July 1, 2015 (Wednesday) – After our day at the Chateau de Versailles, we headed back to the RER train station to grab a train back into Paris. We were looking forward to doing some extra stuff when we got back into Paris. However, things did not go smoothly for the end of this hottest day of the year so far.
When we arrived at the Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche train station, we all had to line up for train tickets. That was confusing. There were different ticket vending machines and we couldn’t quite figure out which one was the right one. The queue for the manned ticket booth was also very long. We took our chances with the machine. We got our tickets in the end, but I was ruing the fact we didn’t buy return tickets on the Paris end.
Then we got to the platform. There were a couple of television screens at the platform entrance; however, it was hard to tell which train was going where. All the names on the list on the TV didn’t look like the names of the stations in Paris. So I was very reluctant to board any train.
Then there was only one TV screen halfway down the platform displaying information. However, again, the names on the screen were not the Paris station names that I expected. A couple of trains had pulled in and then pulled out, but I was really afraid of getting on the wrong train.
When there was the name of some Paris stations on the TV screen, I thought we finally had the correct train. We got on and sat down. However, I noticed that a lot of people who got on the train suddenly got off the train after a few announcements. As with all P.A. systems around the world, the words were all garbled. Plus, it was in French. My French was not good enough to pick out all the quickly spoken and garbled words.
Admittedly, I panicked and we got off the train because I thought it was the wrong one. I got off partly because I saw a group of Asian-Americans with a French companion had gotten off the train. I had overheard that they were going back into Paris. So if they got off the train, I thought we should too.
Then we got onto the next available train and then we sat. We sat there for a very long time. More and more people started to board the train. With more people in the train, it got hotter and hotter. Remember, it was a mercury busting 38C outside. Fortunately for my wife and I, we had pocketed a couple of our Daiso Japan-bought fans that we got last year. Our Spanish seatmate appreciated the occasional fanning too.
On our train, there was a group of young Americans working as bicycle tour guides. One got a phone call from his coworker. Apparently, the train that had left previously (the same one of which we had gotten off earlier) had caught fire in the 38C weather. The train was stopped ahead on the tracks and nothing else was moving in either direction.
Oh boy. At least we weren’t on the train that caught fire. Who knows how much longer we were gonna be stuck in the train. One of the bicycle tour groups decided to risk getting off the train and grabbing a bus to get back into Paris. Another bicycle tour group decided to stick it out and stay in the train.
I don’t remember exactly how long it was, but we eventually started moving. The chime rang from the train, people scrambled back on the train and the doors quickly shut. It was stop-and-go for the first few minutes as another train came into the Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche station, but at least we were moving.
I don’t remember what our original plans were for the late afternoon in Paris, but it was already 6pm. So what should have been a quick 30 minute train ride became a 2 hour struggle. By the time we got into Paris, we just decided we needed food. The only restaurant that we wanted to go to was Leons de Bruxelles – famous for their moules frites, or mussels. I was also hoping for some cool air conditioning.
The only Leon de Bruxelles that I knew how to get to easily was the one on the Champs-Élysées. So we got off the RER train at Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel station. We walked over to the Bir-Hakeim metro station on Line 6 and took the metro to Charles de Gaulle – Étoile metro station. From there, it was another 10 minute walk down the Avenue to the restaurant itself.
Mercifully, we didn’t have to wait for a table. We were seated right away. Not so mercifully, there was very little air conditioning in the restaurant. There was an air conditioner on and running. It just wasn’t blasting Arctic temperatures like air conditioning in, say, Hong Kong. Alas, that is how air conditioning is in Paris.
I guess the air conditioning is turned down low in order for customers to order cold beverages. In my case, it was definitely true. I ordered a chilled glass of Pelforth Blonde and we also got a bottle of water. We were still fanning ourselves until our food arrived. When the food arrived, no photos were taken. We were just too hungry.
So that wasn’t the end to Canada Day in Paris that I was expecting, but it made for good blogging fodder in the end. Can’t complain. Santé!