Time for an Update!

I think a new post is way past overdue, but in my defence (and this in no way justifies my slackness), I’ve been quite busy this past month:

April 15th marked the last day of classes before a 2 week long school break. My work contract was scheduled to expire on April 30th, meaning that when school resumed at the beginning of May, I would not be returning. However, the 15th did not mark the end of my teaching post as I was hired by the school’s Principal to work the first week of holidays teaching intensive English classes. For 3 hours each morning during the week of April 18th-22nd, I worked with a group of 12-or so students. The mornings went by fast, and the week ever faster and before I knew it, my job as an English Language Teaching Assistant in France came to an end. It was an amazing experience, and although I still remain undecided in my decision to pursue a career in teaching, working in an educational environment for the last 7 months has made me consider it that much more.

After my last class on the 22nd, I along with my roommate Chauntina, packed our bags and headed to Marseilles for the weekend (more on that later). When I returned that Sunday evening, unpacking my weekend bag seemed unnecessary as the time to pack up the last 7 months of my life had (sadly) arrived.

I had planned to leave Mâcon on Wednesday April 27th, and so the two days prior to my departure I spent packing up all my belongings. Packing was definitely easier this time around in the sense that I knew exactly what needed to go in my bags (essentially the entire contents of my room), but at the same time it was difficult because I knew that the end had come; I wasn’t going away on another holiday, I was going away and never coming back. Somehow I managed to STUFF 7 months worth of adventures and memories into 2 suitcases, 1 carry-on size suitcase, and my backpack. When the time came to say goodbye, the room I had called “home” for the past 7 months seemed unfamiliar to me; with all traces of my being there gone, it was as if I had never been there at all.

What was I thinking?!

My plan was to take an 8:34 am train from Mâcon Loché TGV (the high speed train station 4 km outside of  Mâcon) to Paris. Initially I thought I could just walk to the train station in town with all of my bags (a 1.5 km trek), but when that proved to be impossible (I made it to the roundabout at the end of my street before giving up), I tried calling a cab, problem was, because it was so early in the morning (it was not yet 6:30 am) I was either getting through to the cabbie’s voicemail, or being told that he hadn’t begun his run for the day. Knowing I wasn’t going anywhere far with my all of my bags, I decided to walk over to the nearest city bus stop (which was literally across the street from where I had dropped my bags) and wait for the first bus. By 7:40 am, a bus came and I was on my way to the Mâcon train station. From there, I boarded another bus which took me to Mâcon Loché TGV.

I had 15 minutes from the time I arrived at Mâcon Loché TGV to the time my train was scheduled to depart to make my way to the train platform. 15 minutes is usually more than enough time, but for me, it meant that I had to boot it! Because carrying everything at once proved to be too slow, I took half of my bags and ran with them a certain distance, dropped them, and ran back to grab the rest, and I continued this action until I reached the ramp to climb up to the train platform (yes, thank heavens there was a ramp!). Luckily, a man noticing that I was in dire need of a second set of hands, offered to help me, and so he carried half of my bags up to the platform, and then helped me load everything onto the train when it arrived. Had he not helped me, I don’t think I would have caught my train, so I owe a BIG THANK YOU to the kind French-English businessman who, unlike the other travellers starring at me as they walked on by, took the time to stop and help.

Just after 10:00 am, my train pulled into Paris’  Gare de Lyon train station. Once I managed to haul everything to the street, I hailed a taxi cab (there was no way I was taking the metro with my bags!) and travelled to my hostel. My hostel was located in the Montmartre neighbourhood and situated just steps away from the Café des 2 Moulins, made famous by the movie Amélie, and the world famous Moulin Rouge. I shared a room with 3 other twenty-something year old guys, and I’m pretty sure the hostel staff put us all in the same room because we were all Canadian! This was the first time in my life that I had to share a room with boys and I’m just wondering, is it completely normal for the male species to leave their (worn) undergarments out in the open for all to see? At least they kept the toilet seat down 😛

I took advantage of my short stay in Paris to visit some of the sights I had missed the first time around. I also decided to take a day trip to Mont St. Michel, a rocky tidal island in Normandy – but more about this trip and Paris later. 😉

On April 30th, I was on the move again, my next stop, Portugal! I took a cab to the train station (best 21 euros I’ve ever spent!), struggled yet again with my bags, only to be rescued this time by tourists from Texas who offered to find a luggage cart for me. When my train’s platform was announced, I wheeled my bags over to the l-o-n-g-e-s-t TGV train I had ever seen (it was essentially 2 trains in one as it split in Bordeaux). Once I found my car, I successfully loaded all of my bags onto the train (I was worried there wouldn’t be enough room in the baggage area) and found my seat. My train departed from Paris’ Montparnasse train station at 3:50 pm, and was scheduled to arrive in Irún, Spain at 9:35 pm = 5 hours and 45 minutes on a train. Think that’s crazy, my trip from Irún to Lisbon, Portugal was 13 hours long! I know I got some sleep on that ride because I distinctly remember having a dream, but between the hourly stops and passport check, not to mention the difficulty of finding a comfortable position to sleep in, it was hard to get a good night’s rest. At 10:20 am, my train pulled into Lisboa Oriente and there I was greeted by my sisters who had arrived that morning by plane from Toronto. After 7 long months, the 3 musketeers were finally reunited! It was good to see them again, but it was even better having 2 extra set of hands to help with all my bags! 😉

But my journey was not over yet! We now had to make our way to Braga where our family lives! At 11:39 am, I boarded yet another train, but it was not a direct train to Braga, and so in Porto, my sisters and I had to get off and transfer to one last train. At 3:50 pm, and exactly 25 hours since I boarded my first train in Paris (Portugal is 1 hr behind France), my sisters and I had finally reached our destination!

My train route

I am currently in Braga, and the city is all abuzz after its soccer team, Sporting Clube de Braga defeated Benfica to advance to the UEFA Europa League final in Dublin, Ireland.

My ride in Europe is not over yet as I have a few more adventures planned. Stay tuned for updates on these and past trips; I promise you won’t have to wait another month! 😉


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