After travelling the length of the UK on the Friday, we stopped overnight near Folkestone so that we could travel early on the Eurotunnel on Saturday 1st October. We arrived in Calais around 8am and then drove almost 2 hours to get to Amiens. When we found the accommodation and I was thrust into my first proper French interaction, I’m pretty sure I made a fool out of myself but I managed to get the keys to my room and the information I needed so I must have gotten my point across!
Typically, I was on the top (fourth) floor so we had to carry all of my things up all those flights of stairs and along a corridor, trying not to bash into anyone on the way! After my top floor flat in 1st year and then a ground floor flat in 2nd year, my dad was less than impressed at another top floor room! Eventually everything was in my room and somewhat placed where I would need it. Unfortunately I would have no internet access until Monday to be able to contact my friend that I had arranged to meet when I arrived. Thankfully my dad’s girlfriend had mobile data that I was able to use to communicate with her and agreed to meet at her room after my family had left.
We went for a wander around Amiens on a surprisingly pleasant October day and grabbed a late breakfast/early lunch and some baked goods (because if you don’t go to a patisserie in France, what are you doing with your life?). We also went to the local supermarket and bought some food so that I could stock up the small fridge in my room. Finally it was time to say goodbye to my family (after briefly meeting my new friend) and start the real adventure – learning to live in a foreign country on my own! Thankfully, I hit it off quickly with the girl I’d been talking to, and we were able to figure things out together over the first few days.
The first things I needed to do were all boring – open a bank account (though, yay, money!), organise social security, medical insurance, and a few other things that were required as part of my accommodation contract. They were all nerve-wracking things to do since I’m not a fan of those situations in my native tongue, let alone another language, but I felt accomplished and a bit more settled once they were complete.
Our induction/welcome day wasn’t until the Thursday so we had some time to kill. We enjoyed visiting the local park and wandering around, soaking in the city, and admiring Amien’s incredible Notre Dame cathedral but I decided that we should spread our wings a little and take a trip to Paris for the day. Paris is only 1 hour away from Amiens by train so there was absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t visit. The train tickets weren’t too expensive and we were able to organise a 12-30 youth pass which made this even cheaper. That Tuesday, we were off to Paris!
For some reason, when we got to Paris, both of us had an aversion to going on the metro. Personally, I was a bit nervous about trying to figure out the metro system (coming from a small village where I could just walk or get the bus, the metro was pretty unfamiliar) and I wasn’t entirely sure about the way the tickets worked so we kind of chickened out with that. Needless to say, we regretted that decision. We walked, in the most bizarre way, trying to navigate with our map, from the Gare du Nord train station down to the Notre Dame cathedral. A 45 minute, 3.6 km walk. From there, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, which was a further 4.4 km and 55 minute walk. While we really enjoyed both sights, the sights along the way, and got plenty of exercise, we were pretty exhausted and not to mention, hungry by the end of it!
When we decided to go to the Louvre next, we conceded to catching a taxi and arrived there speedily in comparison. It was certainly nice to rest our feet. Unfortunately, what we didn’t know (and evidently, did not research before we left) is that the Louvre is open every day of the week. Except Tuesdays. *sigh* So we got some pretty pictures outside of the museum with the iconic pyramid and walked through the Jardin des Tuileries opposite the museum to commiserate. When we reached the Place de la Concorde, which is the end of the Champs-Élysées, we finally decided to chance the metro so we could see the Sacré Coeur before returning to the train station in time for our train back to Amiens.
Looking at the metro map, we decided to get the Green line from Concorde to Pigalle station, which seemed like the closest station to the Sacré Coeur. Now, if you’ve never been to Paris, let me tell you this. Do not get the metro to Pigalle station. What we did not know was that Pigalle is in the red light district and although we were there during the day and it wasn’t particularly seedy, we were two young women wearing shorts feeling very uncomfortable! (That being said, I did go back near Pigalle in December and it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable, but still!)
When we got off the metro, we made a wrong turn and managed to head in the opposite direction to the Sacré Coeur. After a while, we finally gave up, as luck was evidently not on our side that day, and made our way slowly and not at all confidently back to the Gare du Nord and boarded our train back to Amiens, with our tails ever so slightly between our legs.
While it wasn’t the most successful trip to the city of light, it was certainly eventful and it was exciting to take out first trip somewhere new so early on in our year abroad! Despite the slight negatives, it definitely would not be our last trip back to Paris!