Today was quite a long day, but a pretty good one! Bear with me, this is a long post. You might want to get a cup of coffee and get comfy J
I woke up this morning at 7 and began packing my things so I could be out of the FIAP by the 9:30 check out time, and still not miss breakfast. It’s included in the price, after all! I succeeded in all of the above, and started on my journey to the Gare Saint-Lazare. Saint-Lazare is a big train station in Paris that a lot of regional trains run though, including the train from Paris to Rouen.
I got to the train station around 9:45am, and started my trek to the ticket counter. Saint-Lazare is huge, with a lot of staircases both under- and aboveground, so lugging my suitcases and backpack-heavy body around the place was exhausting. I was having trouble finding the ticket counter, as there are different counters for different types of tickets. There is the SNCF office, where I bought my carte 12-25, and then there is a line for tickets for the metro and bus, and then a separate area for train tickets. I asked a man in the “ticket” line (for the metro/bus) where to buy un “billet” (implying it’s for a train) and he pointed to his right and said “Rouen? C’est par là”, indicating that I had just come from the area of the billetterie. I about-faced and headed back in search of a ticket to Rouen.
After walking around and down several flights of stairs, I finally found an automated ticket station that actually sold tickets to Rouen (the window where people might stand was closed), only to realize that I could not buy a train ticket without a France-issued credit card. French credit cards all have a microchip inside, so mine was definitely a no-go.
I went back in the other direction yet again, up lots of stairs, past the man who misled me, and into the area where the actual trains depart. This is also the area where I took a train every day from the center of Paris to my host family’s house when I studied abroad in 2009, so you would think I’d know that regional train tickets were also sold here. Well, I do now!
I bought a ticket, which was 50% off due to my carte 12-25, and boarded the train. Even second class is much nicer than a normal metro, each row with two sets of 3 large and cushy seats facing one another. I’m going to be a nerd now and say that it reminded me of the trains going to Hogwarts J
Beside the fact that I nearly killed a man trying to retrieve my almost 50lb suitcase down from above his head, the voyage went smoothly. However, I was supposed to meet one of my new friends at the Rouen train station when I arrived, but my cell phone had mysteriously stopped sending texts earlier that morning. I later realized (hours later) that while texting is free, it does not work unless I have credits on my phone. But I thought I had €5 worth of credit on my phone reserved for emergency calls? Au contraire, my friend. The lady at Bouygues failed to mention that my precious €5 would expire in 3 days if not used. Glorious! This left me incommunicado from the morning until about 3pm. Live and learn, and read the fine print!
I arrived at my hostel quite successfully, having gotten to the train station, taken the metro to a bus stop, and a bus to my hostel. I usually get lost merely finding the bathroom in a restaurant, so this was quite a proud moment for me!
I opened the doors of the hostel to find nobody at the front desk. I looked around, then hung out on a nearby chair for a while, figuring it was around lunchtime and, being Europe, the receptionist was surely eating lunch and would be back shortly. After about 20 minutes, I looked at my reservation again (another lesson – print out all hotel/hostel reservations!) only to read some more fine print stating that check-in time was from 6pm-10pm. What?! Since when is check-in at 6pm?? “Should I sit here until then?” I wondered. Yes, it was just shy of 1pm, but the thought of lugging my suitcases over more cobblestone roads was just too much to bear.
Enter my savior, la femme de ménage (the cleaning lady).
I greeted her and asked her in French if perhaps there was someplace safe I could store my things until 6pm. She was so kind and said, “Of course! Let me finish here and I’ll be right with you!” Hallelujah! She placed them in a big empty room and locked it up. “Voilà! Tell the owner when you come later that they are in room 4”. Hoping this was not all a big scam but not caring enough to babysit my luggage for 5 hours, I departed for the cobblestone streets of the centre ville!
I took the bus to La Cathédrale de Rouen, which is also a famous painting by Monet. It was as gorgeous as I’d imagined, and there was some sort of festival going on! I saw live dancing and also found a Bouygues boutique, where I bought €35 of credit that will expire in two months. I can handle that!
With my new phone credits, I texted several girls that I knew were already in Rouen, and we planned to meet up. Turns out, I was texting one from literally down the street, so I joined her where she was eating lunch to have a café. Then we met up with two other girls in town and walked around for a bit before deciding to head to their place (a cute vacation rental) for a cheap dinner! We each bought something simple and pre-made at Monoprix (French grocery store), a baguette from a boulangerie (bakery), and, with a €6 bottle of champagne, we toasted to our new lives in Rouen! We then chatted about apartment hunting, as 3/4 of us are still looking, ideas about teaching, and places we hoped to travel. It was a great night, and I think what all of us needed. It’s nice to know I already have friends in an area where I have been less than a day!
I got back to my hostel at the appropriate check-in time, procured my (safe) luggage, and headed down to my room. This is a shared-room hostel, so I could potentially have three roommates. As of now, at 9:30pm, it is just me in the room. However, check-in lasts until 10pm, so I guess I’m not quite in the clear yet… (10pm and still have my own room by the time I’m done writing, yay!)
Tomorrow I will go headfirst into apartment hunting, which is appearing like it is going to be a struggle. The girl who already has accommodation basically took the first place that didn’t require a bank account to rent, and it’s more student/youth housing than an actual apartment. At least it’s somewhere to call home! I hope I have some luck in that department J
So far, I really like Rouen. It’s a cute place, much smaller in Paris, and quite refreshing in that regard! In the center of Rouen, there is a lot of shopping, surrounded by tons of cute cafés and beautiful buildings. I can’t wait to show my pictures! Apparently it rains a ton here (as per my contact woman), so I will save that for a rainy day in the nearby future.
Wish me luck tomorrow!