“Paris is a miserable city. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the bloody Eiffel tower.” -Nicholas John Michie
We were ill prepared when we attempted to leave Paris. The four of us stood at the ticket counter for nearly an hour as the Parisian ticket vendor explained to us that nearly every train out of Paris was fully booked that day. We just wanted out. I mean, Jesus Christ, how hard can it be to catch a train anywhere. We tried getting a seat on any train going to any Italian city, denied. We tried going to all sorts of Spanish destinations, denied. The ticket man had a funny demeanor, we recognized as surely as we did how fucking ridiculous it was that we couldn’t get a train anywhere. The only train going anywhere we were willing to go (which was pretty well any city) was to Berlin. And in spite of our eurorail passes we would have to shill out an extra 45 Euro each in what he referred to as “special train fees”. “Bollocks”, said the Englishmen. No shit, it was a real screw. But we did it anyway, what choice did we have? We had already checked out of our now full hostel and had nowhere to go. So we chatted shortly and decided, “fuck it”, Berlin it is. The upswing was that the train we caught was first class.
We were four young men, completely cut loose from purpose, making the journey from the tower to the wall. Us fitting in with the rest of the first class passengers was a joke. They were all business men and Asian tourists. We were loud and spoke with excited voices. Which grew and grew as the free wine began to flow. The wine was bottomless after all. Believe it or not the wine they served us, though free, was miserable gut rot in a bottle. The four of us had grown dependently accustomed to very cheap, yet very drinkable red wine in Paris. Whatever they served us tasted like a mix of rancid grape juice and vodka, distilled and aged behind a radiator for a month or two then bottled. Ah hell, what did we care? We drank it anyway and played heated games of scrabble. The lunch on the other hand was no doubt first class. The other passengers glared and sneered their dirty looks in our direction. This one women clamped her hands over her ears and tucked her head between her knees, occasionally lifting her head to mouth what were no doubt curse words in own direction. I didn’t even think that we were all that ill behaved. Sure, we had lively and lengthy conversations about all the depraved things we’d love to do to/with Nick’s mum, but it wasn’t like we were involving the other passengers. I have a feeling that we could have been discussing flowers, milkshakes and fucking rainbows and the other passengers would have still taken exception to us, merely based upon the fact that we were young and English speaking.
That first class train really spoiled me though, every train after that was a cramped and agonizing experience by comparison. There was enough for a man to stretch out and relax and goddamn was it ever pleasant. Our table filled up with travel sized bottles of wine and the discarded packaging of various snacks. To be fair, we made one hell of a mess for them to clean up. The only real complaint was our inability to smoke cigarettes in transit. Bullshit. A few years before, such a thing existed as “a smoking car”. We were afforded no such luxury. Some guy once said that “the times they a changin'” and he’ll never stop being right about that.
Meeting Luke and Nick in Paris proved to be a very crucial stroke of luck that wound up shaping the whole trip for the better in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. We became fast friends with minds that fell so closely together. Our level of cynicism and filthy sense of humour aligned perfectly. I would piss myself laughing until my face was sore from contortion, just taking the piss out of everything. Especially that god awful tower and that miserable wall.