Two Days in Paris: Part Deux
I woke up with my body aching from our adventure the day before. Lifting Ayo up and down the stairs was not fun or easy. Nonetheless, I realized I was in Paris! I had so much to be grateful for. So I got up, washed my face and changed my attitude. Finally, I was ready to start my day.
I surprised my little mama with croissants I purchased the night before. I didn't want a repeat of the day before in a cafe where I couldn't read the menu in French. She ate; I took photos. Once outside, I realized it was much colder than the day before, and on top of that raining. I knew it was going to rain but I thought if I willed it away it wouldn't happen. Didn't work. After getting directions in broken English from a train conductor, I headed off to the Château de Versailles. Yes, the place where the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) Madame Antoinette laid her head. Or at least attempted to head there. I mean, I showed up to the right platform, at the right time, but no train ever came. It was more than an hour late, and no one knew what happened. We just waited. Fortunately, during my time-spent waiting I met a woman by the name of Mardy. We were both American, and instantly connected. We were both traveling to "find ourselves," and doing it alone abroad was the perfect place to start. When the train finally arrived, we boarded together and headed to the palace. It was refreshing to have someone to talk to who could respond back.
Getting to the Versailles Palace was relatively easy. One train from the Champ De Mars (Eiffel Tower) to the train station, and you were there in about 25 minutes. Upon arrival, we got out of the tiny bustling station into the cold rain. The city of Versailles was picturesque; a little suburban city south of the center of Paris. We headed up the hill to the main attraction. Immediately, gilded gates with a massive estate that peaked from behind replaced the sheer simplicity of the town. The line and wait to get in was relatively easy. However, strollers are not allowed in the palace, so Ayo walked during our time there. Mardy, Ayo, and me decided to take our own tour without an audio guide. We walked from room to room, which was laid out like a maze, and saw the luxurious pieces left behind from the royal family. Everything was perfectly decorated in the 1700's style. Seeing the Hall of Mirrors, I truly felt like I had stepped back in time. The golden doors accentuated each room perfectly. You could tell the place was old by the footprint indentions on the stone steps. We stayed here for about two hours before heading out. Sadly, we parted ways with Mardy, as she was venturing south of where we were going. We were alone again. Tired from the long trip, I wanted to go back to the room and get out the rain. However, I decided to keep the faith and head to the next set of places on my list. We headed to the Monmartre, the top of the hill, to see over Paris. I'd heard great things about the views, and the shops that nestled in the narrow streets and couldn't leave without seeing them. They were right. It was beautiful. There were many tourists, but it didn't detract away from its beauty. Getting to the top of the hill required the help of two nice guys from Liverpool, England, who carried Ayo up a few flights of steps. I was so grateful. Reaching the top, I saw there was a tram to get up and from the hill. This was something I would've known if I'd spoke French. Ayo was sleep, so I had a chance to take more photos and people watch. I couldn't believe I was there. I was literally looking out into the city of love with my baby girl. I promised myself I would come back. Next, we headed to the famed Moulin Rouge, which was conveniently located in the red light district of town. There were plenty of sex shops and peep shows inviting you to come in for a minute or two. I was unable to see a show because of the nature of the trip, but I'm definitely looking forward to doing it when I return. The final leg of my trip included a walk to the Love Lock Bridge. This "short" walk was an hour from the Eiffel Tower. Don't trust any person who says it's “a few bridges up the road,” because that’s not true! I was determined to see this bridge. I got there and was a little disappointed. Most of the bridge was boarded up, and only the locks on the rails leading up to the bridge were showing. I cut my losses, and changed my thoughts. Nothing was perfect, not even Paris, but I was fortunate enough to see some of the most treasured gems in the world. I had peace with that.
We returned to the room and both fell into a deep sleep. Our flight was at 8 a.m. and I'd made plans for us to take the train to the airport. Only a fraction of the 70 euros I paid for a cab to get into town. Taking the train required me to be up at 3 a.m. and out the room by 4 a.m. to catch the first train at 4:59 a.m. The train was directly across the street from my room, but being extremely tired I figured I'd wait at the train station to not risk oversleeping. That was a bust. The train stations were closed, like gates over the entrances. I guess being American makes you think everything's always open. Back in New Jersey, even when the trains are not running the station remains open. So we were S.O.A. sitting in the dark streets of Paris. It was eerie. The once lively streets outside my building were now quiet. After talking to a passing taxi driver, he let me know that once again I was misinformed about the time. The train station didn't open until 5:30 a.m., contrary to what I was told by the conductor. Also, I was told to head to another train station down the street because it was a more direct way to the airport with only one transfer. So I walked down the street, put my duffle bag on the ground to act as a chair and prepared myself to wait. I'm sure it looked strange to the few cars that passed by, like I was some sort of prostitute or gypsy wandering through the dark of night. I just wanted to catch my flight. 20 minutes into waiting the climate dropped and it became increasingly colder. I couldn't let Ayo just sit in the cold so I took a cab to the transfer station, Saint-Michel, directly in front of the Notre Dame. There I was greeted by other forms of life. Most were still out from the day before, enjoying a drink and a meal before retiring to bed. Either way, I was happy to be there. I'd gotten over the awkwardness of traveling with Ayo late at night, and just headed in. I got the help I needed and walked across to the train. There was no lift, again, and the lower level of the subway was truly closer to hell, there was a far distance between the bottom and the surface. There were no ticket takers, and I was unable to buy a ticket through the machines because they turned those off too. 30 minutes on the train and we were in the airport. The metro in Paris require you to use your ticket, no bigger than a fortune cookie wrapper, to get in and out the station, and unfortunately I did not have one. So myself and three other Americans just stood behind calling out for help. After many attempts, someone finally came and swiped us in. I got through the security check easily, and three hours later I was back home in the UK. This trip taught me how strong I was. I was fearless in my pursuit of visiting Paris. I got through two full days with my baby girl, and will never forget those moments.
To parents: While the lack of lifts will pose a problem, there were plenty of nice people who helped me up and down stairs. They genuinely wanted to help. Go out and see the world with your children; start them young. You can do it!
To all others: You owe it to yourself to have an adventure. Don't be afraid. You're never alone. Go to foreign places that challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. In those moments, we find out who we truly are.