On the Lamb: Paris 2012 (Part Un)
The Bloggist Is Away

We were on our third day in Europe, a displaced dude and his girl-beard. The two days we spent in Amsterdam were fun – we sure didn’t want to leave so soon – but we couldn’t help but feel excited for our next stop…

You’d think that one entered Paris to be instantly greeted by the steely imposition of the Eiffel Tower, but not quite. Having arrived a couple of hours before noon, it was not exactly The City of Lights yet, but that was expected. Because we took a train from the Netherlands, our first experience of Paris was Gare du Nord, the ‘North Station’. I snapped up this token picture:

Don’t worry, the Eiffel Tower will be in EVERY photo later.

This photo, unfortunately, was the last I took before I realized that it wouldn’t be wise to have anything remotely valuable on display – no cameras, no phones – because the conditions during our arrival were exactly what travel guides warned people about. Hell really was other people.

Among a huge throng of morning travelers, Joanne and I found ourselves lining up for – err – something… was it tickets? What was happening, exactly? We somehow ended up with one ticket each for something – good! – only, how would we use them? The subway platform was within the same building. We knew we wanted to go to Gare de l’Est (‘East Station’, near our hotel), which was one stop away via the subway, but looking at the map, we suddenly weren’t too sure…

Oh, look! There’s Waldo! [thanks, Wally]

Welcome to the Métro de Paris, the densest rapid transit system in the world. We tried to ask the information counters – there were at least three – but all were closed. Since it was 10:30AM, we figured that the attendants were probably on their brunch break. While Joanne and I argued whether the broken line connecting Nord and Est on the map implied a walkway or a train line, a dude approached us and offered to help. He told us to take train #5 and asked whether we already had tickets. We showed him that we did, and he said, “No good. You need other kind. Come.” And we did. Stupid creatures.

He led us to a ‘special’ machine that was conveniently a bit out of the way. Joanne stayed a few meters behind to attend to our stuff while I watched the dude rapidly punch the touchscreen, instructions in French. It showed ’30,15€’. He said, “This machine do not use cash. We use my card, good?” Without waiting for an answer, he handed me my new ticket. “Two, yes?” Another ticket. Crap. He then asked for €60. I walked to Joanne and asked her for the sum. She asked, incredulous, “What?” I answered, “I saw the price. The tickets are for unlimited rides. I think he’s offloading credits like with SM gift certificates.” “But that’s too much.” “He already bought the tickets before I could object. I think he got the most expensive ones to use more credits, but they should be good… I mean, they’re thirty-something euros each. I saw the numbers.” She reluctantly handed over the money, and I, in turn, walked over to the dude to pay him. As he turned away, I gave him €1 to account for the surplus cents. He paused, slightly surprised, and said, “Thank you.” It was then that I knew we had gotten duped, though I wasn’t yet sure how badly – funny how his face would reflect guilt at that extra euro.

Look, we knew what was happening. It even felt as if we were observing our fleshy forms from a distance. The red flags were all there, but we were desperate for help of any kind. It’s not like we didn’t look like dazed prime pickings too, you know? We were fish in a barrel. There was just no sane way for us to blend in like locals.

You don’t say?

In our defense, we were tourists – and what would tourists be except stupid and entitled livestock? I suppose we were doubly so for expecting assistance, but why should we not? It was one of the busiest places in one of the busiest cities in the world… why would the info booths be unmanned so early into the working day? Even our worst LRT stations have helpful Manong guards available at 10:30AM, for crying out loud.

Even Bourne encountered some. [thanks, Bourne]

Slightly jarred, Joanne and I rode escalators down to train #5, per the dude’s instructions. On our descent, we realized that we were idiots to have panicked so early – we should have saved it for the Métro platform. Gare du Nord, being the busiest Métro stop, was a bustling warren of commuters. It’s also over a hundred years old, as evidenced by the narrow tunnels and the foot-worn stairs. It wasn’t a very good place to get lost in, to say the least, especially with the anemic lighting and the generous sampling of odors. To further the ambience, turnstile-jumpers had their merry way (in other stations, they’d even jump in full view of the ticket office). To be fair, I found French subway commuters to be less rude than those in New York (for what it’s worth). Despite the grime, I also didn’t observe any brown-tipped stalactites such as those in NYC. Nevertheless, the earlier incident with the conman colored our situation.

“Are we going to die?” Joanne asked.

“Yes,” I replied, assuming the fetal position. “Aren’t you glad we have travel insurance?”

“Did the dude say which direction to take?”

“Did he? I don’t remember. Oh, God. I think we’re about to earn miles and rebates on our organ donor cards. Did you sign yours?”

“What!? Did you just pee yourself?”

“No, that’s just the – err – eau de toilette – err – de Métro…”


De toilet.”

Toilet water? It’s not that I detest the smell of urine, no… but if I found comfort in that aroma, I’d just remove my bathroom lights and play Space Mountain with ‘lasers’ every night. I wasn’t the type who’d pee in a subway station, besides. I was good tourist. I’d be scared: when one pees in the Métro, one gives leptospirosis a rat infection.

I then remembered that I had GPS capability in my pocket (ladies…), so I told Joanne the words she dreaded most, “Let’s just walk.”

“But. But. Far! Bag! Big!”

“No far. No far. Not more than thirty minutes. And it’ll be sunny out… it’ll be safer. We won’t get mugged by subterraneans or attacked by vampires.”

Except the sparkly kind. [no thanks, Twilight]

And we did eventually find the hotel. Upon checking in, we asked the receptionist whether the tickets that the con-dude bought us were good. She said, “Oui, no problem. But this is for children and handicapped. I suggest you do not use.”

Joanne quickly said, “Oh, we won’t”

Oh, we totally will. Sure as balls, we will.

To distract the lady from my girl-beard’s devious meanderings, I remarked, “So, then… he not only played us like yoyos – he also tricked us into breaking the law? What a con.”

Oui, monsieur. He is a cunt. You speak good French. He is a vagin.” [no thanks, Google]

I felt defeated. I knew that it would already be difficult for us to enjoy our Paris visit without referring back to the incident. If anything, the walk to the hotel had us reassessing the city, too. It was charming. The French folk, likewise, were wonderful. With not a lot of time on my hands, I decided to track down the villain who took our money. I resolved to use my skills and old contacts as an ex-CIA agent to man-punch my way through Paris with my man-fists and get my €61 back – until I realized that that was the plot of ‘Taken’.

I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t give me my €61 back, at fifty-two pesos to the euro, I will write about you on my blog-thing using stern words like ‘con’. [thanks, Taken]


If you want the gluttonous CONTINUATION, please click here.

If you want to view the Amsterdam write-ups, please click this instead.

If you want to go through past TRAVEL pieces, please go here.

If you want to visit stuff about FOOD, please go here.

Categories: [dickery], [travel]

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