So I catch a train to Paris from Lyon and figure that when I get to Paris, I should be able to find my way to London and ultimately Scotland. I’m down to very, very little money and figure I might be doing some hitchhiking soon, but praying I don’t have to. I was banking on there being a relatively cheap bus ticket available between Paris and London, so woo hoo for Euroline busses!
I get into Paris around 11 pm and I was thinking I would just crash in the Gare de Lyon train station, but it closes shop at Midnight. I tried a couple places that I figured no one would find me, but someone always did. I wasn’t desperate or stupid enough to crash on a bathroom floor, so I dejectedly gave up and stepped outside. I thought about wandering the streets and crashing in a park, because afterall, this is the city of lights and it had been almost 10 years to the day since I’d been in Paris (minus the couple hours I spent there earlier in the week when I went from Hendaye to Paris’ Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon and then to Bourg-en-Bresse at 6am). The Eiffel Tower wasn’t big on having a nightly light show when I was there in high school, so now seemed a good a time as any to explore. So I’m outside and I walk about a block or so and discover the Blue Planet Hostel and think, you know what, I’d rather sleep on a bed than in a park, so I check in and nix the idea of seeing the Eiffel Tower at night. I had a room to myself and once I shut the window to the courtyard, went to bed. From my window though, I could see the sky light from the Tower, but not the tower itself…there’s my lightshow folks.
I wake up in the morning and discover I now had two Russian roommates, they were cool for the bit we talked. I was getting out early because I needed to find an internet cafe to find a bus schedule and I wanted to take a free walking tour of Paris, so I needed to be to be to Saint Michaels Church by 11 am. I leave my bag locked up at the hostel and hit the road. I find an internet cafe and after a bit, find a bus schedule. It’s not leaving till 6, so I have time to play tourist, but by the time I find the info I need and leave the cafe, I’m not sure I’m going to make it to St. Michaels in time, so I just head to Notre Dame, figuring I could meet up w/the group there.
At Notre Dame I’m outside relaxing and taking everything in, when this woman from Somalia comes up and hands me a piece of paper. On the paper it explains that she is from Somalia and living in Paris with her sister who is very sick and they need money to take care of her. Now the thing about me, is that I have an amazing memory, I remember the most random things in the world, including 10 years prior when visiting Notre Dame having a woman from Somalia come up to my group and hand us a piece of paper explaining her dire situation. I also remember we gave her some Francs (we had to, we were on a church trip to see the Pope and we were at a church, it only made sense back then). Back to the present, I read the letter, stifle a laugh and just told the lady I had already given her money and I walk away. Inside the cathedral, I sat down and prayed for a bit and decided I should get back outside if I want to catch the tour group. By now, it’s pouring rain outside, so I go back in and take the free English guided tour. In the decade sense I’d been there last, they erected a plaque commemorating Pope John Paul II’s visit there in 1997 when he beatified Frederic Ozanam, the founder of St. Vincent de Paul. I read the plaque and remember thinking, “Why didn’t we go to mass at Notre Dame that day if the Pope was going to be there?” We didn’t even know that something cool like that was going on. Oh well.
I stayed at Notre Dame until the rain ended and since I had never found the walking group, I just headed out on my own. I saw the Royal Palace and the Hotel de Ville. I grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back to the hostel to get my bag. I needed to head across town to get to the bus, so I said good bye to touring Paris and thought about getting to London.