My second Watsoversary fell on quite a proper travel day. After spending a lovely evening on the 19th drinking claras and sharing tapas with the women from the Encuentro, I packed up my things and headed to Madrid’s Barajas airport. I arrived at Terminal 1 around 1am, where lots of people were already camping out at Ryainair’s check-in corner. I found a table, folded my scarf trying to make it as puffy as possible and went to sleep with each of my bags wrapped between my legs. The noise of rolling luggage woke me up around 4am and although I definitely fell asleep for at least 3 hours, I was extremely sleepy.
Long, winding lines soon filled the room and after spending around 20 minutes in one, I realized I had incorrectly chosen the baggage check-in line and not the visa check-in line, as I had also done in Barcelona. I have no yet conquered the airline/airport landscape, especially since the liquids restrictions can be ignored, strictly enforced, or only sort of applied. In some European flights, I’ve been asked to place liquids in a plastic bag but have been allowed to bring in a container with water, which is why I was so sad when my perfect travel mug was thrown away at Madrid’s security station. I could’ve saved it by going through security again, with the mug empty, but doing so would’ve been a long ordeal my sleep deprived body didn’t want to go through.
I arrived in Paris at 9am and after another long line and an hour long bus from Beauvais airport, I made it to center city. I only had until midnight before my night bus to Chalon-Sur-Saone departed, so I headed to Gare du Norde to drop off my large backpack in a locker. This entire process was more difficult than anticipated because the station is very big and the lockers are tucked away in a corner on the bottom level. I luckily obtained one of the last two lockers and ended up leaving the station until 1pm.
I got on the metro with two goals: getting to the Eiffel tower and buying myself a crepe. I accomplished both simultaneously and ended up sitting on the green grass surrounding the iconic tower while I ate my jambon et fromage crepe. It’s cliche to say that it was magical to be in front of the Eiffel tower but I was pretty star-struck. It’s not as big as I thought it would be, but seeing the famous structure stand tall in front of me after having seen it configured in key chain form all my life, was definitely exciting.
I found Paris’ metro difficult to navigate and also the most aggressive I’ve ever been on. It might be a very comprehensive system, as you make transfers between metro and railway lines with the same pass in the same stations, but as a first-time user, it’s complicated to follow and the stations themselves have confusing (and tiring) layouts. As I went back and forth on long hallways and up and down stairways, I found myself missing Madrid’s color-coded metro system that was so simple to follow. I also don’t know French, which complicated the entire process (and made me spend double the money on metro passes because I didn’t realize I could buy an all-day pass for 11 euro until later in the day).
I made my way to the Louvre and Tuileries, walked across Pont des Arts footbridge to witness all the promises of love made over the years, sat at Jardin du Luxembourg for a bit, and revisited the Eiffel Tower at night once it was beautifully lit up. For the first time in weeks, I definitely felt a little lonely, walking in the beautiful city by myself amidst lovers, families, and other tourists. But this is the Watson sometimes.
Before departing, I had a big scare because I ran out of money and could not find an ATM machine. I’m not sure where the French get their money because I couldn’t find an ATM anywhere, not even inside the metro. When I finally found one, I received an error message from my card, which sent me into panic mode because I foolishly, had only brought one of my debit cards with me from Barcelona. Lots of failed attempts later, I tried to take out money with my credit card, even though this had never worked for me in Barcelona. After losing my luck I got it back because it worked!
I left Paris with three crepes in my stomach and a sharp pain in my right foot. All of the walking I did through the unfriendly metro system and confusing Gare du Norde didn’t do any good to my recuperating foot, but despite leaving with a sad foot and freaking out over my ATM crisis, I’m really happy I was able to squeeze a visit to Paris before reaching my final destination, Taize Communaute.