Having been through this freaking exhausting day, I have some minutes to write this post at last. I’ll tell you about my adventure yesterday, when I for the first time backpacking for photo hunting. The first time? Yes. I love travelling, but I’d never been so serious on photography, so that taking pictures during the trip is just a side activity for me. However, my almost-in-the-last-minute preparation of one day journey to Paris made me creative. I realized I wanted to go to Paris before I leave The Netherlands for good. As a holder of Schengen visa, I am inclined to spend the rest of my stay here by visiting some beautiful cities here in the Schengen area. And everybody’s mind will automatically tuned to Paris.
I’ve been to Brussels, and seeing Tour Eiffel — or Eiffel tower — is just my another dream before going home. It is said that you’ve never been in Europe if you don’t go to Paris and see Eiffel. Ok. Let’s go.
One day after I made up my mind, shortly after I’d been rejected from an interview, I browsed for a cheap ticket to Paris. However, cheap ticket means long time of journey. Seeking an accommodation is a must for that case, which I didn’t want to. I was to travel alone, a girl, so I didn’t want to take the risk staying overnight in a cheap hostel far from station/bus station lonely. I chose train tickets, instead. It was worth paying for 179euro retour (return). Although my friend said that one can spend that amount for the whole week in Paris by staying at friend’s house, I didn’t mind. I don’t have friends in Paris. Having a one day trip is pretty good.
I got the promo ticket from Den Haag-Brussel return, with which I only paid 28euro which is cheaper by 10euro than the normal fare. From Brussel to Paris back and forth, I took Thalys, second class. I’d been wondering when I could lay my butt on Thalys’ seat. Thalys, TGV, and ICE are my points of interest. I like bullet-headed train, apart from the fact they’re not as fast as I compared to the bullet train from China from literature. I just like the bullet-headed point because we don’t have similar trains in Indonesia. Beside, Thalys interior is so sophisticated, just like inside the airplane — if you compared to Intercity.
The frustrating part of this adventure was the route. I was about to prepare for the journey on Wednesday afternoon when I realized that I’d better check the route to the Den Haag CS ticket information. Thanks God I was informed that the route was changed and the lady told me the itinerary, otherwise I would have been stuck waiting for the train which never came the following morning. In summer holiday, the train service provider change the route to such a system that there is no direct Intercity train service from The Netherlands to Belgium. Thalys does the direct service connecting France-Belgium-The Netherlands, while my Thalys ticket was indicated for the final destination of Brussel-Zuid station and Paris Nord station. It means I had to take Intercity from Den Haag to Brussel Zuid, vice versa. The eventual route for passengers like me who took Intercity connecting The Netherlands and Belgium was: Den Haag-Rotterdam–(Fyra train)–Breda-BrusselZuid. Imagine that I had to change 2 times in one journey. So here was my itinerary:
05:28 took Sprinter from Den Haag CS to Rotterdam (I could have taken the latter train at 05:58 and would not have been late, however, I preferred earlier departure, just in case)
06:38 took Fyra to Breda
07:18 (in reality the train was late so it departed at 07:20) took Intercity to Brussel-Zuid
08:42 took Thalys to Paris Nord
After hurdling the journey fatigue… I got off the train, took pictures of me touching the bullet head, employing my smart flexible tripod I purchased at Mediamarkt for 28euro. Being a traveler alone while focusing your mind not only for keeping your belonging but also the good spots for photo hunting can be frustrating as hell, especially in such crowded an area like Paris. Having tripod is only one way to stabilize the angle and minimize the shaky pictures. Also, its flexible feet can be adjusted to wrap around a fence or even an electric pole.
Seeing Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower in French) from a distance was indescribable feeling. I was overwhelmed by amusement. The day I visited Paris was Bastille Day on 14th July. That explained why the bus route changed so my bus transport itinerary was messed up and I had to change in metro stations several times to reach the tower. But the Bastille Day gave us a good sight of military ceremony when the tanks had a parade along the Seine river route and the army walked in march.
The idea why I initially planned to take bus was because I heard a lot of criminal situation in metro. In a circumstance when people are squeezed in, we tend to be careless and unnoticed about danger of criminals groping you or pickpockets stealing your purse/wallet. From my experience, yes, the bus is quieter so that the chance of you and the criminal in juxtaposition is less than in a tube/metro/subway. But I don’t suggest to take bus on Bastille Day -__-. The bus driver even had to explain the new route he drove to me in a very limited English that made me the condition worse. I was alone, looking for a particular bus stops, wandering around that specific bus number (I spent one hour locating the bus station, which was apparently located upstairs the train station, just as in Den Haag CS. I went out of the train station several times, walked several metres up to a junction only to be dumbfounded that the desired bus did not stop there. Moreover, the bus stops in Paris was rather difficult to find since it’s not as striking as expected like having roof and glass surroundings, or big yellow signboard). The bus station officer explained the location for a specific bus near the Paris Nord station in French, so I just said ok, ok ,yes, thank you ^_^.
In the end, I took this bus to Eiffel (instead the desired bus to Arc de Triomphe) after 20 minutes begging the bus driver to explain his temporary route. So there I was, had to change to metro (I was fully alerted by entering the metro station underground). I had experiences with metro in Amsterdam and Brussels. But those were different. I mean, in Amsterdam metro I was still in The Netherlands. I was not quite perplexed by the staircase or direction because it was similar to tram network, besides, the staircase was not complicated. In Brussels, I was with a friend studying in Belgium. So from my previous experiences I was never in metro as a stranger alone. And now, I was. Being double alerted to my surroundings and grabbing my backpack in my chest (I didn’t install it on my back), I entered the tube. In the time being, I was okay. Nothing bad happened inside the metro. My goods were safe as of I entered my room after the long journey. I got accustomed to the labyrinth-like staircase. Imagine an underground station with staircase directing us to several junctions (like Metro 6 this way, RER C that way). What makes it complicated for a beginner is the layout. The turns and junctions were not located in one straight way so people can be aware of it from a distance. Nope, we, in fact, had to go downstairs, turn left in a small alley, to find a big hall with junctions and arrows, then follow the arrow, to find another junctions, then follow the arrow again, go downstairs, turn right, walk through the tunnel, and voila, check in, and then get onboard.
After all, the journey was amazing. I spent 19 hours all in train, waiting for the train, changing metro, getting lost a bit in finding the right bus stops, walking in the most beautiful city in the world, taking pictures, eating snack (due to the time constrain I didn’t have the chance to eat my lunch. I just ate mixed noten or mixed nuts and cheese snacks. I was also a bit dehydrated due to the hot weather while my water ransom was limited. I couldn’t find a place to refill my water bottle), and chilling with fellow backpackers.
Being a backpacker encourages you to be creative. You have to find a good spot for your object amid the crowd whose movement you can’t control. For instance, you can place your flexible tripod somewhere, let’s say around the electric pole. You turn on the self-timer 10 seconds, and you prepare a pose before the lens. Suddenly from across direction, group of people pass by, unnoticed that your red flash is flickering to countdown. And taraaa…your flash shoots exactly when they’re before your lens, blocking you from your own camera. Pathetic, huh? For that case, I even had to repeat two or three times. There were also groups of people who realized I was taking a picture so they waited until the flash shot. Some backpackers did realize that I was taking the picture, that’s why they waited until the right moment to be in camera by standing purposely behind me and smiling -__-. Some other people helped me to keep the tripod standing, as sometimes its grip was unstable so it tilted. I was also asked to take people’s pictures. Well, that’s the art of being a backpacker. Helping and to be helped.
I visited several objects beside Eiffel: St. Michael Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, and Musee du Louvre. All my photos are in my facebook photo album, which of course I don’t share publicly ^_^. Here I give some shots
Ok here are some tips if you want to do a one-day trip like I did:
safety first. This rule also applies for us, backpackers. Avoid carrying striking expensive belongings. Don’t let your pocket camera hanging in your belt or waist as the pickpockets can seize it all at once
Hide your valuable cards in the inner side of your clothing. Make a trick to hide them all, either by wearing a special cloth with pockets inside or to insert the pouch inside.
read literature in the internet, examples of people got incidents there. Learn from others’ experiences so that those do not occur to you.
Watch your surroundings. If you know a person of a group of people try to approach you and you feel not good about it, trust your instict. Stay away from them.
Hold your bags in your chest if you sit down in a crowded place. Better use a backpack since you can watch it effortlessly and it’s big and easy to cuddle. Small bags, on contrary, are slung on one side of your body, mostly your waist that you can’t grab it near your chest or even watch it every moment.
Learn some phrases in the language of your destination, especially the transportation phases.