Posted on 08-07-2007
Filed Under (Languages, France, People, Adventure) by admin

Though the beginning of our day was relatively calm, it’s becoming clear that every day will be full of surprises and confusion.

We got packed up and checked out at 11:00 with no snags. We headed over to a Patisserie Mike and I had seen earlier and got some incredible French sandwiches. We ate those and headed to the train station, which was across the street from our hotel.

We were lucky to get seats on a High-Speed train at 3:00, and hung around at a restaurant for a few hours but didn’t actually order anything. At 2:50 we finally boarded, and the ride itself was relatively uneventful.

Arriving in Paris about an hour later, we found a spot in the concourse and started deciphering the directions we had to the hostel we had booked the day before at Starbucks. It’s funny how at first its just gibberish, and things slowly make sense. “So, we take the RER [Subway/Train] B to the RER C to ‘Épinay’, where we should be able to find signs that point to our hostel… Simple!”

Once at the RER, we found that ‘Épinay’ was a tad bit misleading… Which ‘Épinay’ were we going to? Épinay-sous-Sénart, Épinay-sur-Odon, Épinay-sur-Orge, … ? The choices were endless. But, remembering it had to be one on the RER C, we saw that Épinay-sur-Orge fit the bill and made our way there.

The scenery as we went through Paris started bleek, but 30 minutes later it was much improved and we stepped off the double-decker train into an incredible little town with beautiful small houses and a bright energetic atmosphere. We didn’t see any signs for “L’Hotel Balladins”, which is what we were told we would see, so I searched around the town quickly to no avail. We asked people, and people forced their help upon us… We followed signs to ‘Le Centre Ville’, talked to two guys selling ice cream who friendily yelled while making hand-signs, “GAUCHE, GAUCHE, DROITE, TOUT DE SUITE DROITE… NON NON.. GAUCHE, TOUT DE SUITE…”, and it continued.

We ended up, after about an hour and a half from getting in the wonderful Épinay-sur-Orge, on a street corner, sitting on our bags, trying to find directions on our computer’s after locating a wireless network. Needless to say, this saved the day.

Apparently, there is more than one Épinay off the RER C, and we went in the opposite direction we were supposed to. So, after a ton of walking (keep in mind our back-packs really are huge…) in this Épinay, we headed back to the train, back into and across Paris to get to Épinay-sur-Seine.

About 45 minutes later, we find ourselves in a new Épinay, that is seems similar but not quite as nice as the previous. Again, we don’t see signs, but this time people we ask about Hotel Balladins actually have a clue to where it is, so we keep trekking with our huge packs and eventually make it. 

Our room is actually pretty amazing here, and somehow only $20 a night per person. We have 2 rooms and 2 beds, a bathroom with a shower, a kitchen with a stove, a nice TV, a dining room table… We were ecstatic when we entered. We’d been carrying our 50lb packs all day and walking miles in search of a place we were beginning to think didn’t exist, and it turned out to be worth the trouble.

Despite the crazy day we had, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. The truth is, this is exactly what I wanted to be doing. So far we’ve seen 3 little towns in France that are nothing like Paris and there, all we did was explore around, get a feel for the people and their lives there. I’ve really been enjoying working-out my French with people and its probably improved tenfold since being here. So, although I would love some days to just relax without a pack and enjoy a drink, I came for adventures like today and I think it’s worth the extra back-pain.



Ma on 8 July, 2007 at 10:28 am #

Nicky, what a fantastic entry today! Your last paragraph is quintessential Nicky - taking joy in the unexpected wonderful things you ran into on the crazy journey, despite the heavy backpacks and confusion. I’m very impressed with your French! I wonder how your German, Greek, etc, will evolve! Lots of love from your ma

Fady on 8 July, 2007 at 11:19 am #

Nicky, what a great entry; I have been loving reading the account of your adventures; they sound great; you also have a gift for writing about them; I also love your daily titles of the entries: ils sont MAGNIFIQUES!

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