6.8.14

The Paris Story I Never Told

Did you know I spent 24-hours in Paris last year? No? Not many people do, because I don't really talk about it.
Wait... you went to Paris and you DON'T talk about it? I don't follow.
Before you start reading: I know this is a long story. But [I think] it's worth it. I mean, I've hooked you with my mention of exhibitionism. Just trust me, you should read the whole thing. 

So, let me lay the scene.
I've dreamt of visiting Paris for years (who hasn't, though), and constantly daydream about the magic those city streets shadowed by the tour d'eiffel might offer up to me one day. 

The only picture I have from my trip... I didn't bring my camera. 

When it came time for me to leave for Egypt, I booked a round trip ticket; arrive in Cairo in August, leave in December to come home to the US of A, with a 24-hour layover in Paris. Go back to Cairo two weeks later. 
My dreams were becoming a reality. I WAS GOING TO PARIS.

Before we get ahead of ourselves here, a little more background is necessary. It's the week of Christmas, I haven't seen my family in 5 months, I've started to fall in love (with Phil, though we hadn't admitted feelings at this point), and I'm traveling for a solid 40-hours to get home. 
Pros: going home, it's Christmas, I get to see my friends/family, I'm GOING TO PARIS. Cons: I'm going to Paris ALONE (when you're newly in love? That's the worst), I'm going to be traveling for 40-hours with little sleep, I have no money and will not be booking a hostel/hotel (airport bedroom, hello). 
As you can see, I had a healthy mix of things to be excited about, but also to be somewhat disappointed/anxious about. 

So, back to my trip. It's midnight the night before I leave, and I'm in Cairo. My flight leaves at 5AM, so I have to head out by 2:30AM. I pack frantically, and finish with one massive suitcase [full of gifts] to check, my backpack with glass and ceramics and toiletries, and a large messenger bag/purse. I'm loaded. I scramble into bed at 1am, attempting to fit in a short nap.
Next thing I know, my phone is ringing. 
"Taylor? You ready?" 
Uhhmmm. 
"It's 3am, we've got to go!"
My ride was kind enough to wake up in the middle of the night, and I've slept through my alarm! I threw on the clothes I set out, run to the bathroom to brush my teeth and check to see that I've got all my last-minute items. I rush out the door, jump in the car, and head to the airport.

At this point, I would like to recognize the state of mind I was in. I'm not good at regulating stress, so my anxiety is through the roof. I might miss my plane, therefore missing Paris and being late to get home. I also look like a ragamuffin who's been camping for the last week, as I've not had time to even brush my hair or put on clean clothes. I'm freaking out. 
But. We managed to get to the airport on time, and while traffic getting there was atrocious (it always is, in Cairo), the airport was empty and made it easy for me to get to my terminal. 

I load up on the plane, and am seated next to a British couple who didn't care much about chatting. I was flattered though, as when the steward came around to take drink orders, he asked for their's in English, and asked for mine in French. I mean, I guess that's not that big of a compliment. But I've always wanted to be fluent in French, and had been practicing with Phil [who is fluent] before I left. Not sure the steward was as excited as I was, but I got my jus du pomme without questions.
Anyways. I sat out the rest of the 5-hour flight in silence, and then unloaded, went to the bathroom, and attempted to tidy myself up before heading out into the streets of Paris. 
I mean, a girl's gotta look good for her Parisian debut. Let's be real.

We'll skip the boring parts of the story, but suffice to say that I stood for several hours in line for a train ticket (it's Christmas, tourism was horrible), got on the train, took the wrong train, and didn't get to downtown Paris till 4PM even though I landed at 10AM that morning. Not the greatest start.

But then... PARIS. I made it. I exited the train station, walking out to the sight of the Eiffel Tower shimmering with Christmas Lights and everyone dressed with thick scarves and smiles on their faces. Perfection.
My goal for the trip was to see the Eiffel Tower, visit Le Louvre, see Notre Dame, and enjoy the local cuisine along the way. My flight out wasn't until 11AM the following morning, so I intended on seeing the sites till 10ish that night, then take the train back to the airport where I would stay the night. 


I set out. It took me approximately 15 minutes to start feeling lonely. 
I'm not dependent on groups, in fact I'm a proponent of solo travel and most solo things in general. However, I'd always envisioned my first trip to Paris as being something I'd share with someone I loved, be it a best friend, my family, or a boyfriend. 
Wandering around by myself seemed like a let-down, because I was SO EXCITED, but I couldn't just run up to a random stranger and be like 'SEE THE EIFFEL TOWER RIGHT THERE?! IT'S SO CLOSE AND BIG AND REAL!" Followed by a rapid jumping up and down and clapping of hands.
Well, I mean, I could, but you catch my drift.
So there I was, having to stifle my [highly desired] outbursts of excitement and trying to ignore the fact that I was in love, but couldn't share the experience with my loved one. 


I continued on, and attention caught by a lovely looking winter market set up just across from the Eiffel Tower. I decided to walk around and shop (hypothetically shop; I was broke) the wares. A few hours passed, and I made my way up the Seine. 
I couldn't find Notre Dame or Le Louvre.
I know, I'm atrocious at following directions. Seriously. I get lost in my hometown still. 
So, I'll just leave it at me walking up the Seine for like... 2hours without finding either of my destinations. You're free to laugh at my inability to read a map.
By this time, it was about 9PM. I've now been awake for a very long time - nearly 24 hours. I've been hauling around 40lbs of glass and ceramic gifts on my back all day, I've gotten lost several times, I'm slightly lonely, and while Paris is beautiful, it hasn't cracked up to be all what I expected. 

I started walking back to the Eiffel Tower, and stopped at a cafe to order a coffee and a croque monsieur. 
I finished. I decided to head to the airport. I get the train station. I got on the train. 

I'm not sure exactly why, but the train was absolutely empty. I was the only person at that stop, and the only person on the train car. I got into the first row of benches, threw off my backpack, and stared mindlessly out of the window. If I had had a phone (I didn't), I would have happily called my friends and family to tell them about my trip. I had to settle for thinking about them instead.
As I sat, lonely and tired, I saw out of the corner of my eye that a man in his late 20's had gotten onto my train car on the opposite side. I could tell he was staring at me, but I was having none of it. I just kept thinking in my head "ugh he's going to come talk to me, I can see it. Don't do it, dude. I'm exhausted, I don't want to talk, and I don't want you to flirt with me".


Sure enough, he walked up the empty car to me, and stopped right next to my bench. This whole time, I sat with my arms crossed, staring out the window, refusing to make eye contact or acknowledge his presence, and generally just giving off as many don't talk to me signals as I was physically capable of. 
Of course, that didn't stop him. 
He stood very close to me; about 3-feet away. As he stood there, I heard him mumble something under his breath in French. I turned to ask what he said, and OH MY GOODNESS WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
There he stood. Pants around his ankles. His you-know-what sticking straight out, as he, ahem, handled himself. Right. In. Front. Of. Me. Like, 3-feet from my face (as I was sitting, remember). 

HOW DARE YOU RUIN MY NIGHT YOU JERK I WAS TRYING TO HAVE A GOOD TIME IN PARIS ALONE AND I WAS GOING TO MAKE THE BEST OF THINGS AND HERE YOU ARE FLASHING ME ON THE TRAIN I HATE YOU - were the words I began shouting at him as I stood up. 
My first course of action was to punch him in the arm. Yes, I know how incredibly ineffective that is. Especially since my brother teaches self-defense and had trained me for several months prior to this trip. And the most sensitive/easy-to-damage thing I could do was just a few feet lower. 
I began shoving him down the car, cursing at him in English as he stumbled backwards. 
I had taken enough sexual deviance/violence courses at university (my degree is in psychology) to know that exhibitionists very very rarely touch their victims, and thrive primarily on the shock-and-awe factor flashing gives. 
So I wasn't scared, I was just mad. Mad and tired and fed up. 
I could have overcome my exhaustion and loneliness and found a way to love my night in Paris. Could have. But this final act sent me over the edge. 
I continued harshly pushing him backwards down the car aisle, till he turn and walked/jogged down the rest of the car himself. He sat at the opposite end of the car, probably still doing his thing, but at that point I was too fed up to care. 
I didn't have a phone and there was no one else on the train, so I couldn't get help (not that I really needed it). I sat out the rest of the train ride in silence, keeping my eye on the man till he exited a few stops later. 

Finally, I got to the airport. I was at Charles De Gaulle, which is not really inside Paris; it was about an hour by train to get there. It was about 11pm by this time, and I was happy to finally be someplace I recognized and could curl up and 'relax' at. 
I walked inside the main entrance... and the lights were off. Well, not entirely. The entire airport was very dimly lit and empty. A security guard walked over to me, to ask what I wanted. He checked my boarding pass, and told me that the airport was closed overnight.
WHAT. HOW ARE THERE NO RED EYE FLIGHTS AT ONE OF ONLY TWO AIRPORTS IN PARIS. 

INCONCEIVABLE (please read in the voice of The Princess Bride). 
He said I could wait outside the airport in an enclosed area or take the train back into the city. 
I wasn't about to wander around looking for a hostel [with no money] at midnight in Paris. 
So, yes, I chose the bench outside the airport. 

That's right, I ended my night in Paris by sleeping on my luggage on a bench outside of the airport at Christmas time, after just having been flashed on the train ride over. 
The best part? I forgot my adaptor in Egypt (in my 3AM rush to get out the door), and only had 30-minutes of battery life on my laptop. And 10-hours of waiting left to do. 
At this point, it was almost humorous how terribly my night had turned out. To recap: I slept through my alarm, had a stressful flight, waited for hours to catch a train, took the wrong train, got lost in Paris, only saw 1/3 things I wanted to see, was sad/lonely, got flashed on a train, then slept on a bench. 

Don't worry, the next morning I bleary-eyed dragged my luggage into the airport when it opened at 6am. I found my way to my terminal, found a seat, and prepare to take a nap before boarding in 4-hours. At this point, a man in his 20's spotted me, came and sat directly next to me [the whole terminal was empty...he could have sat anywhere] and began talking incessantly to [at] me. FOR FOUR HOURS. Completely oblivious of the I'm-holding-a-book-and-wearing-earphones-and-clearly-trying-not-to-talk signals I was sending him. 
Most of the time, he talked about all the crazy parties he went to around the city, even after I mentioned that I don't drink and don't really enjoy 'partying'. He finished by asking for my phone number, which I didn't have (the one benefit of not having a phone), and then asking for my email. I gave it to him, just to get him to leave (seriously, why does anyone think it's appropriate to refuse to leave until you give them your contact info?) then I went and stood in line at the gate, even though boarding wasn't for another 15 minutes. 

So, yes. That was my first, and so far only, trip to Paris. I'd be lying if I said it was nice. In fact, I rank my time in Paris as my overall worst trip so far. 
But it's not fair to only tell you my good travel stories, is it? I can't censor out my lame trips and pretend like they didn't happen.
Besides, this is one of my best stories. Who else had only 24 hours in Paris and managed to have as many poor experiences as I did? (if you have, I would love to hear your story).


I hold out hope, though. With my move to London looming on the horizon, I'm sure I'll get back to Paris. And Phil wants to take me this time, and show off his French (note: I find few things more attractive than a man fluent in French). And I'll eat my fill of macarons, and pay closer attention to maps, and not be sad or lonely. I'll enjoy my trip. This is my hope. 


PS  - That guy emailed me to ask if we could get together sometime (where? I have no clue). I didn't respond. 

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6 comments:

  1. Oh my god, that metro story - HOW did that happen!!! This sounds like a trip from hell - like one you hear about in the movies. THANK GOD you are moving close to Paris to get a better trip out of that city! The first time we went to Paris, Heather actually got semi-strangled by a guy while we were walking home one night too, so it wasn't a top trip in our book either.
    I have to admit though, while I've been to Paris twice, I'm just not a fan of it (but am glad I went - everyone needs to see Paris sometime in their lives) - but I am glad you will be getting back to make up for this TERRIBLE experience!

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    1. I swear, some of my stories are going to be picked up for the plot in a sitcom, haha. It was pretty ridiculous - though I'm sorry you also had a less-than-ideal first experience as well! What put you off about Paris? I'm looking forward to the 3-hour train ride for visiting, and the easy escape home (and phone) if necessary.

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  2. Okay so first of all: is exhibitionism normal in Paris?!! This is the second time I hear of it....and second, thank you for sharing such a personal story! I would have totally lost it if all that happened to me, Hope you at least had an awesome Christmas and a more comfortable journey back to Egypt!

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    1. Haha I have no clue! Everyone was so concerned about my safety in Egypt, turns out they should have been more worried about Paris ;) I'm not actually too sad about the Paris thing - it makes for a great story! Though the remainder of my trip did make up for my misadventures. Have you ben to Paris before?

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    2. Only to Disneyland and there are no exhibitionists there :D I have yet to visit the city centre of Paris but somehow I'm not really keen on doing that soon....in fact I tend to avoid MUST-SEE destinations and rather look out for less crowded ones ;)

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    3. That's generally a good rule to travel by :) My next trip back will basically be to stuff my face full of French food and espresso, so... watch out, tourists.

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