Nightmare is the operative word here, I guess, in that all hope seems lost while you’re in the thick of things. When you finally manage to wake up, you’re a little unsettled, sure, but what felt so real seconds before is now only a fading memory, a conversation topic when you’ve run out of pertinent things to discuss.
Over the past week, I’ve had my share of travel mishaps, and in turn, small miracles that keep me believing in myself, in other people, in the idea that things are working out exactly as they should.
Last Sunday, all my friends had left for vacation already and I had taken the train to Paris for the day to go to the Louvre (free with my proof of EU residence!!) and check out the window displays at the big department stores. I met one of my teachers at the station — the one whose class gave me the hedgehog, how ’bout that — and we sat next to each other and talked about snow and homes and the future. She assured me the trains would still be running for my return trip back to Evreux. Not really — when I made it back to gare St. Lazare, wet-footed and back aching, I discovered (natch) that all the trains headed to Evreux were doomed with a retard indeterminé or canceled altogether.
After taking a defeated spin in the neighboring arrondisements, hoping that the train conditions would improve once I got back, I found that I was still shit out of luck. I weighed my options: booking an expensive place in Paris, hanging in the unheated train station until the trains started running again, or going halfway to a town with train service and hoping someone with a car could pick me up. I texted an English teacher to ask if there was any possible way she could drive and find me along the way, adding in mille mercis and feeling bad to even suggest the favor. She responded saying that she couldn’t pick me up — because she, too, was stuck! in Paris! Technically bad news, but for me, excellent news — she would find me in St. Lazare and we would figure out what to do together.
She arrived in the crowd with her boyfriend and mother-in-law in tow, having just come from a (somewhat boring, according to her) wedding. Without much time for debate, they bought tickets, grabbed me — and I was headed on a train to a strange woman’s house with my English teacher, whom I had mostly only just exchanged pleasantries with before. Talk about being outside your comfort zone. But her and her relative could not have been more welcoming — they were very nice, taking the time to explain untranslatable French expressions and always offering more food, asking more questions. We stayed at her boyfriend’s aunt’s house in a beautiful, sleepy village outside of Paris with a view of the Seine. She had a cat named Minou with a cone on its head and served vegetable soup and pasta with salmon for dinner. As stressed as I was about not being safe in my own bed, these people, and this great place I wouldn’t have found if it weren’t for the fact that I had actually left the relative safety of Evreux that day, definitely made up for it.
But broken-down train stories and stressful travel experiences don’t stop here! Stay tuned for more.