Monday, 18 October 2010

Frigid Air

The change came suddenly. I was there when it happened. After I arrived at work today my french colleagues all concurred. We were all feeling it and the evidence was plain to see-men wearing two coats at the same time, women wearing fluffy boots and jackets, practically every woman was bound up in a scarf. Gloves were starting to appear or men thrust their hands firmly into their pockets. The chill arrived on Sunday as I was stepping out my doorway to catch the train to Paris. I'd looked at the sky and decided the blue skies must mean a nice autumnal day ahead.

I left without my raincoat or scarf. Never do that! Tears were running down the sides of my nose as I reached the train station and my cheeks burned with the cold. It's a very different cold to NZ, in particular the North Island. The wind seemed to be off the arctic and it probably was. By the time I arrived at Paris-Montparnasse station I had no idea how I could possibly cope for a day in such temperatures. Thankfully Frederique picked me up from the station as I was running a bit late. The train I had planned to catch was cancelled when I got there, due to the strike, so I had to wait for another one which stopped at every station and took an hour to do so.

Veronique needed to buy flowers and oysters so I tagged along. I borrowed a thin jacket from her as anything was better than nothing. I then caught a metro to Chatelet. My hands were so cold I couldn't easily get the money into the slot to pay for the tickets at a ticket machine, I kept dropping them on the ground. Eventually I was on my way to Chatelet station. I still find the metro system intimidating, probably because I haven't used it much and have always had to do it on my own, so I learn the hard way. There are so many tunnels to walk along you need to do your homework in order to have any idea what the various signs mean and what names appear along your route.

I heard rather pleasant music down one tunnel. I emerged to find a line of men playing instruments and singing. They seemed Russian or Polish and they performed very well but I was pressed for time to make my next appointment. Chatelet is a major line change station on the metro. You can't often go from one side of Paris to the other without changing trains. It's like a rabbit warren. Of course, I eventually found a train to Porte Maillot which is on the outskirts of central Paris, near La Defense. I was to meet Jacques there for a wine. We ended up going somewhere for a hot drink instead and then pottered around a convenience store which happened to be open on a Sunday. That's a rarity.

We looked for Floc de Gascogne (alas no luck with that)and jam and a mild sort of goat's cheese for me to try. Then he helpfully dropped me back at Gare Montparnasse to go back to Cafeolait. So I didn't see anything of Paris at all and froze whenever I had to emerge outside. Such a shame.

Then I got lost again at the Gare. I always do. It's huge and multilevel and I never know exactly where I'm supposed to go for which sort of train. Clearly though, I made it back home via a very chilly walk. I was so happy to be back in my little studio where I could get a bit warmer and get something to eat. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and it was now past 5pm. Paris was not welcoming me that day though I did feel a wee flutter when I first glimpsed the Eiffel Tower as the train neared Paris- it stands out so much and means so much to me.

I must make certain I have a clear agenda next time I visit Paris and not just let things evolve. I would like to see the following things:
Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Musee d'Orsay, The Louvre, Palais de Chaillot and lots more.


Alison said...

Oh you poor thing! And yes, I grew up in Dunedin, but I don't think I have ever felt as cold as I did in France in winter. Hats, gloves, scarves.... One day at uni the heating was off but we just carried on anyway! They strike at the drop of a hat but didn't seem bothered by that! I tried to avoid Chatelet - I had heard dire things about it!

Defogger said...

I am so totally recognising how bitterly frozen you would be feeling. You don't like cold at the best of times.

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