FORTY-FOURTH MOVEMENT: FRANCE
I woke up at 07:40, showered, dressed, packed my bags, and checked out of the hotel at 08:40. I was awfully astonished to see my hotel bill at half the price I was quoted on booking.com due to being discounted the first night and I can only conclude that it was either a mistake or compensation for checking in to my room so late (although I’ve never encountered this scenario before) or a discount due to my relative poverty compared with the other guests (perhaps the management took pity on me for not being your average visitor to Monaco and thus gave me a more realistic price for their small room with a single bed and shitty French television channels). Whatever the reason, I asked the receptionist if this was correct, received an affirmative, said no more (not wanting to endanger my chances), and finally paid the bill (125 euros). I then walked out of the hotel dumbfounded and hurried to the
Monaco-Monte Carlo Railway Station. Once inside the station, I found an automated machine to collect my train ticket (having bought it online the previous day) and then bought a small bottle of water to drink. I then waited for the Paris-bound train to arrive. At 09:43, the train stopped at the station, I boarded the assigned coach and then found my seat on the upper level. The train then set off several minutes later and in no time at all I was out of Monaco and journeying through France.
The train traveled along France’s southern coast with the shimmering sea to its left and villages and mountainous landscapes to its right. As we moved west, the grayish-white rocky outcrops changed to reddish-brown. Two hours in to our journey, we passed through a beautiful and verdure nature preserve of short pines, and the aforementioned craggy rocks (several kilometers east of Saint Raphael-Valescure). Shortly after, the train broke away from the coast and directed its efforts inland for a while. Further on, the pines grew taller and intermingled with a number of other species. We passed by vineyards, orchards, fields, and villages, and the exposed ground in one region revealed a reddish-colored clay. At noon, I noticed the sea outside the window and was surprised to learn we were still traveling so near the coast, but this was the last I saw of it. We then veered towards Paris and in an hour or so we travelled through some scenic countryside with mountains in the distance, crop fields, hedgerows, more vineyards, and a few rivers (this is France as I have imagined it). We also passed through a number of tunnels on the way. With the passing of another hour, we were traveling through rolling hills with yellowish fields of grains cut in to the natural green vegetation; the mountains had vanished and despite the wavy changes in elevation, the countryside looked relatively flat.
We finally reached the Paris-Gare-Lyon Railway Station at 15:40 and I disembarked the train with my bags and walked to the Metro Station. I rode the metro train to the Colonel Fabien Station and then walked to the hostel I had booked a bed in the day before. I checked in, dropped my bags off in the room, and then sought out an old friend (Giovanni) who was set to meet me today in Paris. I walked up to the rooftop terrace and to the common area to see if he was there. I then walked down to the lobby to try and connect to the wifi to see if he had left a message and when I got down there I found him checking in (his flight had been delayed). Once he had finished checking in and we were ready to explore Paris, we set out on foot and walked to the Seine River (a mistake in hindsight since Paris is very large and we could’ve easily taken the metro train). Anyway, we walked through a neighborhood filled with many immigrants and ethnic shops (e.g. a Chinese grocery store), past Republic Square, and on to the river, reaching it after over an hour of walking (next to the Hotel de Ville – the building that houses the city’s local administration, to include the Mayor of Paris). We then walked westward, past the Louvre and through the Tuileries Garden (French: “Jardin des Tuileries”), which was created by Catherine de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564 AD; the garden was eventually opened to the public in 1667 AD and became a public park after the French Revolution. During our walk in the park, Giovanni and I decided to stop at an open-air café and have two refreshing, cold beers (it was hot in Paris and the beer tasted great). After drinking our beers, we walked to the Luxor Obelisk (a 23 meter tall Egyptian obelisk that was originally located at the entrance to the Luxor Temple, but now stands in the Place de la Concorde – it was gifted to France by Muhammed Ali, Khedive of Egypt in 1833 AD). We then walked northward to the Madeleine Church (French: “L’église de la Madeleine”) before taking the metro train back to the Colonel Fabien Station near the hostel. Next, we ate at a restaurant nearby and I had beer, escargot, a minced steak, and French fries. After dinner, we returned to the hostel and hung out for a while before going to the club downstairs (yes, this giant hostel has a club in the basement). While in the club, Giovanni and I had two shots and much beer, celebrating our reunion after over a year. Then, the club closed at 02:00 and Giovanni and I were still yearning for more drinks and reminiscences of good times since past. So, we left the hostel and walked to a nearby canal looking for a bar (there were other hostel guests doing the same). We ended up running in to a Senegalese man and he showed us where we could still buy drinks since all the convenience stores were closed and many of the nearby bars were closing. We each bought two Heineken beers and then followed the Senegalese man westward under the promise that he would take us to a great place to drink. Well, after following this man for over fifteen minutes (after he had told us it would take five) and after passing by the Gare du Nord Railway Station, Giovanni and I decided to turn around and leave his company (good thing too; the next day I checked online to see where he was taking us and I’m almost certain it was the red light district – Paris can certainly be scummy and not in the fun way depicted in film). As Giovanni and I walked back to the hostel, we crossed paths with an open bar and decided to go inside. We had more beer, a cocktail, and whiskey shots. We also met an interesting character who was rambling on and on about acceptance and life in Paris; in the middle of his rant, he threw in that he was a homosexual (strange way to come out) and I do believe he was interested in me. Giovanni and I finished drinking around sometime after 04:00 and decided to turn in. We then walked back to the hostel and went to sleep, unprepared for the hangover that awaited us.