Getting lost leads to discovery of Paris


Nathan Carter

On Monday night, our group heard about a possible metro strike. Initially, we believed this would mess up our plans to go to the International Herald Tribune and the Liberation, both of which are newspapers with their central locations in Paris. Contingency plans were made, but the strike didn’t happen, so all fears subsided and the day went as planned.

On Tuesday morning, our group walked to the American University of Paris and attended our classes.

The last speaker gave a boring speech, killing my brain cells in a much less exciting way than I would have done otherwise.

The woman before was exciting because she was a war correspondent and the person before her sounded just like one of my teachers stateside, allowing me to feel like I could speak freely. Nonetheless, the last person was killer to listen to and I was in Paris. I had two things on my mind; food and wine.

We ate well, had a glass of wine, waited an hour and went to the subway station. On the way, we saw the International Herald Tribune monument, which had shifted into the Princess Diana monument in popular opinion. About that time we were told we were in the pickpocket district. Ten minutes passed and I realized my recorder had gone missing.

We made it to the metro where a work slowdown was in progress, meaning the trains were packed. We went to our first destination, the International Herald Tribune, with little problem. The building was smaller than I had anticipated. I also argued about the future of newspapers with a representative of the paper as I had before with one of the speakers earlier in the day. One of my roommates told me I was becoming too intense and needed to calm down.

Our group then headed to Liberation when we found the trains were more packed than before. Two trains passed that were so full our group of  13 couldn’t get on all together, so we waited. The next one came and I got separated. Running, I barely caught the train as the doors slapped and bounced against my torso. I squeezed my way in.

Keeping an eye on my group the entire time, I had this fear that I was going to be pick-pocketed or get separated. Stop one. Several people got off. I tried to make my way across the middle of the train to my group. Fail. I was stuck in the middle.

Stop two. More get off and on. I try again to reach my group and fail. Stop three. I begin to realize I will not make it to my group. I make my way back to the door of the train. I was almost there when a group of seven or eight people held the door open and forced their way in. I looked for my group and couldn’t find them.

Dr. Moorman’s voice was outside the train. I saw him and heard his voice through the window.

“Do we have everyone?” he asked. 

I began to pound on the window.

“Hey!” I shouted.

He began counting the group. I began to panic. More pounding, more yelling, and then I saw it. His hand gesture rose like an emperor to a gladiator. Thumbs up. I began to beat on the window and scream at him, but the train pulled forward into the darkness of the tunnel.

The distance between stops on the metro were short time-wise, but being separated from the group made the ride feel like hours. Thumbs up? Seriously?

Obviously, Moorman had received his communications degree instead of a mathematics one. How can one make a mistake counting to 13? I got off the train and ran around to the other side.

I missed the first train because of mass traffic. I about screamed down the tunnel after it. Instead I began pacing, talking to and calming myself. Some teenagers began laughing at me.

I whipped around ready to fight when I heard the contents of my backpack fall to the ground. They were laughing because I had been pick pocketed.

I was lucky because I only had that day’s newspaper and class notes in the bag, but what if it had been more valuable items? Just the thought of somebody going through my things without my knowing …

I cursed, a lot, in English.

I fought my way onto the second train. It had only been minutes. Surely my group had waited.

I got off at the next stop just to find that they hadn’t. I couldn’t remember where they were going but I was mortified that they hadn’t waited. I went to a newsstand because there was one at every metro stop and asked directions.

They spoke no English so I turned to my phrase book, which hadn’t been stolen. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember where I was heading, so I grabbed the first newspaper with the letter “L” at the beginning of the flag and opened the paper to the editorial page, which had the address of the paper in it.

I went to the paper I thought my group was at to find that there was no group there. I went back to the metro and began to figure it out.

Stop one. Get out and look for a familiar landmark. No luck. Curse. Get back on.

Stop two. Get out and look for a familiar landmark. No luck. Curse some more. Get back on.

Stop three. I realized how much money Dr. Moorman and Dr. Stebbins had saved me because I continued the pattern. Curse. Get back on.

Stop seven. I finally find a familiar landmark but I didn’t recognize the street, so I asked a young person if that was Napoleon’s tomb. He said, “built … King Louie,” and explained a couple of things to me in very broken English, which was okay to me because I don’t even speak broken French.

I figured he said it was built by Louie and ran as hard as I could for about eight blocks toward the monument.

As I reached the monument, I began to realize that it was Louie’s tomb. For one, it is in the center of one of Paris’ many strange roundabouts. Napoleon’s tomb was on something like an American city block, square and with a garden in the back. It wasn’t built by King Louie. It was King Louie.

I cursed, quietly, in English and saw the boy who talked to me in the first place. I thanked him as politely as I could in French and began back to the metro station.

At least an hour had passed since I had gotten lost and I felt like I should return to the hotel in order to regroup and spend another few stops realizing I had gotten on the wrong train.

Too exhausted to curse, I just made my way around to the other side. Then I realized I had switched tracks.

Another hour passed before I made it home and met the hotel hostess, Nadine Gould. I explained the events of my metro adventure and she told me that only one of my group had made it back.

It was Dr. Stebbins. He had only made it back about five minutes before me and asked if I wanted to go to the art district. I was exhausted by the metro, but it was my first time in Paris. We left five minutes later and I knew exactly how to read the maps and where to go.

And you know what? At the end of the day I had seen much of Paris on my own. I was separated from my group, but it forced me to learn to navigate the metro and speak with native French speakers as best I could. It is a day I won’t soon forget.