Weeks and months leading up to this day, I imagined myself leaving home and walking to the train station with tears streaming down my face from the emotional trauma that would be saying farewell to my parents. I thought that I knew myself well enough to believe that I’d actually be a wreck, worrying about all of the eventualities, fearing for my life and feeling so physically sick with nerves that I would hardly make it on to a train.
What actually happened on the 4th June 2016 was the complete opposite to the above. Of course there was emotion and both my parents and even my big brother shed some tears as they bid me farewell and I had a few tears which I just about managed to control before making my way through crowds of people in the station. My train was at 17.00 so I had all day to sit around and potentially think about the worst things that could happen to me but in reality, I woke up that morning filled with immediate excitement. I woke up early but stayed in bed researching all the places I would be visiting, whilst cherishing my last rest in my own beautiful bed for what could be a looong 5 weeks of hard hostel beds and early starts.
As soon as I got on my first train, I had things to focus on: keeping my ticket safe, following the right signs, locating the cafe that I’d be meeting my group in. All of these little things stopped my brain from over thinking and going into panic-mode and the fact that at this point, I still hadn’t had one of those ‘SHIT what have I done?!’ moments was something I actually considered to be pretty positive.
At St Pancras, I quickly found my group – soon realised I was one of only two British girls mainly surrounded by Aussies – and in no time we were making our way through passport control and onto the Eurostar. We arrived pretty late in Paris and walked from Gare du Nord to our hostel (Generator Hostel). It was midnight by this point and the area around Gare du Nord is not the best first impression for first-time travelers to Paris, plus there was rubbish flying around the streets and sewage smells blowing up into our faces. This was maybe my 5th or 6th time to Paris and each time I had stayed in a different neighbourhood, each with different qualities and all in great locations. This area was not the best but I couldn’t complain about the modern design and cleanliness of the hostel, quick access to a metro station, free breakfast and great WiFi.
It was by the time I’d settled in my room and gotten in to bed at around 2.30am – after trying to do the sociable thing of going to a dodgy bar across the street for a couple beers, even though I was so tired I sat near enough in silence – that I started to feel a tiny bit low. My room mates were nice but we were all quiet and shy, it was my first time staying in a hostel so it can be a strange experience at first. I laid in my bottom bunk, listening to sirens outside and feeling kinda shivery, suddenly thinking about all the silly things I’d forgotten to pack. OK, they were very minor things but the way I felt on that first night, they felt like very major things to me. My life was going to be inside a suitcase for the next 5 weeks and I had to learn quickly to deal with that. There was no going back to collect my face moisturizer now!
However this was just a little freak out, a minor blip which was soon over when my brain completely exhausted itself and I knocked out. First nights sleep was crappy, intermittent and still pretty chilly but it was okay. And to be honest, I had already realized that during the next 5 weeks I would probably encounter a lot of things that would be just okay but putting everything into perspective and focusing on the beauty that I’ll see and the experiences I’ll have on my travels, I can deal with everything else being just okay.
I stayed in Paris for another day and a half before catching an early evening train to Interlaken, Switzerland. I was really looking forward to arriving in Switzerland, partly because it is a country I haven’t been to before but also because quite honestly, I felt like I was over Paris. As I mentioned, this was my 5th time in the city and I had loved it before but this time for what ever reason, I just wanted to get it over and done with. It’s sad that I felt like that but it’s the truth. However, this doesn’t mean that I HATED Paris, I still loved many of the same things I always love about the city and I will return, I’m just not planning on it for a few years.
The highlight of my time in Paris was visiting Versailles for the first time. When I eventually do return to Paris, I will definitely go back to Versailles and explore the other 80% of it that we missed due to arriving far too late in the day and having to leave to get back for dinner. Speaking of dinner, this was also another highlight for me as we ate in Le Bon Bock, the oldest restaurant in Montmartre.
NEXT STOP: Switzerland