A favourite Rashaadism is “The fun starts when you arrive.”
So I began my vacation in France last Monday, January 13, arriving in a very dark Paris at 8 a.m. after taking the Megabus from London and crossing the English channel via ferry. As I hadn’t been in Paris since 2007 (Not counting arriving at and departing from CDG in February 2009 and only being in the city in transit), I was sure it would be quite fun to explore the city again.
Well… explore it as much as possible with a heavy-ass suitcase. One thing I love about the major railway stations in big Japanese cities is that they all contain luggage lockers. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in Paris (and other major French cities) due to the fear of terrorist attacks. So after buying a train ticket for Rouen at the Gare Saint-Lazare (the train station that serves Normandy), I decided to explore the nearby area…
Where I was reminded what the national sport of France is. It’s not football – it’s shopping. Right now, les soldes, which occur during a three-week period in January and February, are taking place. Clothes are discounted during the three weeks, and… they seem to be the only discounted item. But as much as I’ve always gotten the impression that the French tend to be fashionable people, les soldes represent heaven for the population. While much of the area around la Gare Saint-Lazare is comprised of high-end shops that are too expensive for my budget, it’s fun to see all the 40%, 50% and 60% discounts all over the city.
With a heavy suitcase, I was content to spend a lot of time window shopping in the big FNAC (a French chain selling electronics, books, DVDs and CDs) not far from the Gare Saint-Lazare. Since my français is definitely better than my 日本語, reading is a bit more enjoyable in France. The super great thing about that FNAC was that it housed several editions of Lonely Planet in English.
But the most exciting thing that happened during my day in Paris was a ça fait longtemps (It’s been a longtime) moment. The big reason I went to France was to meet up with people I haven’t seen in a longtime. I contacted – or tried to contact – as many people I thought were living in France before my arrival.
The first person who responded to me was Audrey, a gal I had met at my foyer. Someone I had met at the foyer had approached me, asking me if I could help Audrey with her English as she wanted to work as a flight attendant. I gladly agreed – it certainly didn’t hurt that I thought she was (and still is) very pretty 🙂 She left the foyer in late 2005 (I lived there from late September 2005 to April 2006), and I haven’t heard from her too often. So I was quite thrilled about the possibility of seeing her.
(Actually, as she was leaving the foyer, she had written a short goodbye message, thanking me for all the help I had provided in English and wishing that I could find another person at the foyer who could speak English when I was “fed up with French.”)
Anyway, Audrey has some exciting news going on in her life: she’s five months pregnant 🙂 (She had mentioned in an e-mail to me that she was pregnant, so it was certainly no surprise seeing her growing belly). She’s a bit uncertain about what the future will bring – mainly whether she will be staying in Paris or moving out of the country. Fortunately, she can still speak English very well. She has worked as a flight attendant for several airlines (but not Air France) and being in Paris has provided her the opportunity to meet lots of English speakers. Audrey was able to meet up with me because she’s currently not working while preparing for the arrival of Milan Alexandre (I hope that’s the correct spelling).
I certainly hope we can meet up in the future. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing when I will be able to meet up with friends in France again, but I would be so thrilled if I can meet up with Audrey and Milan in the future 🙂
Here are some more pictures of my day in Paris: