We got to the train station quite early for our train ride to Paris, but the journey was delayed as a result of someone jumping on the train-tracks. We left for Paris at 2:30pm on the TGV – one of the fastest trains in the world. The journey was good with a proper lunch being served on the train – there are some perks to traveling with the faster, more-expensive option. I had booked an apartment for us in a place called Chelles. This was the first place I was to find with reasonable prices when I was looking for Paris accommodation. I would later realize that this price meant we stayed quite a fair distance away from the city and the inconvenience of a very long walk to the apartment. From the central Paris station, our stop was around 20 minutes away. This was not that terrible, but once we got off the train – with our heavy backpacks, we realized there were absolutely no taxis in this part of Paris. We asked around at a bar and a restaurant near the train station and we were told that the only option would be to call a taxi from Central paris (which would automatically charge us $40) to get to us. Thus with our backpacks, we began the 30 minute walk to our apartment. This became our daily routine while in Paris (obviously without the backpacks.) A 20 minute train ride followed by a half hour walk to our apartment or vice-versa depending on whether we were heading out or coming back home. On the plus side our apartment was lovely – and affordable. We got there around 10pm and immediately passed out after our long journey.
The following morning we went to town to catch the free city tour, but didn’t get there in time. We instead walked around by ourselves – we went to the fountain at St. Michael the archangel – the most flamboyant statue I have ever seen. After that we went to the world famous museum that houses the Mona Lisa – the Louvre. We then went to Champs Elysees - the beautiful 2km long boulevard which runs between Place de la Concorde and Place Charles de Gaulle and is where the famous Arc de Triomphe is located. We also passed by the royal gardens etc. Paris is extremely beautiful.
After what must have been a 20km walk, we went for dinner at a lovely Greek restaurant – washed down our dinner with delicious Kir cocktails (champagne and crème de cassis.) I begged the team to pass by a French lounge that I had fallen in love with a few years back (Les Soffleurs/the glassblowers.) I had wonderful memories of being directed to this place a few years back when I was working for the German Rail Company (Deutsche Bahn) in Saarbrucken, Germany and was in town for a meeting with the French rail company officials (SNCF). My first night there had been magical – I had spent it drinking lots of champagne with Chantal – the 65 year old Martinique owner, a few musicians from St. Martinique, some French actors etc. The vibe was great. I remember at 5am, Chantal completely refusing to accept payment for my drinks (because she said I was great fun and I was the first Kenyan she had met in Paris) and even getting me a free ride back to my hotel. After that trip, I had gone back to Paris that summer once or twice more to party at Les Soffleurs. One day I will tell you my Les Soffleurs stories. We walked all the way there and were sad to find out that it had closed up. I had been dying to see Chantal again and listen to her funny stories. I realized I didn’t even have her contact details anymore and silently wished that the universe would bring us back together.