Sunday, April 3, 2011
A night in Paris, the local way
6:21 PM On the road
After successfully navigating our way through Parisian train stations, Mabel and I arrive in 9e arrondissement de Paris to deliciously mild weather. Of course, we only succeeded after much scratching of heads and wandering round and round a particular station that had the most confusing, Inception-esque stair layout.
The local time is 9:20PM. I text a French friend who is supposed to be waiting for us outside our train station (St Lazare) to say that 'We're here!'
We look around and quickly notice the two different sortie (exit) signs that point in opposite directions, and so we figure, we'll just pick one, and if he's not there, we'll walk to the other one. How far could the two exits of the train stations be from each other anyway?
So we get to the first sortie, and he's not there. We decide to walk around the building to find the other exit, and we walk for five minutes and realize that the building no longer resembles anything like a train station. It seems that the station is adjoining a shopping centre (or was it under, since we took an escalator up to the sortie). A ten minute speed-walk (hauling our luggage along) back to where we exited and through a looonngg corridor later, we get to the other exit and he's not there either.
We end up walking around for one hour amid texts and phone calls, trying to find each other. We try asking some waiters for directions and one of them even takes out his phone to try to Google map directions for us while the other one points to his bow tie and asks if we like bow tie pasta in the flirtiest way.
We walk back to the first place we exited from the station, and Mabel and I spot a street map. We try to locate the street we're on so we can let him know where to find us, and we realize - there are FIVE different train / Metro / RER stations all with 'St Lazare' in their name. We decide that instead of hopelessly walking around the 9th arondissement we would just make our way to the hotel and meet him there.
Upon making this decision, we search the map for the street our hotel is on - only to discover that it is just down the road we were already on. Just five minutes later, we're in the hotel lobby.
You know you're a tourist when you wait / walk around for a hour trying to meet somebody who'll show you the way to the hotel when it's just a five minute walk away.
After we rendezvous with a few other French friends, they take us to dinner in a fast food joint (where we get free burgers just by showing our student cards - why do they not have this in the UK or Malaysia?!?), and then, a local bar.
Even in the UK, land of beer, bars, and pubs, I have never seen a bar as packed as this one is. People are standing wherever there is space to stand, all the way to the door, while outside the door, people huddle around on the sidewalk, almost spilling over into the street.
One of the first differences I notice between the Middlesbrough bar scene and the Parisian one was the way the girls dressed. In Middlesbrough, even in below freezing temperatures, girls strut around in skimpy outfits that, save for all the glitter and bling, look better suited to a tropical beach. Here, however, a quick glance around the room and I fail to spot any uncovered legs or plunging necklines, even though the weather is notably warmer than Boro weather. Almost everyone, guys and girls, has some item of black clothing on, in that distinctively famous Parisian style.
I think I like Paris already.
It's way past midnight when a group of about thirty or maybe more cyclists ride past the bar, and people on the sidewalk shout and wave at them. Some of them wave back. I ask my friend who they are and what they're doing. He shrugs his shoulders and says he doesn't know. Ah, the randomness of big city night life. I love it.
Not a single tourist is in sight. Not a single menu item is in a language I can comprehend either, but it's okay. We're with people who know the language. Not a single photograph is taken. (That's for typical tourists, and maybe we'll be that kind of tourist tomorrow, but not tonight. :P)
Just another regular weekend night in Paris, the local way. Looks like a promising start to this little weekend getaway.