Whew! I’m here. Like, I’m actually in Paris, France. OK, it’s the airport and I haven’t clear customs yet but none the less I am in a foreign country. So after customs and picking up my bag it was now a question on how to get to my hostel. Like any airport they can be situated within the city or outside. Paris CDG, named after the French General Charles De Gaul sits about 30 min outside Paris. There were a plethora of transport options to take. I chose the train as it was a good way to see the country for its first glimpse and that is how I was getting around most of the time while in Paris. The Paris Metro is old but quite distinguished and beautiful. With its unique Art Nouveau architecture, classic trains and stations with names like Oprea (named after the famous Paris Opera) to Pierre Et Marie Curie(famous scientists) and Robespierre (the famous French Revolutionist who made beheading quite popular), there was always a piece of history to see and learn about. So, 80 Euros later I had a ticket and found my way to the station where I could get on an inbound train to the city.
Remember the intro? About getting on the wrong train? I was so tired that after arriving at the airport train stations, I hopped on the first train that was available. As soon as the train departed, I stuck my head to the window to gaze up the city that awaited me. The train ride was pretty quiet and I dozed off a couple of times. I did get a glimpse if the St. Denis Stadium which is the national stadium for the French Soccer Team. The suburbs of Paris were pretty big, with shopping centers, gas stations and small houses that could be like town homes in the US.
Finally after what seemed like a whole day the train arrived at its final stop: Gare Du Nord. One of six main train stations in Paris, it has trains going all over France and Europe. I got off the train and wondered through the maze of Parisians heading to work. I should point out that my French wasn't the greatest and I had no cell service in France. I had the next best thing: printed out Google maps! So I looked for a friendly person who would help out a solo traveler. After 5 minutes of walking around, I found the street level entrance and a security guard standing at the door. In the best French I could muster, I asked him which way to my hostel. Thankfully he was nice and noticed my limited French, so in his best English he pointed out which way to walk. Feeling a bit more awake knowing that sleep and a shower where close i said a friendly "Merci!" and took my first steps into the city of Paris.
Even at 8:30-9am the train station was busy and the surrounding streets were bustling with people. I walked down the street with my suitcase in tow, gazing upon the different shops and signs and getting used to the flow of the city. I was able to recognize a few things from my previous trips to Europe. For instance, a green cross meant that it was a pharmacy and once could get anything from toothpaste, over the counter medicine and like Walgreens or CVS back in the states, makeup. Ibis, a hotel chain that has different types of hotels ranging from budget to moderate styles. It is similar to what Holiday Inn and Best Western in the US is. And like everywhere, there was a Starbucks or McDonalds every block or so! I also saw some stores that I wouldn't have thought outside the US (Five Guys Burgers. Apparently it is quite popular in France).
After walking for what seemed like forever I reached the hostel and was so ready to crash and fall asleep. I dragged my suitcase into the lobby and went up to the front desk. A young lady greeted me and as i gave her my paperwork I was looking around the room and seeing what this hostel company was about. After 5 minutes, she looked confused and told me that she could not find my reservation. Hearing that I went from really tired to really awake quite fast! I asked her to run the information again and she did, even letting me see her computer as she did. I couldn't believe that my reservation wasn't found and thought my vacation was ruined. She then called for a colleague and her coworker immediately stooped what was wrong. Turns out I was at the wrong hostel location...They have another one on a canal but its up the canal a few metro stations. Fortunately they were really nice and helpful to guide me to the right hostel and even showing me what station to go to, to get on the right train. Now feeling embarrassed, awake and tired I walked out of the lobby and headed to the right metro stations(which was about 3-4 blocks away). You must wondering how I mixed up the hostels. After looking at the paperwork and maps, I Googled the right hostel name but in my excitement of this vacation I chose the first one that popped up, rather than looking at the list -_-.
So I then made my way to the correct metro station and by now, I was really feeling tired and a first of the day: hungry. I wasn't too sure on what was around and I didn't really want to bring a suitcase into a restaurant(even though I can see plenty of tourists eating outside with their suitcases and bags) and what if I got sick and couldn't find a bathroom right away(its happened before ha ha). My stomach continued to grumble while I got on the train and headed to the correct metro exit. I couldn't stop thinking about food and wondered what was around my hostel. After 10 minutes of sitting on the train, I got off and proceeded to exit and view my new neighborhood for the next week. It had everything: food, groceries, shopping of all sorts and the metro station was only 1 block from the hostel.
Feeling a bit better, I walked down the street where my hostel was located and found a cafe where I picked up my first food in France. A chicken mayonnaise sandwich with water and a bag of chips. It was actually pretty good and my stomach full I went next door to the hostel and checked in for a nice shower and some much needed rest.