So, I’m back from my little concert trip to France. I’ve actually been back for a couple of days, but I needed time to process what happened before I felt like I was ready to write about it. I know I’m making this sound overly dramatic. Probably because it was for me at the time it happened. But I guess that’s what happens when you travel. You experience an adventure, the unexpected and it’s not always pleasant. Before you’re starting to speculate what exactly happened to me last weekend, here’s the story (and a little more on the city of Lille, of course):
I started off in Frankfurt last Friday with 2 friends. We got on the TGV, the French high-speed train, and made ourselves comfortable. The 4-hour-ride to Paris went smoothly even though I’d already spent more than 7 hours on a train the previous day for a business trip to Munich and I wasn’t really in the mood for another long ride. So anyway, everything went fine. Until we got off the train in Paris – and I couldn’t find my suitcase in the rack I’d put it in. At first I thought I was just confused and had put it somewhere else. Or that someone had moved it to get out his own suitcase. But one passenger after the other left the train and in the end there was just one other suitcase left. A black one. A Samsonite. Just like mine. There was no doubt that someone had taken my luggage and left me theirs. I had no idea if it had just happened, here, in Paris. Or somewhere on the way. At first I was hoping that person would realize their mistake and return my stuff while we were still there. But noone showed up when we were looking for the train staff (which took ages to even find someone, let alone someone who spoke English). Or when we were trying to explain our problem in our broken French (“You have a suitcase, where’s your problem?”). Or when we went to the information desk to ask for help. Or to the Lost & Found where they were not happy at all we were showing up so close to closing hours (not speaking French, how dare we! And trying to leave a German phone number which of course is impossible to dial in France!).
It was pretty clear my suitcase probably wasn’t going to show up soon. And we had a train to Lille to catch in a few minutes and still had to make our way to Paris North from the Paris East station. For a minute, I was considering to wait and just catch a different train. But I didn’t want to stay behind on my own. As long as I wasn’t alone I was able to fight the tears that were piling up behind my eyes. And I could still buy the bare necessities the next day, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Even if my suitcase would never show up again. And then it hit me. In the streets of Paris. My concert ticket was in the suitcase. And the concert was sold out. This was the only reason I went on that bloody trip and now I probably wouldn’t even be able to experience that freaking concert. I guess you can imagine my devastation. Now tears were literally knocking on my eyelids. But I didn’t cry. We made that train, I sat down and just wished for that whole nightmare to be over already. I just wanted to get to the hotel and sleep and hope for a brighter day. Then, on the way to the hotel, I noticed a missed phone call. And a message. Both from an unknown number. It was the people that had taken my suitcase! I called the number and we agreed to meet in Paris again the next day, so I could get my stuff back. I would’ve preferred to spend the day sight-seeing or just hanging around at the hotel, but I’d be able to go to the concert and that was all I wanted.
So the next day after breakfast, I bought a train ticket back to Paris and hopped on a train. I was a little shocked at the price of more than 80€ for a 2-hour return-ride. But I was hoping the person who took my luggage would have enough decency to offer to at least cover part of my costs since it absolutely wasn’t my fault. Boy, was I wrong! At first the guy seemed nice. An elderly French man. We chatted for a bit. He gave me my suitcase back (with the ticket in it, I checked). Then I told him about the hassle I’d had to come back to Paris just to pick up my suitcase someone else had mixed up. And how much money it had cost me. At first, he pretended he didn’t get what my problem was. Then he told me a stupid story how his 5-year-old nephew had taken my suitcase. And when I asked who was with the child, who’d actually taken my luggage since a young child certainly wouldn’t have been able to carry my suitcase and wasn’t travelling alone, he said he didn’t know. He also didn’t forget to tell me how he’d also had to make some effort to give me back my stuff. How he’d had to drive to Paris, to pay at the Lost & Found to get his suitcase back and how expensive it was to park his car at the station. That’s the point where I got really angry. I’m usually nice and polite to strangers, but when there’s one thing I absolutely hate it’s injustice. I was getting loud, trying to explain to the guy how absolutely he was in the wrong here. But if someone wants to be a dick, there’s no changing that. As a goodbye, he told me I should be happy about how lucky I’d been to get my suitcase back. And if I felt like he’d done me wrong I could go to the police. Merci beaucoup!
I just walked away while he was still talking to me. I sat down on a bench and suddenly, there was no holding back. I sat in the middle of a station in Paris with tears streaming down my face. And I didn’t care what the people around me were thinking. I just want to let it all out right there at that moment. I had to wait 2 hours until the next train would go back to Lille and all I did was sit there. That’s the moment I turned to my beloved “This is War” album from 30 Seconds to Mars (the band I was going to see that night) again. That album which had accompanied me for more than a year on an almost daily basis. Through some difficult moments (see my previous post for more on that). I actually can’t remember for how long I hadn’t listened to that album. Or to any Mars album. But in that moment, it was exactly what I needed. It instantly made me feel a little better. When I was back at the hotel, I wasn’t really feeling in the mood for a concert. But the people I was with quickly helped me to forget about all that shit that had happened. And when I stood in the back of the concert venue that night, I was hooked again. I jumped around like a maniac and sang my heart out. I let all my bad feelings go. The band was probably in the best mood I’d ever seen them. They had fun. They wanted to be there on that stage playing music. And while I still don’t dig the new songs, I had a great, great time that night and enjoyed every minute of it. So much so, that I’m actually looking into where I want to see them next. Some time in summer maybe.
The next day, there was finally time to have a look around the city. It was a beautiful day, sunny, blue sky. And while there isn’t that much sightseeing to do in Lille, I enjoyed walking around. My experiences with French people might not have been the best, but I love French cities. The old buildings, not one looking like the other. The whole atmosphere. The food. So, to end this post on a little more cheerful note, here are some impressions from Lille. This trip certainly wasn’t the usual. I could’ve done without some of the things that happened, but I’m still glad I came along for some fun time with my friends. I can’t wait for the next adventure, but this time I’ll make sure to keep an eye on my luggage.