Normally, I would not want to hang out in a train station for long. And truth be told, we wouldn’t have stayed in Gare de l’Est for even an hour if things had gone our way (more on that later). But circumstances dictated that our wisest cause of action was to stay there for a few hours before boarding our train to Strasbourg, where our trip was meant to take place (for the most part – we did have some Paris time planned, but that was on the back end of the trip).
So yes, here is how it all went. We arrived in Paris early in the morning, and even after spending a couple hours going through customs (man, the line for non-Europeans moves slowly…), and a long taxi ride from the airport to the train station through the most intense rainstorm I have ever seen in France (if this had been Charleston, that storm would have been average), we still had a chance to maybe take an earlier train to Strasbourg. You see, I had made a reservation for a 12:30ish train, but there was also a 9:30ish train.
So as soon as we got our bearings in Gare de l’Est, I made my way to a self-service machine to print out our tickets. These are usually yellow, but for some reason, the new machines are white – they thought they could confuse me by changing the color, but I managed to find the machine anyway! Haha!
To now exchange our tickets for an earlier train, we would have to speak to a human being, and here is where Therese’s firm grasp of the French language came in handy. It took talking to a couple people, but we finally found the train ticket office, and once there, we were directed to the line where we could do exchanges. But sorry to say, the man listened to our request, and told us the earlier train was sold out. Quel dommage!
Now that we had a few hours to kill, the first thing we thought of was having a proper breakfast. I was willing to settle for some cold cuts on a baguette, but Therese insisted we find the station’s restaurant. Which we did, and for sure, it was a good thing to really sit and eat something substantial.
Once again, after eating my lovely breakfast of a plain omelet with ham (what I would call prosciutto but the French call “bacon”) and a simple salad of greens with dressing. Man, how is it possible that something so simple could be so delicious and satisfying? That is French cooking for you in a nutshell.
That was also the first decent food we had had in many hours (I will talk about the dinner on the plane the previous night elsewhere). With that in my belly, in spite of the fact that I had not slept in nearly 24 hours, I felt pretty stable.
How to kill the rest of our 3 free hours? We explored, took a nap, explored some more. There is a lovely huge painting commemorating World War One – supposedly the only such painting in France (I guess all the other WWI commemorations are statues and the like).
We also thought about getting lunch for the train. I found some sort of sandwich, while Therese was thrilled to discover that Marks & Spencer, her favorite chain of English delis, has a branch in Gare de l’Est. She found meat pies in the refrigerator section, an English specialty that can be eaten cold (and whaddaya know, those things were dairy free! Cool, huh? But I never did try one…)
After that, we killed some more time by finding a place to sit and taking another nap, and then before you know it, our train was in the station, and we validated our tickets, and boarded the train for Strasbourg. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take another nap on the train, but before long we would have the chance to get ourselves oriented to France-time.