Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Metro Mission

After the TEFL course finished, me and my room mate who I shall call B decided to move into a hostel in the city centre. This seemed like a great idea - until we were struggling to get across Paris on the metro with enough luggage between us for a 6 month tour of Europe.

On the Paris metro to get onto a train you have to first get through the barriers. These are gates which require you to insert your ticket on one side, take it out again a bit further along, then push through some very narrow mini barriers, and then through a metal gate - all within a time limit of about 5 seconds. It's as if they don't really want people to get on the trains - or at least not any people with luggage anyway. Or fat people - although there are hardly any fat people in Paris - I thought it was because they can't afford to eat and just have to survive on coffee and cigarrettes - but I guess they have to stay thin so they don't get stuck in the metro gates and have the fire brigade called to remove them. It was impossible to get a person and their luggage through at the same time so either we were through but our luggage was behind us, or the luggage made it through but we were left behind - or worst case scenario - both us and the luggage were stuck between the 2 barriers - usually with some random French people laughing at our predicament.

Having extricated ourselves and the luggage from the barriers with the help of some kind French people (there are a few of them), and some brute force (and probably some permanent damage to French metro property) we then had to actually get onto the train. This unfortunately involved lifting our suitcases - something neither me or B were able to do (we hadn't planned this journey very well!). At one point I got onto a train and then despite a huge effort, completely failed to lift my case off the platform. As the doors were about to close I was pulled backwards by the weight of my own case towards the gap between the train and the platform - (the one that in the UK they have special warnings about - just in case you thought it would be ok to stand in it whilst waiting for the train). As I headed towards the big black hole and certain death , I was overcome with panic - and came out with a torrent of abuse directed at the French metro system. This didn't help me to get on the train - but did draw attention to me and a man noticed my plight and pulled me and my suitcase onto the train. (B would have helped but at the time was trying to escape from under her own suitcase).

After a few seconds of sheer relief at being alive, I looked round and realised that the people around me were not looking too pleased with me - then it dawned on me that they had just heard something along the lines of 'bla, bla, F***king French, bla bla 'crap', bla, bla French b**tards...'. Oops!

We were so relieved when we actually made it to our hostel and checked in ..... until they said 'your room is down the road, round the corner, through the door, across the court yard and up the 4 flights of spiral stairs'. Great. By this time I felt like i was on an endurance test and this was the final mission - I was sweating and aching and exhausted, my brain was foggy and confused - but I knew I had to carry on and find the physical and mental strength to get to that room. Half an hour later me and B had managed to get ourselves and all our luggage to the room - where I laid down and fell asleep for 3 hours - I was eventually woken up by the phone - it was Mr D.

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