” and had several children. I’m not sure how she planned to conceal a family during such a visit. He also had bizarre chat on the bus, explaining braking distances to me in such detail that he felt the need to explain “a bus is bigger than a car, but then, a plane is bigger than a bus”.
Arrived at Arras, where I stood waiting on the train for Paris for an inconcievably long time, and realised I was standing wearing my panda hat, clutching a bag of Magic Stars that Rhu had sent me as part of a halloween bag, and felt like I was about 6.
Arrived in Paris where I was struck by how much graffiti there was, it literally covered every inch. Consulted a metro map and since I knew vaguely which area the hotel was in, hopped on a train. Since Claire had just returned from Las Vegas and was jet-lagged, I told her to get some sleep and I’d make my own way to the hotel. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to either of us I didn’t know the address, but I was equally surprised that I was in no way bothered wandering about a city I’d never been to before, where the only person I knew was in a jet-lag induced slumber. I think my being laid-back has amplified here to a complete disregard for personal safety. Ended up getting through to Claire who gave me the address and arrived safe and sound at the hotel. Spent a while catching up on what the last two months had entailed for us, then got ready and headed to the Arc de Triomphe, which was at the top of the street we were staying in. Sarko was there the next day for Rememberance day, so there were big barriers and a bunch of seats set up for his arrival. Headed to La Tour Eiffel after that. It was all lit up and sparkly, absolutely immense. It was then and there that I fell in love with Paris. Went a wander back to our hood afterwards, since we were staying next to the Champs Elysees we went there to eat, found a restaurant where there were frenchmen wearing stripey tshirts. I think it was very french that we had a bottle of €40 wine, accompanied by omlette and pizza. We’re pretty classy.
The next day, woke up and bus-toured it round to see the sights. They have same buses in every city and never seem to design it so they can close the top bit off fully when it’s pissing down, slightly regretted wearing silk trouser and ballet-flats in the pissing-rain. I’m not overly sure what my thinking behind this was. Post-tour we went and swatched the Notre Dame, which was amazing inside. Because it was rememberance, there were a lot of British war-veterans kicking about, so outside there was a man in a kilt accompanied by a wee old Scottish woman. I always get a bit taken aback when I hear people talking in English here, let alone with Scottish accents. Had a frenchy lunch of wine and onion soup, then jumped back on the tour bus to head back to the hotel. The plan was put on sufficiently warm clothes, have a wee bit of a rest and head back out to see the Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge. The plan then turned into me letting Claire sleep for a couple of hours, then deciding we’d give the Sacre Coeur a miss. Got to the metro, and managed to get on the wrong line, didn’t even realise for about 15 mins, so had to change and turn back, then had to get off at a stop further away than we’d have liked. Claire warned me there were loads of pick-pockets in the area, so kept my bag and my wits about me. At the station, there was a sign warning of “111 stairs”, but for some reason this seemed like nothing and we walked-past the lift since it was crammed-full. 111 stairs is not nothing. It left us so breathless that Claire stopped to wave on the guys walking behind us since we were so slow, at which point they turned and walked back down the stairs. At the time we thought they’d given up, but only when we got to a cash machine did we realise they’d in fact dipped Claire’s purse. The man at the station was incredibly unhelpful, telling me there was no CCTV, when I could see the cameras from where we were standing.
Our mission then became finding the polis, which was incredibly difficult, since everyone we asked gave us different directions, and when we did find it, it said it had moved to another one, which was impossible to find, and since we were wandering in an increasingly dodgy area we gave up and headed to find the Moulin Rouge and some food. The Moulin Rouge was incredibly easy to find, since it was next to a metro. Had our picture taken with it, then an excited japanese girl came up to us, with her camera, and we assumed she wanted us to take her picture with her friends, but when I tried to take her camera she said no and gestured for me and Claire to get in a picture with an equally excited japanese man, which naturally we did. I have no idea why they wanted a picture with us, but there were 4 girls and a guy all excited and squealing. After such adventures we went and had some italian food in a restaurant where the man praised my french (managing to order food successfully), I didn’t tell him I lived here now.
After dinner went a wander in the sexytime-district which was nearby. We were standing outside a shop, looking in the window, when a man came to advise us against hanging out in this area since it was dodgy. During this chat, a man who I can only describe as not-the-full-shilling came and stood like 4ft away from us and just stared at us for a ridiculously long time. He then walked away and then came back and just kept walking back and forth. We headed into the shop for a swatch (costumes Claire had admired in the window, turned out to be more Archaos than Moulin Rouge) where we met our friend (the nice one) again….come to think of it, Claire, was he actually following us too? Walked up the street and encountered the not-nice french man who when walking past us….again…grabbed by ass, to which my only response was “ayyy! fuck”, nothing I say in french sounds intimidating anyway. At this point I noticed afore-mentioned gentleman was also walking around with his belt open and his jeans undone. mmm rapey!
Headed into another sexytime shop, which I feel I can’t take seriously and just giggled. Personal highlights included finding what translated as “wanking cabins”, dimly-lit cubicles which I’m fairly certain were coin operated, that you spent an evening with a movie of your choice and your right-hand for company (the used hankies on the floor were a nice touch!) and a selection of his’n’hers dildos, that judging by the size of them, you will never, ever derive any pleasure from sex again and should just give up. Rapey man had also followed us into the shop, at which point our newfound friend alerted the owner to the ragamuffin in this shop and he was kicked out.
Afterwards headed for a drink with new-friend, Pierre, who tried to encourage us to drink outside instead. Since we weren’t 15, we overruled this and went to a bar. Claire was clearly overwhelmed by the amount of sexytime in the sexshop and took an allergic reaction to something, to the point that her entire face swelled up and there was much inhaling of inhalers. Managed to miss the last Metro, so got a taxi back and decided to go to Pierre’s for some french vino and french weed (disappointingly the same weed as ours) where he tried to teach us how to DJ and was generally French. Ended up staying there, but since I couldn’t sleep I woke Claire up at like 7 and we did the boost, through the streets of Paris. It was brilliant to see it at that time, for some reason it wasn’t busy rush-hour time and it was eerily quiet. It was really hard to find a Metro so we ended up walking around for a while trying to find one, and giggling like the sleep-deprived hungover messes we were. Consulted many maps we had with us, but agreed that if we walked for a bit we’d eventually find it. We found the Notre Dame, the day before it had been mobbed, but it was amazing to see it so quiet and peaceful. It was also fucking brilliant cause there was a drinking fountain outside. As much as Claire loves Our Father, and I love pretty architecture, we were far more in love with the idea of water. Our plan paid off and we found a Metro, so headed back to the hotel, where out of public decency Claire went upstairs to get changed and freshen up. I had no such decency and headed straight for breakfast, where I feel my day-old clothing, interesting hairstyle and seen-better-days makeup drew looks from the well-dressed businessfolk and families who made up the other guests of our hotel. Had enough shame to seat myself in a tucked away alcove, with only 2 other groups, rather than the main hall. Was joined by Claire shortly after, who was kind enough to pour my tea. She was however still such a mess that she continued pouring tea for a good 10 seconds after my cup had already started to overflow. I think it was a had-to-be-there thing, but I’ve never laughed so much in my life, as seeing horrified guests watch a girl pour tea essentially all over the table and then onto the floor, whilst looking like she was in a trance. They weren’t judging though, they seemed rather amused by us.
We decided to track down another police station nearby before going for sleepy town, so with the help of directions from the concierge, tracked it down, only to find that it too had shut down and moved to another building. Surely there’s enough crime in Paris to keep the stations open? Headed back with a fuck-it attitude, showered and went to sleep with my hair wrapped up in a towel, for a rather generous 45 minutes. I was more than a tad sleepy. Headed off from our lovely hotel to the station, where I was departing for the airport, to meet my parents who were visiting for the weekend, and where Claire was off to the Dam for her hole. The station was another shining example of French organisation, so since we were going different places we had to queue seperately, so I waited with Claire to buy her ticket, while the man in front of us asked us where we were from and when we told him, he kept saying “England?” while we had to explain several times over that they were seperate countries, while the woman in front was practically crying laughing everytime we explained it and he would go “so, it’s part of England though?”. Eh, no. The man at the desk was typical of french service, when Claire explained her credit card had been stolen, but that she had her booking reference number (which she’s printed out), he just picked up her document and went “there’s too many digits” and gave it back to her. He didn’t even look puzzled or think “well since this is an official document, perhaps I should investigate why”, but eventually, through exasperated franglais we got her ticket. Left her with the bags and went to queue for my ticke downstairs, where I was stood in front of an English couple who were learning such french phrases as “what happens on tour, stays on tour” from an iPhone app. Interesting for about 4 seconds, grating when you wait in a 25-minute queue with them. When I returned to Claire, she’d panicked (still being a sleep-deprived, hungover mess) ordered and I returned to find 2 Carlsbergs, 2 diet cokes and 2 bottles of water waiting for me. Seems reasonable. Said our goodbyes and I headed off to the airport to meet my parents……[in the interests of this being about a million words already I have once again split this into 2 blogs]