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Misadventures in the Parisian Subway

Overall, my European Literature class’s excursion to Paris was a success. For the first time in my life, I got to explore the famed city, see the Eiffel Tower, and experience the beauty of the Mussée d’Orsay in person. In a city with such rich history and culture, it was natural that I would end the excursion with an interesting tale of my own.
 Overlooking the Seine

Our day started at 5:30 a.m. and went until 6 p.m. We were awake and running for over 12 hours. We had caught a bus, taken a bullet train, and walked miles around the city. With our professor, Dr. Smith leading us, we visited shopping centers, monuments, and other locations that inspired our class’s latest reading assignment, The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola. In just one day, we visited Le Bon Marché Department Store, Place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, Pont du Caroussel, Palais Royal, Opera Garnier, Galeries Lafayette, and Au Printemps.
 The top floor of Le Bon Marché

When our tours ended, I met up with one of my best friends from school, Briana. She tagged along with her dad on a business trip to Paris. We hadn’t seen each other since May, so we spent all of dinner and the rest of the night catching up.

Neither of us had been to the big city before, so we naturally had to go to the Eiffel Tower. But, being inexperienced and on limited wifi, we walked twenty minutes before we stopped to see how long it would take to get there. To our chagrin, we were two miles away, but thirty minutes from the nearest metro stop. Cursing our luck and lack of planning, we decided to walk the last forty minutes to the Eiffel Tower.

 Embracing my inner tourist

When we reached the monument, all our weariness faded away as we basked in its grandeur. I felt miniscule beside the towering steel arches. It filled up the sky, and its lights illuminated the streets around it. Briana and I stayed there for almost two hours just talking and watching the light show.
 Briana and I in front of the Eiffel Tower

We left around 12:45 a.m., and took another fifteen minutes to walk to the nearest metro station. While we knew what our respective stops were, we had no idea what rail lines to take, and if we even needed a transfer. A kind worker at the information desk gave us a map and highlighted the routes, stops, and transfers we needed to get home. The number six would take us in opposite directions, then Briana would take the number nine and I’d take the number seven. Briana kept the map with her, and I had a photo of my directions on my phone.

As we walked to opposite sides of the track, my phone buzzed. I looked down at it, and my screen glowed white, then went black. It was dead at 17% battery. I tried to turn it back on, but it flashed 1% and died for good. In a panic, I yelled across to Briana, “My phone’s not working!”

Instantly, she grabbed at her map, offering to the open air between us. “I’ll give this to you. I can get a new map.”

Our trains were arriving in less than a minute; so instead, I had her read off my transfer, metro line, and last stop so I could commit it to memory. But, being a terrible memorizer, my ride home was filled with the fear that I’d take the wrong train and end up on the opposite side of Paris. We promised to message each other once we were home safe.

Briana and I waved goodbye to each other through the windows, smiles tight with nervousness. In an instant, the metro zipped us away in opposite directions.

 The map of our metro routes

I didn’t get lost on the metro, and thankfully both Briana and I made it home in less than an hour. Still, it was not a pleasant experience. I was paranoid that I’d lose my way and be trapped in a remote station with no phone and a limited French vocabulary.

The second and final day of my excursion went just as fast as the first. My class visited Place des Vosges, Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, and Musée Jacquemart André. We returned to Aix en Provence by 11 that same night. The trip was fantastic, and I learned more than fun facts of the city.

In short, it’s always an Aix-cellent idea to bring a portable charger for your cell phone. Or learn how to navigate the metro in advance.

 Just hanging around Paris

Madeleine C. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a junior studying English at University of South Carolina.

Madeleine Collins is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is currently studying at University of South Carolina.
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