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Published: March 22nd 2018
After a ’French’ breakfast at Port Royal, we wandered down to Montparnasse, found the local market for food, chatted to vendors, bought a beanie and took Sue to the Gare Montparnasse, the station where I last caught a train to Saint Jean Pied de Port to start the Camino.
The original idea to transit to Gare de l’est was to catch a taxi but my newfound confidence in my public transport smarts had us lugging a large suitcase, 2 backpacks and a couple of smaller bags up the steps of Bus 38 for the €2 trip to the station. Sue had a seat and nursed backpacks while I wedged the case on a wheel arch and stood there protecting it. The attractive lady in the seat adjacent to Sue gestured to me with a smile, for me to squeeze in next to her but I pointed to the case and declined her kind offer, as I always place passenger safety first, and I might add, always will.
People watching at busy train stations is an absorbing way to pass time. Sitting for 2 hours at Gare de l’est in Paris without having social media is probably an unthinkable hell
for some but how does Facebook compete with the woman in the furry coat bobbing up and down while clasping a magazine as though she’d just been handed the 10 Commandments, or the angry looking guy with the Van Gogh beard, sitting opposite me muttering to himself. Or the crowd staring at the train schedule board, all waiting for info with an intensity as though they just need the last lotto number for a win. To be fair to this group, I soon realised that your platform number only appears on the screen 10 minutes before the train is due to leave and this news activates a mass migration to that platform.
The clickety clack of suitcase wheels on the old concrete floors, the low murmur of french, and the announcements introduced with a few bars of music are the constant sounds, occasionally interrupted by a loud, sometimes heated discussion from the rail information desk just behind our seat. As I understand no French, I can only guess at what’s going on. I do feel a bit guilty at having made no attempt to learn even the basics but it’s a bit late now.
Sue can sit for
,,,,or so we are led to believe.
hours quietly but I get fidgety and need to wander around. I suppose I become someone else’s crazy guy to watch as they wait. I went and bought a roll, sat down and ate it, I walked outside, took some pics, sat down, went to find the toilet ( more about that later!), spent €.70, literally, and sat down, went and bought a Toblerone bar to share, returned and sat down. God I wish I had Facebook!
At this stage, Sue will be wondering about the Toblerone; sorry, I ate it while you went to the toilet. It was only a small one!
If you softly gaze ahead, the movement of people reminds me of ants or bees, crisscrossing and moving forward all with one purpose; to catch a train. Some stop suddenly but the flow adjusts as the person is slowly encased in a cacoon of humanity. Families form a conga line as though joined by an invisible chain, all pulling identical cases, youngest in the middle, blindly led backwards and forwards, with the blind trust only children give their dad.
Tha Gare de L’est, built in 1849, is one of the oldest railway stations in
Open Market At Montparnasse
An early morning walk uncovered this gem. Rabbits, pigs ears, geese with head on, fragrant cheese stalls, fruit and veg stalls with fruit and veg we’ve never seen; it’s all here at Montparnasse.
Paris. The arched roof is a web of metal and glass and the waiting area looks like it may have housed the original platforms. Renovations have seen the station double in size and it now boasts cafes, patisseries, and food carts, all catering to the boredom, impatience induced hunger that I’m a part of.
What do you call a poorly groomed person in Paris? A tourist. A slight exaggeration, but the French do tend to a level of grooming, manscaping and fashion consciousness not often seen in Australia. Maybe it’s the lifestyle, the closeness to the latest trends or whatever, but if a young man wants some of these French girls to pay him any attention, tracky daks and thongs ain’t gonna cut it!
With little notice, we joined the crowd moving towards platform 4 and were seated upstairs, nice and warm for our 2 hour trip to Luxembourg. As we left the station we were welcomed onboard in French and I wasn’t sure what it was ” Hi, enjoy the journey.” or “ The man in the check shirt in Seat 82 has explosives in his backpack!”. Hang on, that’s me!. After a nervous interval, we heard
it in English; welcome aboard!
Kilometres transformed graffitied rail yards and urban industry into clusters of high rise appartments on the edge of Paris. I’m sure this isn’t the Paris we are meant to see. Slowly villages and countryside emerge and, as in Paris, it’s difficult to envisage these peaceful surroundings with the turmoil of just over 70 years ago. Subtle monuments are in many significant locations including the Gare de L’est. I’m sure it’s passengers weren’t always commuters and tourists, and the monuments are reminders never to forget or take for granted our good fortune.
As the train speeds ahead, small villages with slate roofs and grey church steeples, green fields and blurry dirt banks come and go, and the atmosphere in the carriage is quite sterile. It might be exciting for us but most people are sleeping, working, staring at their phones or gazing blankly at nothing.
Tim was waiting when we arrived and had given us instructions not to move 1 inch once we were on the platform. I think he thinks we are pretty close to needing aged carers. On his advice we caught the bus without a ticket, as the inspectors are
very infrequent; we’ll see.
It’s snowing quite steadily now , I’ll rug up in a minute and walk to the local bakery and buy some pastries. I weighed myself this morning and seem to have lost weight, so the pastry and coffee diet continues. Look forward to the book!
To wind this up, we’ll go back to my railway toilet reference. Now, is it just me, or would anyone else out there find a female ‘bathroom attendant’ mopping the floor and topping up the paper and soap while you’re standing at the urinal a little unnerving, and it could even mentally affect the reason for the visit. Ladies, if you don’t understand this reference, ask your dad, brother or spouse........but you should get my gist.
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