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It's all about feet (Paris 2/3)

11-13 July 2012

Paris was mysterious.

We arrived in the early evening. The bus journey from Brussels was quite uneventful, unless you count being stopped at the border for a random police check, which our driver cheerily referred to as "a rather pointless exercise". I didn't fall in love with Paris right away, and the metro ride to Bastille (where our hostel was) was far from pleasant. 

Art at the Bastille metro station

Then there was the hostel itself: big and impersonal, my least favorite of all the hostels in all the countries I've stayed at. Breakfast consisted of hard, dry rolls that you could barely break with a hammer, let alone your teeth, and a choice of butter or runny marmalade, and a hot beverage machine which was turned off promptly at 9.45am, much to the chagrin of those who wake up late (not me). This often caused trays to be slammed untouched in front of the staff, for what is a hard, dry roll without some coffee?

Anyway, we arrived at our hostel where the rude receptionist (not a stereotype - Parisians were otherwise rather nice and helpful!) promptly declined our request to be assigned the same room. I found myself sharing with two friendly Brazilians the first night, and a friendly Swiss, Portuguese and Bulgarian the next. This is probably why I love hostels so much - meeting fellow wanderers, exchanging stories, learning, sharing. 

At some point during the first night, I hurt my foot. I have no memory of this; all I know is that I woke up the next morning to find a tiny hole in the sole (ooh, a foot rhyme!) - the kind of tiny hole you find if you've stepped on a thumb tack or thorn or...I dunno, a pen? To this day, I haven't figured out how it happened, so I'll move right along. I disregarded it - as much as you can disregard feeling like you're walking on broken glass - and we set off to explore Paris. On foot.

Shobhana and I at the Antique Market. Because it's all about feet.  This post, that is, not the market.

But when it rains, it pours. The grey clouds followed me all over Europe, and took unusual pleasure in dumping their contents on me. And then the boot that was protecting my stinging foot decided that this would be an appropriate moment to tear. My friend hunted around for a cheap umbrella to replace her broken one while I stuck my shoe with Fevikwik. (Good stuff, Fevikwik. It's going onto my backpacking must-haves list at number 6). To be fair, the rain does make me remember my trip in a different way. Rain created lovely reflections and lights and made beautiful pictures like these possible. A procession of colourful umbrellas, making new friends out of Mexican girls who were as lost as us on the detour to the Eiffel Tower, and a girl twirling around happily in front of Hôtel de Ville are all etched into my brain. But would I have been happier if I was dry, if water wasn't steadily seeping into my shoes and socks dislodging the band-aid (having walked on it a few hours, I had a big-black-circle wound which my friend reckoned warranted tetanus shots, but more on that soon), and if I could have taken photos of the Eiffel Tower with a lens not smattered with raindrops and having to balance an umbrella between my neck and shoulder? Undoubtedly.

The Eiffel sparkles.

My foot held out, though there were times when I thought I couldn't take it anymore. We still walked around till 11pm, and later helped a lovely woman with a knee problem up the stairs and to her platform. The next day, my big-black-circle wound had transformed into a big-black-circle scar which barely hurt at all, though I did go to the pharmacy on the advice of my roommates. The nurses stared at and talked about my foot for twenty minutes, pressing and prodding, and finally announcing that it was "not dangerous". I climbed 800 stairs up and down Notre Dame (enough to give anyone a hunchback, though it was quite humbling and sublime to be rained on at that height. Not quite sure why.) I decided that the big-black-circle scar was actually a cool souvenir from Paris and of my suffering. That is, until it mysteriously vanished a few weeks later.