“Parlez-vous anglais?” “Little” came the reply. “How much time for the next train?”, I asked. “20 to 40 minutes”, he said. The location: Aulnay-sous-Bois, a suburb in northeast Paris. No good reason to be there except that we had just been offloaded from our train and would now have to wait another 40 minutes for the next one to take us on to Gare du Nord in downtown Paris. I was tired, sleep deprived and irritable from my overnight flight, struggling with the few words of French that I knew, and frustrated that I was losing precious time in transit, on a trip that was short to begin with!
An hour or so later, I had checked in, showered and made my way to the deck of my hostel, which was by the Canal Saint-Martin – made famous in the film, Amélie. It was a glorious day outside, with the temperature flirting with the 20s (of the Celsius variety) – ‘tee-shirt weather’ as I like to call it! As I sipped on my Cafe Creme and awaited a Croque Madame, I watched as the 19th century lift bridge was raised, to allow a canal boat to pass, ever so often. Aulnay-sous-Bois suddenly seemed like a very distant dream. It was time to pinch myself awake – I was finally in Paris 😉