Lessons and recess

6 October 2011 § Leave a comment

5 octobre 2011

Things I knew before this trip but disregarded: It is a good idea to make travel plans in advance.  It is especially good to make train reservations early if one has a eurail pass.

Things that I didn’t know before this trip and discovered: I should travel either by private jet/train/car/boat or not travel at all.  And eurail passes shouldn’t exist.

Yet surely, I reasoned, a train from Aix to Paris at 5.54 in the morning won’t have any other eurail pass people on it.  With this thought, I woke up early to catch the 4.40 navette to the train station, but I read my clock incorrectly and left ten minutes later than planned.  I noticed this when I was leaving and decided to run to the bus station, which is a little more than a mile away.  I was wearing clogs, which make quite a racket on cobblestones, and drew a bit of unsought attention from wanderers of the night, but at least I was quite awake when I arrived there.

I missed the navette by two minutes—it’s probably the only bus in France that runs on an actual schedule—so I decided to wait around for the 5.10 navette, but a few minutes before it arrived, I was reading over my train pass guide (I can’t remember why I was doing this in the first place) in a leisurely fashion and discovered that I needed my passport to validate my pass before using it for the first time.  So I made my way back home with only a few minor obstacles and decided that I could catch the next train.  When I left (I did remember to get my passport) my auberge, I discovered that I might be late again, so I ran there again.

I finally made it to the train station, and the desk person told me that there were no more seats for eurail pass people and told me that I could upgrade to first class.  I didn’t have much of a choice, so I handed over my credit card, which I promptly discovered does not work in train stations (or at least in Aix, Paris, and Strasbourg—perhaps I can try all of the train stations in Europe), so I had to scamper away, to a place outside the train station, to withdraw money.

When the train arrived, I went in the wrong car—I think I was scared that the train would leave after two seconds, so I just jumped on the first one I could reach and figured I would wander around inside to find my seat—and then, after twenty minutes of searching, was told by a kindly old attendant that I couldn’t actually reach the car I was supposed to be in by the inside corridor.  He showed me to an empty seat, though, which was pleasant of him.

I alighted at the gare de Lyon and, after a train station mix-up with Katie, we found ourselves waiting in line to buy my ticket back to Aix in the evening.  Alas, no seats left for eurail pass people!  So I had the privilege of upgrading again (I am now used to travelling only in first class) for the train the next evening.  As I said before, an extra day with Katie in Paris!  We departed from the ticket counter—I should add that the ticket boy schemed and strategized and generally helped considerably with plans—and walked in circles beneath the train station to find the metro line we were seeking.  It was silly and an appropriate reunion…and just like the story we wrote/are still writing about two girls hopping around Europe.

We ate lunch in the jardin du Luxembourg, found an orchestra playing a concert that included quite a range of music (even Pink Panther…?), and bumbled around.  In the evening, we went to a large open area full of people sitting on the ground (Question: how many of those girls will be infertile?  Answer: how many of them are Russian?) to see the Petit Prince mystery—we didn’t know what to expect.  I also met a French friend of Katie’s and two girls in her program, so we were a merry party.  An actor famous for his imposing voice and a child read the story while different images and film clip things were projected on a giant arch-building, and music was playing the entire time, with coloured lights and frequent fireworks.

Aside from ballets and Russian music and Chopin concerts and the opera a week later, it was my favourite performance ever.

You'll have to imagine the music

In the morning, we went to mass at Notre Dame and then to a delightful lunch at La Fourmi Ailée (the winged—flying?—ant).

No ladders = no reading during lunch

It used to be a book shop, and you should go there if you are in Paris.  We also went to Shakespeare and Company, which I have always wanted to visit.  What a charming book shop!  It even has desks and a piano upstairs.

We meandered to Ménilmontant for the weekend of open artist’s studios, which ended up like museum time combined with a walk outside.  It was probably the first time I actually enjoyed modern art.

My idea of the artistic representation of The Gift (and of Nabokov's life in general)

There was one charmingly crammed studio especially that had to be the artistic combination of the personalities of Katie and me: it had an actual rabbit, a blue Emily dress, paintings of bees, flowers, butterflies, and evanescent girls, giant white paper elephants hanging from the ceiling, paintings of funny little creatures that look like animals on Katie’s Japanese notebook things—and the artist was Japanese, too.

There was also a cheerfully crowded flower garden right outside the door.

The two girls separated suddenly when the metro whisked one away to the train station, there to write essays on medieval French poetry all the way back to Aix…

Hermès!

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