I really, really, really don’t like incompetent people. I just don’t think it shouldn’t be that hard to do something efficiently and quickly. So, I figured getting our Eurail tickets from France to Spain would be a breeze. Man alive was I wrong.
The day started off so well, with a delicious breakfast (more bread!) and great conversation with our roommates. We were all leaving the room — the other two had been there for three months and five weeks — so we had a life-affirming conversation about how no four people in the room would ever be as cool as us. Plus, because it was our last day in Paris and we had plans to walk down the Champs-Élysées and climb the Eiffel Tower, we figured it would be a great photo day, so we took extra time getting ready.
Then, we decided we were going to be proactive and get our tickets for the overnight train about 10 hours in advance. But because we didn’t speak French, nobody seemed to be able to tell us where to go. We were told the Eurail office was on the first floor, then the third, then to the right, then to the left, then straight ahead, then back on the first floor, then back on the third floor, where it actually was.
For 45 minutes, we stood in a line that looked like it was the place to buy tickets. When we finally got to the help window, we put out our passes and asked the guy at the counter if he spoke English. He wrinkled his nose, shook his head and pointed to the left. We thought it meant someone to the left spoke English, but he got annoyed with us and kept pointing left. That’s when we saw a whole different line for the Eurail passes.
At this point, we had already been in the train station for over an hour — and it was only about to get worse. The Eurail line was the most inefficient thing I’ve ever seen. Apparently, the train workers had come off strike within the past couple of days, so they were still a little pissed. And it showed.
The line never seemed to move. It felt like it took each person 30 minutes at the travel window. We disparaged with some other American travelers who were also backpacking through Europe in a trip almost identical to ours. At one point, one of the two windows that was open closed, promising to reopen in five minutes. (It was more like 20.)
Finally, after more than two hours, we made it to the window. And that’s where we met Fabrice.
He took two minutes to respond to any question, he typed with one hand, and he kept helping the person next to him instead of focusing on us. Ugh.
Clare and I had mapped everything out at the hostel to make sure we knew where we were going and when we wanted to go, but when we got to the window and tried to be efficient with him, he just gave us a blank look. Apparently, the overnight train we were trying to take didn’t have any empty seats for us with our Eurail passes.
We told us we could take a different train that would mess up when we got into Madrid or we could just buy tickets for 90 euros each. Clare and I panicked, called our mom, which obviously made sense because it was about 4 a.m. back home and she had no idea of the situation.
I was so annoyed, I just glared at him. Then we decided to leave the line. (Bad idea, in retrospect.) So Clare and I wandered around the station trying to figure out our next move. We decided to just buy the tickets because we didn’t want to screw up our plans in Madrid — and because we didn’t want to wait in anymore freaking lines.
So, we just left the station and decided to try and salvage our day, starting on the Champs-Élysées. We took a video for our cousin Jordan in front of the Arc de Triomphe, and we got videobombed by a Frenchman. He asked us where we were from, said he thought the Arc de Triomphe was “cool” and was then on his way, as were we.
We went to the famous macaron shop Laudrée, and, one bite later, the day was magically better. Seriously, those things are amazing. Clare and I each got a macaron for right then and got eight each in these adorable little boxes. Oh, and our video bomber found us again, yelling out “CALIFORNIA!” as he passed us. I love this city.
Sadly, we didn’t have time to head over to the Eiffel Tower and climb to the top, but because we’d already done it and my knee was so bad, it wasn’t as big a deal to me. I did feel bad for Bear, however, because she seemed really excited about it. I guess that just means we’ll have to come back to Paris another time!
On our way back to the hostel to collect our bags, we realized that we needed to grab some food. The entire trip, Clare had wanted to find a baguette in a cute French bakery, but we’d been unable to grab one for various reasons (such as time of day and location).
But, we found one… on, perhaps, the most famous shopping street in the world. Some girls walk along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to shop, Clare walks along there to get bread. Sounds about right!
We took the Metro, walked to the hostel, grabbed our bags and headed back to the train station. Our train was scheduled to leave a bit before 10 p.m., and we got there around 7:30 p.m. I had to take a number to talk to someone at the window, and Clare went downstairs to try and figure out another plan of attack.
But, because it was late, some people weren’t there for their numbers to be called. So, the line moved more quickly than either Clare or I anticipated, and she wasn’t up there when our number was called. Of course, as if something else needed to go wrong, my card wouldn’t work.
Because Clare wasn’t there, I had to drag all our bags over to this little area that had wifi (and I thought French people looked at me strangely before), and checked my balance. It was completely fine. The day just kept getting better. (Apparently, in Europe, the cards use chips, which my US-based card doesn’t have.)
Clare and I found each other, and she stayed with the bags as I ran off to go try and find an ATM. I stumbled across a security guard and spoke to him in my broken French. That
didn’t quite work, so I had to resort to miming. Once he understood I was looking for a “cash machine,” he took me to another security guard, who took me outside the station, up a flight of stairs and pointed across the street.
I got my money, came back and bought the tickets, and we were set.
The train isn’t exactly what I imagined, but it’ll work. We didn’t want to pay an extra 30 euros for beds, so we’ll see how comfortable these seats are. I’m not too hopeful. But, we’ll be in Madrid tomorrow, so there’s that!
Things I learned in France:
- People really love their Sephora. Everywhere we went, there was at least one guy or girl carrying that little bag. I’d fit in well here.
- Dinner is overrated. I don’t think we had a sit-down dinner at a restaurant our entire time in Paris.
- People dress much better here than they do back home. Even the little children were dressed better than me.
- One of the people in our hostel was from South Africa, and apparently not many people from there are able to travel because their currency is so weak.
- Paris has lines everywhere for everything. Not so fun for an antsy person like me.
- Americans really can be obnoxious.
More photos from the day: