Monday, December 13, 2010

My Not-So-Frigid Trip to Paris!

Last Wednesday, I made the decision to take advantage of Dijon's Saturday aller-retour TER to Paris that costs only 18 Euros.

*record scratches*

Non-French Speaker: "Aller-retour? TER? WTF do those things mean?"

Aller-retour : individually, each word means "go" and "return," respectively. So, the translation is essentially "roundtrip."

TER: acronym for Transports Express Régional trains.

However, the "express" part is quite misleading.

In order to fully understand what I'm talking about, I will compare the TER to a faster train. The big dog version of the TER is the TGV, Train à Grande Vitesse, which is similar to Japanese bullet trains. On a regular TGV ride, Paris is a mere hour and a half away from Dijon, and the cost for only an aller simple (one-way) ticket ranges from 44 Euros and up. The same prices could be for a TER, which, unlike its speedier, modern cousin, takes two hours and 58 minutes to get to Paris.

In short: an 18 Euro roundtrip train ride is dirt cheap, even if it takes three hours to arrive to the City of Lights. It leaves Saturdays in the morning at 5:46 and arrives in Paris at 8:44.

The slight problem? There are no buses before 5:46 a.m.

This honestly is not a drastic situation because the train station is easily a 50-minute walk from my apartment, but I would also have to consider that I would need to give myself the extra walking time to the place in 32 degree F/ 0 degree C weather plus worry about potentially being raped by some horny, half-crazed drunk dude who could be lurking behind the bushes. Yet for the bargain price of 18 Euros, I suppose that I shouldn't be complaining about minor things like my safety and personal well-being.

As it turned out, though, I didn't have to walk to la gare before the crack of dawn. I had paid my landlord a visit and, when I mentioned what I was going to attempt, they offered to drive me over there. Part of me wanted to say "YES! Hallelujah!" on the spot, but I instead replied that they shouldn't be inconvenienced and wake up earlier than needed on a Saturday morning because of me.

They still did, anyway. They even kindly invited me have a quick breakfast of buttered bread and café au lait in their kitchen.

Yet prior to that moment...I was up at 3 a.m. trying to fix my hair and make-up in the darkness of my room. The night before, around 11, the electricity went out in the apartment. I resorted to trying to put on my contact lenses by the glow of my cellphone. I also found my crappy flashlight.

Why is it crappy? Because in order to make it function, I have to shake it up and down in a frenetic and slightly jerking-off suggestive fashion while it makes a loud rattling sound. I imagine that if someone had overheard the dialogue I had with the flashlight at 3 in the morning, they would have heard something around these lines:

Oh, and to add insult to injury, it has the tendency of turning off if I don't tip it at a certain angle. This conveniently happens when I have to set it down so I could put on some damn eyeliner and mascara.

I put on my red turtleneck dress, white scarf, black gloves and my new brown leather, heavy-duty waterproof winter boots which make me feel like my name should be Nanook of the North.

Very recently in the news, there were stories about how Paris had come to a complete standstill due to all of the snow. Thus, I had been anticipating to see France's capital under a frozen sheet of white slush. I also wanted to give my Nanook of the North boots a test drive.

Imagine my odd mixture of relief and disappointment when I strolled around the 8th arrondissement and saw this:

The Louis Vuitton store is huge.

The lamposts are intricately decorated!

Mr. De Gaulle, I tip my hat off to you.

I imagined that this promising display would look splendid at night, so I made a note to try to come back to see it all lit up...

L'Arc de Triomphe. Les Champs-Élysées. Le village de Noël. Sans neige.

Not a single flake was to be seen. Not even a measly pile of snow stubbornly refusing to melt.

Well, no. I did see this expertly-crafted refrigerator around Place de la Concorde.

As well as this Grande Roue!

I ventured further and walked past the Madeleine church and checked out a couple of Joan of Arc monuments.

I just had to take a picture of this tree; I haven't seen leaves for weeks!

Creepy Statue is creepy...

Jeanne d'Arc: the Patron Saint of France

I even strolled by Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré! There's not much to it except stores which peddle things costing more than what I will probably earn in my lifetime.

Now, let's play the Window-Licking* Game!

I will show you the window displays of some stores and I want you to guess the brand!

*The French for window-shopping is faire du lèche-vitrines, which literally translates as "window-licking."


First store:

Know what it is?


Second store:

Able to get it?

It's Chanel!

How about this store?

(Bling-Bling Bunny FTW!)

Any thoughts?


Yes. Really.

I always thought that Hermès was an ultra-fancy store that sold way-over-priced scarves, but I suppose they also offer macarons and Bling-Bling Bunnies. *shrugs*

Okay. Last one! How about this store?

No clue?

Well, I found out that it was actually a toy store called Au Nain Bleu (At the Blue Drawf). I was just about to keep walking until I passed the third window display:

The Napoleon costume sold me to at least step inside the place.

Gazing upon the rows of princess dresses and plush stuffed toys, I felt just like a little girl again and almost wished I could be young enough to tug frantically at my parents' pant legs and beg them to buy me something.

I wish this were so because I fell in love with an adorable cream-colored teddy bear sporting a royal blue ribbon and piercing crystal blue eyes. Its plush fuzziness invited me to give it a hug, which I did.

It was just so soft. It seemed to melt in my arms. I wanted to name it Buttercream and call it mine.

Ah, love is such a fickle thing, particularly when it will cost you 63 Euros of your hard-earned cash which could be spent on more practical items.

Still, I wasn't too upset about the heartbreak of letting Buttercream slip away from my fingers. I soon saw this pink raincoat in the Burberry window display and its hefty price set things into a better perspective.

It costs 950 Euros.

I'd have to save two months of salary, after I've paid my rent and forgone food, to even consider investing in such a worthlessly expensive item. On the plus side, if I spent two months not eating food, I would have legs as thin as the mannequin's...

Later on, I met up with a friend, one of the English assistants who is also in Dijon, for lunch near the frightening train station Gare du Nord. Rather than having a meal at a bistro, we opted for something with a little more Belgian flare: Quick Burger.

My tour continued. I took the Métro and headed off to the butte of Montmartre to be at my favorite spot in all of Paris, the Sacré Coeur Basilica!

But even there, I had my spirits dashed. Opting to do some exercise, I decided to take the stairs. At the top of the steps, I was greeted by a group of four Gypsy kids who blocked the path. Clutching clipboards and pens, they silently pointed to the papers with the pentips. I silently shook my head no and attempted to walk past them.

One girl grabbed my left arm and tried to get my attention. She pointed to my purse with her pen. My senses sounded a red alert. There were four of them and one of me. One was trying to distract me. I needed to get out of there.

Then, rather unlike myself, I pulled myself away brusquely and said quite forcefully in French "I already told you NO!" I quickened my step.

I felt like a horrible person afterwards. I almost never raise my voice to others, let alone a kid. Even one who might try to steal something from me when I was off my guard.

I had to continue. I climbed back down.

Nightfall was upon me and I still needed to do some necessary chocolate shopping at the Galeries Lafayette gourmet foods department. I took the Métro and headed off to Boulevard Haussmann.

O. M.G. I could barely navigate past the sea of shoppers to even see the window displays. In fact, I didn't see the window displays! There was such a crowd on that street that you would think the whole of Paris had obviously nothing better to do than go shopping for their Christmas gifts that day.

Oh, wait...that's probably what they were doing.

I decided to go inside to avoid the large crowd by melting into a slightly smaller large crowd. I kept glancing nervously at my watch. It was already 5:15.My train was at 7:16 p.m. and I still needed to see the Champs-Élysées at night!

But the shopping took much longer than I expected. I wanted to at least give myself an hour to travel back to the train station and it was nearing 6 o'clock! I finished my one-day tour of Paris by doing a quick, but mandatory, pilgrimage to La Tour Eiffel!

I arrived to my train with only 10 minutes to spare...

I'm still beating myself up for not having seen les Champs-Élysées at night. It is said to be absolutely spectacular with all of the Christmas lights blinking on the naked tree branches. I guess I shouldn't have done so much window-shopping during the day...

So, I'm debating. I want some advice: should I go back this Saturday to see the Champs-Élysées lit up and be dead-tired when I travel to Provence on Sunday...or should I stay in Dijon and get a proper night's rest before going off to the South of France for one week? What say you?

Barb the French Bean


  1. Beautiful pics, I especially like the ones of the Eiffel tower at night.

    Sorry about Buttercream. :(

  2. Are those Donkey-shaped snuggies in Au Nain Bleu? Aka, blanket/jackets in the shape of animal skins? Because that makes me laugh and wonder about the price at the same time.

    It blows my mind that people would spend nearly 1000E on something like a rainjacket. Sheesh.

    Galerie Lafayette at night is beautiful!!

  3. I totes say go back and see les Champs-Élysées at night, making sure you allow enough time to get back to your train/transportation.

    I personally would be grumpy and tired the next day, but be glad I saw it instead of always kicking myself for having missed it.

    Some of that architecture is just abso-freakin-lutely stunning. As was my choice of words in that last sentence. I'm kind of like white trash with a thesaurus. lol.

  4. Great photos.

    We saw those Christmas stands getting set up while we were there.

    At Sacré Coeur Basilica we did not encounter any kids but we did get ripped off by to guys who forced bracelets on us. They literally caught us around the finger wrist with thread and started making the bracelets. I should write about that one later.

  5. Hi French Bean! Those are amazing pics. I love your trip to Paris. I'm somewhat in awe of everything from creepy statue to chocolates to fashion. Okay, not in awe of the makeshift refrig. ;) This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your trip to Paris here and I'm glad you didn't have to walk 50 minutes in the cold.

  6. That was the longest post I've ever read. EVER. Good though... Paris looks nice!

  7. Fizzee: I'm not too downhearted about losing Buttercream...but still. I will never forget him.

    J: Yep. Those are indeed donkey-shaped capes. There is apparently a French tale called "Peau d'Âne" and it features a princess dressed up like a donkey.

    And the capes in question were quite expensive, too. :-P

    Stephanie: I might actually skip the Paris trip this Saturday. I'm quite ill and I should probably stay home taking care of myself. --.--

    Stu: PLEASE tell this story!!!!

    Melody: Thanks so much! :-D It's my pleasure to share these photos.

    Johnny Utah: Well, I'm honored that you read it. ^.^


  8. Hope you feel better... sorry, I've been away for a few days and auto-set my last post.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Get better soon!


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb