Never plan your arrival to clash with the Shampoo Schedule of a Girl! If you are travelling in a group which includes my dear friend, Lady Timetable (henceforth referred as Lady T), make sure not to arrive on her Shampoo Day!
Let me explain- Since I am absolutely a novice in travelling alone, and since I was apprehensive about my French speaking abilities (my friends shared the apprehensions), Lady T decided to meet me at Gare de l’est (Station of East) before we proceeded to meet Baby Hippo (for her ability to eat unbelievable quantities of food, henceforth, referred as Baby H). Lady T and Baby H had to spend a lot of time clearing immigration on their arrival a month earlier, so based on that, she guessed, I would not reach Gare de l’est station before 11 am. But the airport authorities decided that it was too much of an irritation having me in their premises and I was out by 8:30 am. I called up Lady T, wondering if she could come a little earlier. She coolly explained that it was her shampoo day, and I would have to wait! I tried to reason that I had travelled nearly 8000 km to meet and travel with them! She replied, you could have walked all the way to Paris, for all I care…but, Shampoo Day is Shampoo Day!
So, I trudged my way to the metro station, bought my Navigo Card (it gives unlimited rides on trains/buses/trams), waited for a long time for the train to arrive, rode 40 minutes to Gare du Nord, from where I was to walk to Gare De l’est. Which brings me to tip number 2.
If you are travelling on a budget, make sure you can walk!
I will explain…..again! As per my smartwatch records, I walked an average of 23.93 km/day over a period of 4 days!!!!!!! It’s a mere 5km less than 100 km aggregate! And, this included 30 floors of climbing stairs on an average (this data looks a little suspicious though), each day!
And this started from the word go! And as I realized in Gare du Nord, some of the escalators don’t work…which means climbing endless stairs with a very heavy strolley, and if you know how I look like( a shriveled drumstick), you will know. It’s not a nice sight! And THEN…we made the error of getting down at Les Halles station instead of Hôtel de ville, and had to walk a long distance to finally reach Baby Hippo’s AirBnB. Had a really good croissant for breakfast and Lady Timetable and I were on our way to the largest flea market in the world, at Saint Ouen.
Given an option between walking and taking the Metro….always……WALK!!!!! For this realization, the credit goes to my dear friend, Lady T. After our visit to Saint Ouen, we went to Sacré-Cœur, which is in Montmartre area of Paris. If you have seen the movies, Midnight in Paris and Amélie, you will see this locality in these films. So, after our visit to Sacré-Cœur, for our next destination, we were about to walk towards the metro station, when Lady T said- Know-All, the walk will take 20 minutes, whilst the tube ride will take 15. You wanna walk?
And so we walked. And what a walk it was!!! Through narrow alleys and beautiful houses with huge cats and cute dogs and beautiful cobbled streets, we walked and walked. Well, Google was a little wayward (or was it us?) but we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. All thanks to the suggestion of Lady T! Another similar incident happened on Day 2. Baby H and I were headed towards Champs Elysées but we got down at the wrong station. It was after walking all day long, so we were quite tired, and I think after walking some 500 meters, we realized that the Champs (field in French) around us were anything but Elysees!!! But, guess what, we crossed a road to reach a bridge over the river Seine and got the first view of the Eiffel Tower!!! And what a sight it was!!! It was Beautiful!!!! And let me add… Eiffel Tower is one landmark whose hype is justified!! It will definitely make your eyes widen if not make your jaws drop!! So, please try to walk. You won’t regret it!
Just because you are in most Romantic City in the World, don’t lose your head! I mean, I get it! There is something amazing about the city, which can be so mood uplifting! But, it also is a city where you can lose your wallet before you can spell “Moulin Rouge”!
My friends had bombarded me with a pretty long list of dos and don’ts while travelling alone, thanks to my habit of being lost in my own thoughts while walking. The caveats included:
- Keeping my Passport and other valuables in the innermost pockets.
- Not to respond to strangers asking for directions
- Not to help strangers who suddenly dropped coins on the floor
- Not to agree to respond to some random market survey questionnaire
- And the best….not to keep my hands hanging out of my pocket!!!! Apparently, some troublemakers suddenly put on a strap which is difficult to take off, and then demand money for it!!!
As a result, by the time I had landed in Paris, I was a nervous wreck and constantly looking all around for imaginary pick-pockets and refusing to take my hands out of the deep pockets of my jacket! Day 1 had no untoward incident, except at the fag end, when I was trudging my luggage down the road which was absolutely dark, towards the apartment of my couchsurfing hosts. Suddenly, a woman approached me and started- “Excussez-moi, Monsieur….”
I was so scared that I started hurrying away from her at such a fast pace, that I must have looked like an Emperor Penguin, waddling on slippery ice!!!! It must have been funny enough, because I heard the young woman (I assume young, basis her voice…it was too dark to see her face) burst out into a giggle! Not a very ego-inflating moment in the life of Know-All, but then again, I prefer caution to valour.
Thankfully, the rest of the walk was sans incident, and after another 5 pensive minutes, I finally reached the warm interiors and to the warm welcome of my hosts in Paris.