Listen: no matter how much your friends need help, don’t jump out of a train for them.
Saturday was supposed to be pretty normal. It was definitely going to be a full day–I had errands to run, people to meet up with, food to eat–but nothing that couldn’t be accomplished in under 10 hours with plenty of time to catch a train back home. [I was so naïve. So, so naïve.]
At 8h, I woke up to eat a snack and get ready to hop on the train to meet my friend at her station. Together, we rode out to Paris on the L, talking about life, or whatever. All I had to do was pick up my freshly translated birth certificate and hop on a train to Neuilly in time for a hair cut from a fellow au pair. A simple morning itinerary.
Instead, we ended up getting hopelessly lost trying to locate our stylist’s apartment and were late by around an hour and a half. Fortunately, that didn’t turn out too terribly–we had our hair done and were sent back on our way before 14h, making us only an hour late to a lunch date with a few of my Paris friends.
We’ve all been scurrying to figure out our vacation plans for October, so we spent a good few hours hashing out some ideas for our time off. Afterwards, we split up into groups, and my friend Caroline let us tag along for a foray into a local independent record label showcase. I love music but have never been super into the band scene, so it was definitely something new for me!
Basically, imagine lots of people crowding around booths selling things like band t-shirts and records. Now imagine a girl about half as tall as everyone else in the room sneaking around and grabbing free stickers from every table. That is me.
After the showcase, we went back to the Petit Palais to recover some of our friends. At this point, Nuit Blanche had just started to kick off. Nuit Blanche is an annual event in France and some parts of Canada that basically turns major cities into giant art shows. From 7 PM to 7 AM once a year, people get wasted and all sorts of artistic talent is proudly showcased in the form of shows, concerts, and more.
Petit Palais, an art museum to begin with, was showing a dance/culture show of some sort until 1 AM, so there was already a pretty big line snaking around the building already. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t on my agenda for the night, but I heard it was amazing!
It took us ages to find the rest of our group, but we were able to bask in the brilliance of that night’s sunset. Maybe it was because of the giant city-wide art show, but the sky looked like a Renaissance painting come to life, with its fluffy clouds and cotton candy colours. I just couldn’t resist the countless photo ops on the Pont Alexandre III!
Finally reunited, we decided that we were hungry and ran off to find a place to eat. It always takes about fifty years to decide on a restaurant in Paris, but eventually we settled on… Pizza Hut. Alright, maybe it wasn’t the classiest dinner I’ve had since I’ve come here, but it was affordable, hot, and reminded me of home.
As the sun set, Julia and I parted ways with the rest of the group and went off to meet up with our friends from Versailles, who had promised us a night of dancing in a Latino night club. That didn’t happen, but we ended up running into more people and going to a few bars instead, and by 2 AM, we were ready to call it a night.
THIS IS WHERE IT ALL WENT TO SHIT. Due to Nuit Blanche, myself and multiple friends had been told that the trains, which usually stop at around 1 AM, would be running through the night. We were SO WRONG. At around 2:30 AM, we’d made it onto what I would later discover was the last 1 train through that station. I was ON THAT TRAIN and as the doors started to close, I realised that two of my friends weren’t with us, because one of them had a faulty ticket and couldn’t get through the turnstile.
This is the exact moment I jumped off. I turned just in time to see one of my group members futilely try to stop the door with his hand, and catch the horrified expressions on everyone’s faces as they watched me leap to my own demise. I didn’t leave myself time to reflect on my actions or regret, since I figured I was being a good humanitarian or something.
‘Hey, no big deal, we’ll just catch the next one!’
Spoiler alert: There was no next one. Also, we eventually were ushered out of the relative warmth of the station and into the cold, harsh outdoors, because all of the trains had stopped and they didn’t want three temporarily homeless teenagers stinkin’ up the tunnels.
So, there we were. Trapped on the Champs-Élysées. Hungry, cold, and tired. We eventually found a few hours of warmth and safety after buying sandwiches from some fast food place and retreating to their nice little patio-dining area with heaters. With two jackets between us and only one of us [hint: me] willing to share, we sat and shivered until about 4 AM, when they turned the heaters off.
This is where it starts to get blurry. All I really remember is that I had to pee, and badly. Also, we ended up boarding a lot of random, eerily empty trains that didn’t stop for at least 75% of the stations they were supposed to stop for, and I was convinced we were going to die, but I was just happy that we could be warm for at least a little bit of it.
At 5:30 AM, the trains started functioning normally again, and heck if we didn’t board the exact wrong ones. By this point, my bladder was starting to collapse in on itself. By 7:15 AM, we had somehow made it to the La Défense station, bought tickets for home, and collapsed onto the proper train. I mean, I’m pretty sure I have permanent kidney damage, but I was home and in bed by 8 AM. My 24 hours in hell were up.
Anyways, huge shout-out to Julia for accompanying me on most of this crazy journey and bearing with my horrible navigational skills–she’s also au pairing for a year in France, and you can read her blog here!
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