So I never ended up at the Louvre. I ended up in Germany instead. Weird right? It was the most stressful, surreal and spontaneous thing I’ve ever done. And I don’t do spontaneous. Spontaneous leads to train stations in the middle of no where with no idea of what to do next, or my pants ripping, or on the side of the highway with an empty fuel tank. For some people that’s okay, but it’s not for me. So you can imagine how crazy I felt for doing all of this.Thursday night I got a message from a family friend who’s more family than friend. He asked if I wanted to come visit him in Heidelberg. “It’s only a three and a half hour train ride” whispered the voice in my head. So I booked it. Bing, bang, boom. I was to be on a train out of Gare de l’Est (or Paris Est, if you’re German and what I’m going to call it from now on) by 7 AM. Then it happened, the first hiccup of my journey. The website sent me a happy note confirming my booking, but in not so fine print stated that I would need to print out my ticket. Erm, I was in Paris with no printer. The nice German train people wouldn’t care if it was on my phone right? If Air Canada does it, I’m sure other places will do it too. Oh how naive I was.
So 5 AM Friday morning rolls around and I roll out the door of my Paris apartment with it. I get to the metro by 5:25 AM and the first train was to arrive in ten minutes. Too bad the screen was telling me the train would be arriving in twenty five minutes instead. I started to panic. I had no idea how long it would take me to get from Javel to Paris Est and what if it took longer than forty minutes? So I did this really fun thing I do when I get nervous where I hold my breath until I’m really light headed and on the way to passing out. I did that for about 6 minutes. But it was okay in the end because the screen magically changed to inform me that the train would be arriving in 4 minutes. And exhale. So off I went, transferring at Odeon and on my way to Paris Est. I arrived early. Sweet. I sat until my train showed up and promptly went to the nice German train lady to ask her if I could use my electronic ticket to get on board. The smile slid off her face pretty quickly and in a thick German accent told me “No”. N-O. In that moment, I had never hated something more in the English language than that word. No. She couldn’t help me, wouldn’t help me. All I could do was purchase a new ticket. Expletives went flying and so did I to the nearest ticket machine. Did you know that buying a train ticket during Europe’s high season ten minutes before said train is about to leave is expensive? Well it is.
I grabbed my shiny newly printed ticket and ran all the way back to the train lady. She was smiling and patted my right shoulder while exclaiming that I’d bought a new ticket. Well no shit, she didn’t give me much of a choice. So on the train I finally went and sat down. I think I had 5 minutes of calm until I realized I had only bought a train ticket to Mannheim. I bought a train ticket to Mannheim and I was going to Heidelberg. Damn. Double damn. So the first hour and a half I spent in a fitful sleep, the other hour and a half I spent telling myself to breathe and calm the hell down. There was another train leaving Mannheim for Heidelberg ten minutes after the one I was scheduled to be on, but I was expected to be on that first train, not that second one. I forgot to write down phone numbers and addresses before I left, I had nothing. I needed to be on that first train. Did I mention that I had less than ten minutes to buy a new ticket and find out where I was supposed to be once I got to Mannheim? About 2-3 months ago at Nationals I hurt my ankle. Like a “you just tore half of the ligaments in your foot but not really” kind of injury. Nothing major (this is sarcasm). Well I hurt it again the week before I left for Europe and was told it wouldn’t be back to normal until September. Funnily enough, I can tell you that the moment I was sprinting through the train station trying to reach the gate, my foot had never felt better. I was like a 5-foot Usain Bolt with a backpack of the same size pushing old ladies and small German children out of the way. It was kinda badass, but it would be all in vain if I didn’t make it onto the damn train. But I made it. Barely, but I made it. And to tell you the truth, I only checked the gate number. I didn’t even check to see if the train was going the right direction (it ended up being the right one).
When I finally made it to Heidelberg and saw a member of my pseudo-family, I may have shed a tear or two. What a sight for sore eyes he was, and I was so so so relieved to have arrived. I spent the rest of the day wandering around the cobblestone streets of the town and ducking in and out of every air conditioned building I could (it was 37 degrees). My friend’s wifey (who is my friend/family as well) had a German lesson, so we hung out in a cafe with their new baby. He’s the cutest little pork bun I ever did see. After she was done, we all went back to their place and ate dim sum and German sausage for supper. Yes, I went all the way to Germany to have dim sum. It was so great to see them, and I really wish I could’ve stayed longer than one night. It was more than bittersweet leaving them, because they made me feel so at home when I needed it the most. But I guess that’s just how the cookie crumbles. So here I am (or was, when I wrote this) being stared at by wide little eyes over the seat in front of me, and getting sympathetic looks from the train guard every twenty minutes. Because honestly, getting there may have been hard, but leaving was even more difficult. I may or may not have cried for the first two hours of the train ride back to Paris.
ps, I hijacked this bottom photo from P’Erb. Kaaaaay thanks! <3