Wednesday, April 05, 2017

City of Light

We cleared out of our apartment early, figuring instead of hunting and gathering coffee at the train station, we could do a repeat of yesterday and go back to the much more agreeable environs of Globus. Neither of us were heartbroken to leave that apartment, and as I said I’ll talk about domiciles and our Air BnB experience at the end of the trip.
The train carried us down the long hill, past Rehalp and Chris’ wonderful home and hospitality. We like to travel and visit places that challenge our experience and language, but I’ll be frank and say that Chris’ devotion to our visit made this stop worthwhile in every way culminating with yet another wonderful Swiss dinner last night. Zurich is an interesting city, and one I wouldn’t mind living in with a couple of years’ worth of German immersion. But I found it tough to feel comfortable without a lick of the language. I got by with a bit of Italian, and a splash of French but I really felt out of the zone in a way I haven’t felt since my earliest days in China. So, having a friend here made all the difference in being glad to have visited instead of being glad to be leaving.
Zurich Hauptbahnhof is a massive stone monster of a station. Not as grandiose as Milan Centrale, but not as inviting either. There was something about the buzz in the air of Milan that made their white stone cavern feel a bit livelier.
There was time to spare so we sought a third breakfast, this time coffee alone. I went up to the counter and figured I’d give communicating one more shot, “Zwei Americano bitte.” The barista stared at me (with that same incredulous look that Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) produces) and said nothing. I stared back, and he finally replied, “For here, to go?” And I laughed and told him that his English was superb. He was genuinely pleased at the compliment, and so there you have it - in my last hour in German speaking Zurich, I find a English fluent Indian to chat with.
The train boards generally don’t load the departure gates more than 30 minutes ahead so after coffee we went down to the shopping level and took a grand loop past the stores. Frankly, I was sorry I was tapped out on Swiss Francs because I found so many chocolate stores that I could have filled a shopping bag. Including one that sold only chocolate bark in 1’x3’ sheets. There is one thing I can say for Switzerland – they know how to do sweets.
Eventually our train appeared on the board, just around the same time that I discovered that the printed broadsheet of the day’s trains already had the gate on it. So much for our ever-increasing dependence on electronic media. We boarded, sat for a bit and were off on time.
Last week's ride into Switzerland had my nose plastered on the window, it being so beautiful. The ride out, less so, just rolling green hills and farms and the occasional town full of stone buildings. Aside from the architecture, it could have been upstate New York rolling by the window. Being in First Class we had a nice lunch of chicken and pasta about midway through the trip. The train had seen better days, missing seat buttons, a broken toilet in our car, stained seats. But rolling along at 150 MPH you sit back and think how much better this is than having gone to the airport.
We arrived at Gare de Lyon on time and found our way outside for a taxi, getting turned around by a helpful gentleman at the unloading zone and pointed to the proper location of the departures. We ended up in a nice Mercedes van with William, who is from Hong Kong and was happy to hear about my time in Dalian.
The apartment owner’s brother was supposed to meet us at 4 but was late so we parked ourselves outside and watched the shop workers stepping in and out for cigarettes. In that respect, we’re right back in Italy – the curbside air smells more like smoke than outside air. He showed up in 10 minutes and we rode up to the seventh floor – a nice flat with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides. We hit the jackpot on this one, a washer and a dryer, and what a change from the last place.
After getting settled and running a load of wash (we were backed up in this regard, because the last apartment advertised washer and dryer without mentioning that those machines were in the basement of the apartment building and subject to scheduling) we popped into our all-time favorite grocery store La Grande Epicerie for supplies. And we decided to have dinner in, a selection of Argentine empanadas, Satsumas and a nice bottle of Bourgogne.

Welcome to Paris indeed. 




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