Not Fit For This

3 May 2011

Paris, France

I am unbelievably sick. I don’t remember having such a bad flu in the past five years. I wake up for the sixth time, except this time I need to catch a 300km/h train. This didn’t stop me from accidentally sleeping in and needing to run to St. Pancras station.

Still had time for this, somehow.

I did get one reward for my efforts: one of those really big, long train tickets. Now that has my name on it.

Now I’m on the train in the Chunnel listening to two young women talk and laugh about how they both had children at 18 and how they are both ‘finding out about themselves’. Don’t worry about the children, it is you who are most important making fancy trips around Europe! “Thank God for grandparents” one says. Indeed–shame about the parents. “I was in London for two days and I think I fell in love already with another Brazilian like me.” “Yes, isn’t it great how when you’re in love, you can talk to them about anything?” I must be in love with several people! I can’t believe these words of wisdom. One is Brazilian, the other Italian. I’ll let you make the connection. cough religious cough

Apart from this little distraction, being in this train feels like you’ve taken a step twenty years into the future; shooting out of the Chunnel into France is really an adventure in itself.

Speaking of the present future, these cold and flu tablets have more or less cured the common cold; I am able to keep doing international travel when I’m drugged up on these things. I don’t think people really appreciate the pharmaceutical wonder of these babies.

Gare du Nord already! I’ve got a double buzz from 1. arriving in an international station and 2. no flu symptoms for the moment.

My train there. Took a step into the future.

Ok, think in French. Think in French. When you need to know where you are, how to get around, how to eat & drink, you really wish you practiced just a little bit more since your final French exam. That said, I finally find a use for my year 9 French lessons at 15 years old: all that vocabulary about trains, getting around, directions etc. are invaluable now.

The police, or soldiers, are holding big French Famas machine guns and don’t really instil any sense of security for me, among all the pickpockets and crazy beggars. Well… at least I know the words for when I’m in a train station…

Insecurity settles in more as I run out of cold & flu tablets. To give you an idea of how completely screwed I feel, here’s my Paris Metro pass for the week:

Completely fucked. This pass will outlast me in Paris if I continue to feel the way I’m feeling.

Barbarically and primitively, I search for shelter. A beggar tries to con me into buying his newspaper by directing me to the metro station. Turns out my French is better than his so I gesture for him to go away afterwards.

Le Louvre seems like a nice place for a hostel. Is it really “Paris in the springtime”? Where is everyone? It’s quiet enough to take photos anyway.




This is a huge relief, because I thus doubt I’ll have any trouble finding my shelter for tonight.

But how wrong I was. It’s been about fifteen/twenty minutes of phone calls to other hostels in Paris made by a very caring receptionist, but I’m disheartened to nothingness every time I hear “tout complet? Merci” No vacancies? Thanks anyway.

My muscles ache from the flu and backpack, and I shiver in the warm sunshine. I don’t think I could have choses a worse place or time to come to with zero preparation.

Finally, a hit.

I’m told to go to some place in Central Paris. Ok, ok, just let me get into bed for recovery.

The journey recommences badly; I find my bag opened twice while I walk, and my common sense fades with every minute the virus, insincerely, bursts open my cells. The Paris metro is sluggish, but my own walk is more so as I wade through what seems like a pool of filth and French city slickers. This bag, my god, this bag is like a slab of hot uranium; heavy and causing too much trouble for what it’s worth.

I pace up and down the right street where my bed waits. I avoid the spitting people and the man pissing on the street and that sweat-inducing sun that only makes my shivering worse. Fifteen minutes passes. Thirty minutes. An hour. Two hours. Walking up and down the same street.

Backpacking. What a roller coaster.

An unusually nice Parisian breaks my daze, telling me the whereabouts of the youth hostel nearby. It’s at number eight, not eighty. How the fuck do you confuse eight (‘haweet’ in French) with eighty (‘katre vang’)? Isn’t that exactly what you’re supposed to not do as a receptionist? Not mixing things up?

I make it to the dorm, gazing out of the window on a very Parisian street from a very Parisian balcony. A few minutes later I collapse–thankfully not from the balcony–into bed. My head probably received the same impact as landing on the concrete, though, as the fucking pillow is just as hard.

June 5th, 2011 7:00pm