Thalys was cool. I wandered in to Paris’ Gare du Nord station hall and began looking for a phone card. I noticed that not only were all the signs in French, but that all anyone spoke was French, unlike the Netherlands, where nearly everyone knew English. I recalled Stefi’s lament that French, Italians, and Spanish all sucked because they never spoke English. This might seem a queer complaint for a German to make, but I’ve noticed that in my travels, English is the common language in which us travellers negotiate our way through foreign countries and customs, whether we are German, Brazilian, Japanese, or American, Canadian, or British.
Next, I noticed a booth that sold phone cards. I negotiated for the cheap one with my fingers, and was approached by an old bum who reeked of liquor. He seemed to want to take my change, hold my bags, take my phone card, and in the end contented himself by lightly brushing my buttock as I turned to walk away. I gave him a brief parting glance that expressed, “you have definately crossed the line and entered the realm in which you may be subjected to public embarassment or violence.” I thought that he was a magnificently offensive introduction to France, and I couldn’t help but sympathize with him a bit; Drunk bum in a train station, lonely for whatever it is that drunk bums in train stations get lonely for. Was it affection, or a desperately clumsy attempt for my wallet, which I don’t keep in my back pocket.
I next acquired a carnet, which is a book of ten â‚¬1.20 metro tickets for â‚¬9, and took the metro to Le Fouconnier hostel, which was this unexpectedly pretty castle in the middle of Paris. My room was down several dark hallways on the third floor, and was extremely pleasant, very clean. It ran me near â‚¬25 for the â‚¬21 room and the â‚¬2.50 membership card, as they’re not affiliated with HI. They only allowed guests under thirty years of age, and the place was crawling with many a young’n. I ducked out to enjoy my first French cuisine, which was the Bouef Plat du Jour atop fried rice at a Chinese place. The meal came in under â‚¬6 with a Coke, and tasted pretty good.
I set out towards the nearby Bastille, in search of a night club, but all the ones I could find opened at 11PM and cost â‚¬15. Given the Fouconnier’s 1AM curfew, I couldn’t justify it.
The night was spent in the company of two Japanese boys, one with a cool, punky look, and the other gaunt, pale, and subdued. Both were pretty quiet, occasionally speaking with each other in comfortable Japanese. Our fourth roommate was allegedly a Belgian, though none of us ever saw him awake.