|The train ride to Paris was quite the cultural experience. When I boarded the train in Figueres this morning, there was no one in first class seating except for myself and a mother and her two children. The young boy and girl did not provide for a quiet trip. At one point the young girl cried for fifteen minutes. At another point she sang "Let It Go" in Spanish. And at yet another point she repeated a sentence over and over and over, which eventually another little boy learned the phrase and he, too, repeated it numerous times. It was lovely. As we continued to make stops in various cities (Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpellier, Nîmes, Valence), the train started to fill up. The majority of the passengers were French, as I heard very little Spanish and even less English.
I decided that I would eat lunch at noon, which was probably a mistake to wait so long. When I finally got up to head to the food coach, there was a long line already waiting. Ironically enough, I got in line behind two American teenagers from Denver and directly in front of another man from somewhere in the States. The two teenagers were brother and sister, and I gathered that they were not familiar with any European language. They were trying to figure out what to say in Spanish, but it was all awful. You can imagine how hard I was biting my tongue. So then it was my turn to order, and right after I got my food thanks to speaking Spanish, the brother said "Oh, you just showed us up!" I told them it pays to know a language or two. ☺
Lunch was...well, it was food. Since I got in line so late, a lot of the food choices were no longer available. I wanted a sándwich de pollo braseado, but that was no longer available. So I took the other sandwich he suggested, which turned out to be some sort of ham/egg salad on white bread. Thankfully I had a Coke Zero to wash it down. I wasn't expecting gourmet food, but at least I tried it!
The scenery from my seat was fantastic! I saw mountains, the Mediterranean, mountains, vineyards, fields, mountains, towns, canals, soccer fields, and more mountains! I tried to get as many good pictures as I could, but they didn't capture what I was seeing (which is always the case with pictures, so I'm seeing). I was able to get some good video from my seat, and at one point I decided to randomly start recording and was excited to capture a tugboat or ferry moving along a canal. It was a neat moment to get it on film!
The rest of the train ride was fine. I dozed off twice, only to be woken up by a man asking to see my ticket. I got really jumpy, mainly because he woke me up, but it was no big deal. Once I got off the train, I bought my metro ticket, and went for my first ever metro ride. Let me tell you, it pays to do your research prior to arriving to a city. I knew exactly where to go, which stations I needed to exit, where I needed to connect, and where I needed to go once I got off the metro. I was a PRO. Once I emerged from the underground labyrinth, I was greeted by a carousel. Small in size, but it was definitely a carousel. The streets of Montmartre were teeming with people, and I felt overwhelmed, but tried to take it all in. Not sure where I was supposed to go, I looked around for street signs, hoping to see Rue des Abbesses. I didn't. But what I did see were signs for Sacre Cœur and La Cimetière. I know Sacre Cœur was the wrong way, and La Cimetière was the right way. I headed in that direction, and immediately found Rue des Abbesses. Again, kids, it pays to study maps before arriving in a new city!
I found my hotel with no problem. Guillaume, the hotel clerk, spoke quickly in French, and of course I understood every fourth word, but it was enough that I was able to figure out what I needed to do. My hotel room is pretty much everything I expected and hoped it would be. It's small, yes, but that's a European room for you. The walls are a neat aquamarine, the bed is quite comfortable, small shower (I don't care), and best of all, the window opens to overlook the street down below. And it's not hot here, so I think I'll be getting a nice breeze in the evenings before bed!
Once I got settled into my hotel, I went out to me balader (a verb I learned meaning 'to wander') the quartier of Montmartre. I knew I wanted to see the cimetière, but unfortunately it is closed on Sundays, so I'll have to wait until another day. My next stop was to be Café des Deux Moulins, which is the café in which Amélie works in the movie. I was able to walk by the café, but not enter, as the place was literally bursting with people. I'll try to sneak in there in the morning. I was, however, able to catch a glimpse of the infamous Moulin Rouge, as well as a Starbucks across the street. I then walked down the main stretch of road where I saw store after store selling...things I can't mention. So I headed a little bit north in hopes of finding Sacre Cœur. The streets of Montmartre wind up and down and up and down—it's a very hilly neighborhood. Eventually I found Sacre Cœur and was AMAZED at the amount of people I saw there just chillin on the steps. There were hundreds, maybe thousdands of people just enjoying a sunny, leisurely evening, and I didn't expect that. Another unexpected sight was the view of the city from this vantage point. From Sacre Cœur I could see how sprawled out Paris is. The pictures below show it a little bit, but it's just massive. I now understand why people gather there to enjoy the evening. There was also a street performer near the top of the steps leading up to Sacre Cœur, and he was doing some amazing tricks with a soccer ball. I took some footage of it that I hope to get onto this site somehow.
So far Paris is exciting. It's different than any city I've been to, and I'm definitely anxious to explore it some more in the next few days!