Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Another (almost) miserable night in Paris!

We spent one miserable night in Paris on the very first day in France. We almost did it again a week later!!

On the first day of the session at EDHEC we got the timetable. The first thing we did was scan for contiguous days of no classes. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing… classes for the whole of next week? Woooah…this was awesome. We immediately set about planning a trip. The only thing to be decided was the places we would cover. We needn’t have bothered. Through out our trips, then and afterwards, our iternary would always be decided at the last moment, in spite of spending a generous time doing the planning. But plan we did, and starting from Paris was made definite.

The second journey to Paris, started eventfully enough, thanks to the Nice bus system which left us at the Gare SNCF train station just 2 mins before the scheduled departure. Running at full tilt with luggage, we got the train and sat down with a lot of huffing and puffing. Of yeah, one more thing, we had not managed to inform our folks at Paris whether we would be coming there or not. So they had an idea that we were planning a trip to Paris. But that was all. So there we were, sitting comfortably in the train, the famous TGV (te je ve), on our way to maybe another cold, sleepless night on some Paris train station, footpath (or jail??)

The TGV is the French super fast train and it duly deposited us at Paris Gare De Lyon around 11 in the night. We called up our friends’ place but were not getting an answer. We thought we would go their place and call them again. If they had gone out for dinner maybe they would be back by that time. Thankfully our experience with the London Tube metro had taught us well enough so that we could easily make our way to the Reaumur Sebastopol metro station. From there finding our way to the Rue De Caire was also simple enough, given the public maps and the clearly marked names at the beginning of each street. We even reached the apartment building quite comfortably. There we met our first stumbling block.

The entrance to the building was locked, with a password protection system. And of course we didn’t know the password. So back to the phone booth and again no response. This was not good. We didn’t want to spend another miserable night in Paris. For the moment we didn’t have any option but to sit outside the building. We wondered how suspicious we must be looking and whether somebody would call the police. The area was extremely seedy, with over flowing dustbins, dirty pavements and scruffy looking people shuffling about. One of the girls in our class had told us that Reaumur Sebastopol was a gay haven. That didn’t excite us too much. Plus the area was full of Asians, mostly Pakistanis. We weren’t exactly sure that this fact made us comfortable either.

We did some worst case sceanrio planning. Unwholesome thoughts entered our mind. I noted that there was a guy sleeping on the pavement in a sleeping bag. I had a sleeping bag. But what if there was a hafta system here too? Finally after numerous trips to the phone booth and ages spent in front of the door, we finally got lucky when a Pakistani living in the building helped us by giving Tirthankar the passwords to the place. He didn’t speak French or English and was very glad to find somebody who spoke the language he knew. So from the pavement to the inside of the building we had made a small step for us, and a giant leap for us. The apartments inside were not marked with numbers (and the flat number was what we had) and so we didn’t even know which door to knock once we were inside. With some astute detective work we narrowed it down to the apartment which our guys were supposed to be living in. This didn’t help coz nobody was answering the door. And we were afraid of going on knocking coz the apartment walls were so thin we were sure the whole building could hear us. We had no option but to sit on the stairs and wait. At least here it was warmer than outside on the pavement.

After what seemed like eons, we heard a lot of voices coming from outside the building door. And they sounded Indian. They were Indian. And they were IIMC voices. Words like 'lessliess' were not part of any other vocabulary!! At last we had been reunited with our IIMC brothers. So enough adventure had happened in Paris already and this was the first time we felt that the STEP program was not part of a conspiracy against us.

(Just for information, the reason why these guys were so late was because that night was a special night in Paris wherein the city stayed awake till the morning dawn. So you would have restaurants, bars, shops, etc open throughout the night. It’s a pity we just missed it, since every time after that we cursed the fact that Paris (and in general the whole of France) shuts down by 8:00. )


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