Rain, more rain, and being scared witless
01.11.2009 12 °C
I woke this morning with my first night minus the little blue man, hmmmpf, still not happy. It was raining, quite heavily at the moment. Glad I made the decision to not stay at the universite and head to Versailles, probably means I won’t get to see it this trip, so I will just have to make another trip and come see it then! I had to pick the keys up for the apartment after 5pm today which is a stupid arrangement for visitors but one that obviously works for them
Decided to head to head into the city and get a 2 day pass for the Hop On, Hop off bus. Did 1 complete circuit of the blue line and decided to get off at Sacre Couer. Got off and knew there was a heap of stairs to climb to get to the church entrance.
As soon as you approach the steps you are accosted by boys/men wanting to put coloured pieces of string on your fingers as a good luck gesture. You are then hassled for money. I didn’t acknowledge them and they tend to leave you alone, but I did watch from a distance how it all works. Many an unsuspecting tourist thinks they are just being nice. Nothing is free in Paris, especially things coming from men outside churches.
All I can say about the inside of the church is wow. It a known fact that there is money in religion but there is a hell of a lot of money in France tied up in religion. There was a mass service being conducted while I was there. It was all in French, so I had no idea what was being said. I did however notice tourists crying openly. These tourists weren’t attending the mass session because they were sitting in front of different alters. Some just sat there openly crying, some were weeping. I guess I had almost been reduced to tears at the Arc De Triomphe so I shouldn’t have been surprised. You couldn’t take photos inside the church which was disappointing. But I also respect that religious icons aren’t supposed to be photographed.
And even though for some of us, football is a religion and we can take photos of our football teams, it isn’t quite the same.
I spent a couple of hours in the church, just marvelling at the architecture of the place more so than the religious memorabilia. So much gold. I think I could take a small shaving off some of the statues and it would translate to being able to purchase a house in Australia. I look around to see if I can see the statue of St Bernadette, but it doesn’t look like she was good enough for the Sacre Couer. There are alters all around the church dedicated to different saints.
The view from the church over Paris is also spectacular.
As its raining quite heavily I decide to stay on the bus today and just have a really good look at Paris. It really is quite beautiful. I am still conscious of the fact I have to get the keys for the apartment I am staying at for the next 4 nights. But I can’t get them until after 5. I get off the bus and have a very late lunch and a cup of tea. I want something warm, it’s wet and cold and I’m suddenly aware that I am now on my own for the next 3 weeks or so till I get to be with someone I actually know in London.
I get back on the bus and go back up through the Montmartre area and have a look in the shops. I don’t see anything that takes my eye and that I simply must have.
I look at my map and work out where is the best place to get off the bus so I can catch the train to Strasbourg St Denis. With trusty map in hand I get off the bus and head for the station. It is now about 4.30 in Paris getting on the verge of late afternoon daylight and raining and quite bleak all day. Day light savings ends tonight. I find my way to the station and am proud that I have this Paris Metro system worked out. However, what awaits me at the Strasbourg St Denis station is the scariest experience I have had in Paris. I have a map in my hand of the place to pick the keys up and as I come up from the underground, there are probably 20 or 30 young men of African descent heckling me, in my face and in general being very scary. They want money. They clearly know I’m a tourist as the map in my hand is probably a dead give away. I try the old trick of ignoring them, but they gather round me and follow. My feet are doing one thing; my head and heart are doing another. My feet continue moving, my heart is racing and my head is totally confused. What to do, where to go. I can’t stop to look at the map again as this will just encourage them further. So I keep walking without looking at them hoping that they will just give up and leave me alone. They continue following me for what feels like an hour but was probably 2 minutes. In the end, they just gave up, but I noticed I was walking through a street that was very dodgy, very unclean, very intimidating. The people in the shops were also hanging out the doors looking for a tourist dollar or ten. I just kept walking until I felt I was safe to be able to stop and check my map. I had gone about 2 streets past where I was supposed to be and then I noticed where I was supposed to be was through an alley way. I walked around the block to see if there was another entrance that would get me to the same place avoiding the alley. Nope. I had to brave the alley. I took a deep breath and don’t think I exhaled until I was through the alley way.
There were a couple of homeless people in the alley way and I actually felt safer with them, as they just wanted to sleep, than I did with the hecklers from the station. I found where I needed to be and you had to enter a password on an electronic key pad to enter the place. When I got in there, there was a man in there putting keys in safety boxes. The instructions were that I was to put another code in the safety box to get my keys, leave the remainder of the money and be on my way. At this point in time, I was still scared and thinking should I have decided to stay in an apartment on my own and not in the somewhat safer environment of a hotel, even though looking on the internet at hotels in Paris was confusing. My brain was still in melt down mode and I was trying to work out how much I was supposed to be leaving for the remainder of my apartment cost. Thankfully the man that was putting the keys in the boxes had a list and he was able to tell me how much I had to pay. I put the money in an envelope, took my keys and hightailed it out of there. I then had another dilemma; I had to get back on the train.
I looked at my map to see how far it was to a different station. I figured it wasn’t worth trying to walk through somewhere else as I had no guarantees it would be any safer, so I ventured back to Strasbourg St Denis and hoped for the best. I figured that all I needed to do was get past them as once you go underground in the Metro you need a ticket. I also figured if they were above ground hassling for money then they probably wouldn’t spend the 1.8i0 euro to go below ground. I saw a couple walking in the general direction and hope they are also heading to the station. They could have been axe murderers but I was prepared to take my chances with them above the heckling guys. Before I knew it I could feel my feet going down steps, I don’t rightly remember getting that last 50 meters I just know that I did. I now had to get back to the hotel I had been staying to collect my luggage and then head to the apartment. It was now almost 6pm. I knew the area where the hotel was and even though it was dark and a 10 minute walk, I felt safe. Foolhardy perhaps, but I had done it a few times now and there was always lots of people and cafes along the way.
I got back to the hotel and figured as I had no idea of the area the apartment was in and after my Strasbourg St Denis experience; I was going to take a taxi. I asked the hotel to ring me a taxi and sat there, still with a racing heart.
The taxi headed off and it seemed like he perhaps had misunderstood the address I gave him, as we went in a direction that I hadn’t been before in Paris. The driver had a conversation the whole way there with his ear piece in and I heard him say St Antoine so I figured we were headed in the right direction after all. We went through quite an open area for a bit and then we were heading back into what I had accustomed to of Paris streets, lots of people, lots of cafes and restaurants. We then turned into a main thoroughfare and this was the street I would call home for the next 4 nights. It was an apartment at 26 rue de fabourg, St Antoine.
The taxi cost me 44 euro, which is a lot of money, but hey, I was safe. I had another pin number to enter into an electronic key pad. There was levi’s store one side, an furniture store the other and a whole myriad of shops nearby.
There were people everywhere. I didn’t know if it was safe to punch the number in the keypad while people watched, never having done this before, other than the scary getting of the key affair. I waited till a few people walked past and punched in the number, I heard the click and the door was open. What greeted me was confusion. There was a courtyard, with lots of doorways leading off this courtyard. I had to get my instructions out again to see where it was I was supposed to go. Esc B. There was A esc B, there was B esc B, C esc B and so on up to E. By this stage I was starting to stress and thinking about walking out, forfeiting all the money I had paid and give up, but I tried A esc B and my key wouldn’t work, so I thought I will do this in sequential order, bingo. B esc B worked and the door opened. What greeted me was a spiral staircase. So up I lugged just over 20 kgs of luggage up the small spiral staircase until I found the apartment. There was a sign on the door that told me it was the rental apartment. I inserted the key and turned the lock, turned the lock turned the lock and nothing happened. I knew I must have been at the right place, because the key fitted the lock, so I took a deep breath, took the key out, and inserted it again. It seemed I had double locked it previously and it then unlocked and opened. I breathed a sigh of relief and entered. It was a lovely apartment and I felt safe. I was tired, I knew there was a bath in the apartment, so all I could think about was having a bath and relaxing. Get undressed (too much info I know, but there’s a reason for stating that fact), run the bath, go to my suitcase to get my toiletries and discover no shampoo, no body wash. Fantastic! I knew exactly where they were, in the shower of the hotel I had checked out of this morning.
Total things left behind so far
1 blue teddy
1 bottle of Natio Spa Organics shampoo
1 tube of Natio Sap organics body wash (my favourite body wash)
1 usb memory stick
I hadn’t mentioned the memory stick before now as it was inconsequential in the scheme of things, but now that I’m mentioning other things left behind it seems relevant.
While at the universite, I was the only one that had a memory stick with them at the time of the infamous words to I am You are We are Australian being needed to be printed. One of my colleagues took the memory stick and got the words printed and I never saw the memory stick again. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but would miss it days later when I was having another mini crisis.
I couldn’t have a bath or shower with no shampoo or body wash as after the day I had had I just wanted to soak and relax. So put my clothes on again and head out. There was a body shop directly across the road from the main entrance to the apartment block. I headed there and the guy was in for a huge sales pitch. If I bought this and this and this I would get a discount of this. I didn’t want this and this and this, I just wanted shampoo and body wash. I couldn’t convince him that I would be fine and I could get any other body shop product at home because my daughter sold it. With new shampoo and body wash in hand (albeit a different brand) I headed back to the apartment, again making sure no one was around and headed back up the spiral staircase.
There was nothing at all in the apartment in the way of being edible or drinkable other than water. Thankfully I had a late lunch so knew I would survive without dinner, but I was really craving a cup of tea. I wasn’t going out again and decided that water would have to do until morning when I would go to the shops.
I turned on the tv just wanting to have some noise and everything was in French, every single 11 channels. I then found a music channel that became my best friend. The songs were the current songs I knew from home, the ads were in French, I could cope with this. So any time I was in the apartment for the next 4 days I would have music.
I had my bath, got in bed and was thankful that this day was now complete.
I got a text in the middle of the night. Friends and family still haven’t remembered I’m on a different time zone. Yeah my phone was on silent, and only on vibrate, but I still heard it. No I don’t want to turn it off in case I really am needed by a family member in crisis. Not sure what I can do from the other side of the world, but hey, logic sometimes goes out the window.