I arrived at CDG airport at the very early hour of 5.30 AM on Friday morning and found it blissfully empty. I made my way into the city on the RER train to the Gare du Nord, with only a slight struggle to get myself and my suitcase off the train before the doors shut on me. Upon exiting the train station I realised that I had no idea in which direction my hostel was located as I had failed to look at the map before leaving. I knew that I was on the right street, but where, oh where, was number 73? After a few laps of the street in the drizzling rain I found it and arrived hot, sweaty and cursing myself for packing 20 kilograms of stuff in my suitcase.
I deposited my backpack and suitcase in the luggage room and only put the essentials in my handbag. Once back on the street I discovered that those essentials did not include my phone, camera or umbrella! I decided this was for the best as I could therefore pretend for the day that I was a local (it must have worked too, as I was approached three times for directions!). Continuing in my ‘Parisian local’ fantasy I set out from the hostel with the intention of just walking and watching Paris wake up. This turned out to be a silly idea as I walked for what seemed like hours without a clue where I was or what the point of my walking was. One chocolat chaud and pain au chocolat later I ended up at the Arc de Triomphe. (For those of you playing along at home, if you plug 73 rue de Dunkerque and Arc de Triomphe into Google maps you will see just how far that is, and I certainly didn’t walk such a direct route and I was wearing boots with a small heel!)
Finally having my bearings, and figuring that the Monet exhibition would be open by now, I jumped on the Métro to the Grand Palais to get in the queue. The queue was long. And then I overheard the couple in front of me asking the security guard how long it would take to get inside: five hours. FIVE HOURS. I decided I had not come all the way to Paris to stand in a queue in the rain for five hours and so backtracked to the Métro.
I spent the rest of my morning browsing through the shops and wondering why I had brought any clothes with me when I could have quite happily begun my wardrobe again from scratch. I resisted temptation (the memory of lugging my suitcase around the morning and the fear of going over the baggage weight limit helped) and bought only an umbrella.
I avoided the tourist sights, with the exception of Notre Dame because I knew it would be open, dry and there would be somewhere to sit down (it was the same story when I dropped into the Église de St-Germain-des-Prés)! Even though I scarcely saw any tourists all day Notre Dame was packed.
By 3 PM I was knackered and my hostel room was available so I headed back there to finally have a shower (thank goodness for hats, or the people of Paris would have thought I hadn’t heard of shampoo) and relax. I bought a few supplies at the grocery shop, enjoyed the free wi-fi and had a good chat with my room-mates before succumbing to exhaustion about 8.30 PM.
In spite of the rain, the sore feet and missing the Monet exhibition, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even in the rain Paris is magnificent. The grey skies just seemed to add to the city’s beauty by complementing so beautifully the stone of the buildings. I am already looking forward to going back there with Kyle!