Thursday, September 09, 2004

Paris, France—Lyon, France—Day 222

I checked out of my Paris hotel this morning—the man at the desk commenting on how he will miss seeing me go in and out in the mornings. He told me that he never saw me but for a flash every morning, when I would just dart out of the hotel. I thought this was funny since it was true—I didn’t really idle in the lobby for any reason.

I had to lug my things down the narrow stairs which really is quite a feat in itself when you want to prevent not only damage to your suitcase, but to yourself and to the stairs. I would hate to see the day when the luggage gets the best of me and takes me tumbling down the stairs. Luckily, it hasn’t come yet but I have a feeling that one of these days it might.

I have to say that I’ve gotten a bit stronger now that I have to carry my things around with me everywhere I go and up and off of trains, down stairs, up broken escalators, the lot. The train station in Luxembourg City had this nifty sort of luggage conveyor belt that you put your luggage on and you could walk along next to it while still holding your luggage as the belt moved it up. Quite nifty really—more train station should have them. Ahh, but I guess most do have escalators and Luxembourg did not.

Anyways, back to France! So I checked out of the hotel and left my bags in the lobby while I went to the post office which was thankfully down the street from my hotel. I mailed some zoo goodies and hippo CDs to their appropriate places and was happy to find an English speaking teller and delighted in the fact that they accepted credit cards for payment.

I then dragged my bags across the street from the hotel to get a taxi to the train station. The idea of getting down into the subway and dealing with it all with my stuff didn’t seem like a fun idea at the time, so a taxi was my best bet. One zoomed up to me before I could even get to the taxi stand and I hopped in.

At the train station, I paid my fare and waited for my noon train to Lyon. Its on a TGV train which are these super high speed trains that they have in France—something like 300 kilometers per hour. It was going to get me to Lyon in just under two hours. Since I have this fabulous Eurorail pass, I don’t have to buy individual tickets but then I started thinking (this is like ten minutes before the train is supposed to leave) hmm, maybe I need a reservation.

Turned out I did—basically you have to buy a ticket (unless you are me, of course, with the Eurorail pass) and then pay something like 3 Euros for a seat reservation. So I got in line and soon had my designated seat.

Just then the platform number for the departing train appeared and the crowds (all anxiously waiting) moved en masse towards the designated platform. Everyone kept putting their tickets into a punch machine so I followed along—getting my reservation punched, whatever that is supposed to mean. I think it put a stamp on it but I don’t really know.

I found my appropriate train car and heaved my stuff on. Luckily I was on the lower level of the train (there were two!) so I didn’t have to haul all of my stuff up stairs as well. I put one of my bags on one of the luggage racks in the sort of hall area of the train and then made my way forwards to my seat where I put my other bags. I was worried about my bag in the luggage rack (making up scenarios in my head about someone just coming on and taking mine—out of all others of course—off and me getting to Lyon before realizing it) but as the train pulled away, my luggage was still there.

I then moved my other bag in between two seats that were facing the opposite directions with their backs to one another (after seeing another girl do the same) and sat down with my book in hand.

The woman next to me was this cute little old lady who kept having to get up and get her snacks during the train ride. It was fine but she first asked me in French (probably saying “can I get out please”) which of course I would respond to with a dumb look on my face, which, I must say, I have perfected.

After some uhhhs and ummms, and her actually physically moving to get up, I realized oh, she wants to get up. She came back with several cookies and granola bars and happily started munching on them as we pulled away.

The train was great—I was distracted from my book by this cute little girl playing with her toy animals, she kept STOMP STOMP STOMPing them on her table in front of her and then playing cute with the guy sitting behind her which was making both him and I laugh. We made it into Lyon just before two and not long thereafter I hailed a taxi and was on my way to the hotel.

I got dropped off and the taxi driver tried to weasel his way into getting more money from me (“train and luggage fees, Miss”) and I just shook my head as I handed over my money. Yeah yeah yeeaaaah right.

I checked into my hotel which is this quirky place where I feel like I am the only one here. I had to switch rooms to get a non-smoking room, even though the guy at the desk warned me that it would be a “very large room.” And it is indeed and something straight out of the 60s. Brown and pinks and orange everywhere. The comforter is peach and yellow, the walls are peach—why, everything is just peachy!

I then ate my lunch (which I had bought before getting on the train at a supermarket near my hotel in Paris) which turned out to be a salmon salad which isn’t so nice after its been sitting un-refrigerated for a few hours. If I only knew French I could have saved myself from the salad, but oh well. I ate it anyways.

I then made a plan of action for the three zoos that I have to get to while I am based in Lyon. None of which are in Lyon, but Lyon is just the closest city to all of them. I will have to rent a car and drive to them all. So I decided that tomorrow I will rent a car for a few days and get to the zoos. So I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Lyon—first inquiring about renting a car.

I went in the tourist office to ask this (a fair walk from my hotel) and the woman working at the desk was like, “oh, that’s at dafjkhsdlfhsd” (something incomprehensible in French). And I was like, um, excuse me? And she was like, “ALKJSDHFLAJS” (again something in comprehensible, this time with more of an attitude with it).

So I made her point out this on the map, whatever it was and it turned out to be the train station right next to my hotel. Ooooh, that. Ok. So, how do I get there? She just looked at me as if I had three eyes or something. She said (sighing) “just go down this street, or this street, ANY street and you will find it.”


So I walked down this supposedly main pedestrian street and voila! I made it to the train station. Now I had the problem of finding a rental car place, which I eventually did down these stairs, and this escalator, and through this hallway. I went in the first agency that I saw, Hertz, and fifteen minutes later I emerged with a reservation for the morning for three days.

After that I spent the rest of the late afternoon and evening roaming Lyon. I say this because it was really like I was just wandering around getting sort of lost but finding my way back eventually. Its amazing how much I have developed this skill since I started this job—almost 8 full months ago! It shard to believe that so much time has passed!

I made it back to the hotel eventually. I ended up shopping a bit and having dinner at this sandwich shop, only because I knew that I could sit and eat by myself without any worries and could get a quick dinner and get back to the hotel for an early start in the morning. The people at my hotel are nice—the guy at the desk handing me my key back without even asking for my room number. Probably its because I am like the only person staying at the hotel, but I’ll pretend its because I’m such a great hotel guest.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.