Paris and my sense of direction
It is only six past five in the morning. People in the bus are slowly waking up. The bus driver informs everyone to get out “final stopuh” he says with his French accent. I woke up hours ago, in fact I don’t think I really slept at all. The snoring people around me, the uncomfortable seat, the pain in my neck, the hot air. I always thought I could sleep anywhere but I guess I should rephrase that into I can sleep anywhere but the bus from Amsterdam to Paris.
Arriving in Paris
I get out of the bus, throw my bag over my shoulder and start walking. In the wrong direction. I have no map, no phone and apparently no sense of direction. Or maybe I do? After a couple of meters walking in direction ‘left from the bus station’ I decide that this is not the right way. I walk back towards the bus station. The homeless man puts up his bottle of beer, he gives me a toothless smile. I guess he cheers to my sense of direction, the sense that I have always cherished. Uphill I go.
I don’t know this part of Paris. The houses look subordinated, the paint peels from the walls. Besides the homeless there is no one on the streets here. They are totally empty, not only are there no people, nor cars but I also miss the beautiful Parisian buildings, the advertising letters on buildings, the smell of croissants, the beautiful lanes with big trees. This outskirt of Paris looks like, yeah, every other outskirt of every other city.
The right direction
A crossroad, great. I look left, right, back, right again, left again. Now my cherished sense of logic comes at hand. Right I go. There are some men repairing the street. The fact that I see a boulangerie, closed but still it is a boulangerie, makes me feel I’m going the right way. Suddenly the trees appear, fresh night air makes way for the warm sun rays. Tall buildings loom in front of me on each side of the lane. Yes, I’m on the right track.
My bag still swung over my shoulder, a smile, sleep in my eyes and I guess I still smell like the guy who was sitting next to me on the bus. Nobody pays attention to me. Actually the people don’t look very happy. Why aren’t they happy? You’re in Paris! I want to tell them, but of course they already know that. A small juice shop around the corner is open and I decide to buy an orange juice. “Un jus d’orange s’il vous plait”. It is not a secret that I think French is the most beautiful language of all. It is a secret that I have had four years of French but am still only able to order a jus d’orange et du pain au chocolat.
Finding the apartment of friend A-L
With my jus d’orange I continue my search for the apartment of friend A-L. I met A-L about half a year ago when she slept on my couch in Amsterdam. We were friends immediately, good friends, best friends even. Now I came visiting her in one of my favourite cities on earth; Paris. On a small Heineken paper I wrote her all the hotspots of Amsterdam and on the same paper I wrote her address. I look at the note and at the street signs. I’m not sure how far away from her apartment I am. Before I left the Netherlands behind I checked on Google Maps which way I have to walk. I have a good memory and trust it in full.
I go left and enter another beautiful lane. Huge Parisian buildings with the cutest balconies are located on each side of the wide lane. In the middle of the lane is a row of amazing trees, huge trees. The lane is full with boulangeries, shops that sell fresh juices, ice creams or macarones. Small supermarkets, travel agents and the cutest book shops. At the end is a roundabout with restaurants and bars. I finally found Nation, now it is only a matter of time I arrive at friend A-L.
We meet again
I cross another street, turn right, left. Look at my little note and smile. My sense of direction has not disappointed me. I ring the bell and hear a beep. I open the big wooden door, which is quite heavy. The inside of the building is marvellous, the stairs are small made out of wood. The tiles on the wall are as anyone would imagine a French apartment should look like. I start walking the stairs. Level one, two, at three I start to breathe heavily.
Two more to go. While I arrive friend A-L is waiting for me with a smile and her arms wide. “Bonjour et soyez les bienvenus” she hugs me. “Pourriez-vous trouver, il est facile?” she asks while taking my bag. “Oui!” I reply. There is not much time for talk, sleep is waiting for me with his arms wide open as well. I fall onto the couch and doze off, only to waken up by the smell of fresh croissants, jus d’orange and my favourite pain au chocolat! There is no better way to start a weekend in la belle Paris!
Ever lost all sense of direction in a city? If so, what did you do?