Stumbling on getting around Paris

Random mirror selfie in Paris

I WENT TO PARIS!!! But…

I didn’t make it through the rest of my trip. Originally, the highlight of my trip was actually in Germany and Austria. I wasn’t 100% healthy to carry on. I had a flu in February. I thought I have fully recovered, but new symptoms occurred. It didn’t feel so serious, and I was so determined to not cancel my trip. I thought everything was fine. This is why being stubborn can cause problems. In the end, I wasn’t feeling good enough to be able to focus on my trip. It wasn’t just a cold, or a bad stomach. They were sorts of symptoms I’ve never experienced before, and even up to today, I’m still trying to recover. After some emotional struggle, I booked a flight back home. I will get my revenge on this trip someday. You’ll see.

When I arrived in Paris, I was supposed to meet with my friend at the airport. Unfortunately, due to some protest, his overnight bus from London was delayed, so we decided to meet at Gare de Lyon, which is the station where our hostel is located. I told him I’m fine getting there on my own. I can say I’m pretty good at figuring out maps and train systems.

There are different train systems at the airport station. I knew that the SNCF/TGV is long distance, and RER/Metro lines are for the Paris area. Finding the right ticket machine was the first step. It didn’t take me too long to find the right one.

But then here comes the first issue. The ticket machines only take coins or Chip & PIN cards. I was prepared for the Chip & PIN thing in advance, by withdrawing cash at an ATM as soon as I can at the airport. For the machines I didn’t bother to try my Chip & Signature card. My cash was useless without being coins though. As I was discovering the coin-only factor, I was approached by a presumingly Hong Kong couple saying something in Cantonese. I asked them in Mandarin if they can speak it. So they switched to Mandarin. They were asking me how to buy tickets from these machines. After giving them directions, I excused myself to search for a coin exchange machine. No such thing was in sight. In hopes of obtaining some change, I went to get some water and an (awesome) espresso at a food stand near by. I was quite impressed by my almost down to zero French skills – got what I asked for. The change was still not enough though. After some more walking around and looking harder, I found one coin change machine blending in with the wall all the way in a dark corner. I got my coins. I got my ticket.

Then comes the next issue. Finding the right entrance to the platform. I know it sounds easy, but being in a new place takes some looking around. Even with signs, I still need to look around. I keep running into the TGV train platforms. I know it was the wrong way, because the ticket I had should have a ticket gate to do the “insert-open-walkthrough” thing. Again, I just had to look harder to find those ticket gates.

My final battle that morning was finding my way around the station while my bladder was about to explode (and I barely slept on the plane). My friend said that he was at the station’s main hall by Starbucks. It may sound obvious, but the station was so big. Who knows which I gate walked out from, while getting a very delayed text of his location. I was being hyper-alert of my surroundings, even so I almost got ran over by a taxi. Finding a restroom would have took just as long. We then aimed to meet at the hostel. I originally planned to meet my friend at the Airport, so I didn’t look up how to get to the hostel before hand. This is why I prefer to not have the mindset of relying on others. And relying solely on Google Map isn’t the safest option (for many reasons). Plus, while you can see point A and point B on a map, from a walking person’s perspective, it takes more than taking this street and then this street. You have to know which street you are walking down, and which direction. Google Map also doesn’t know if a street is accessible to pedestrians. The streets were also just as confusing as hell.

I found my way eventually. I already forgot I had to use the toilet. A final blow of this all is seeing my friend who also hadn’t slept, calling me stupid.

I won’t blame my super lagged arrival on him, although extra pressure from a person waiting made me anxious. I took so long because before hand I didn’t arrive in Paris with my self-reliant mentality. I was also more sick than I expected. So not only I lacked the right mentality, I was without my superpowers (unexplainable source of excitement and energy even without days of sleep aka. healthy youth stamina).

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