Sunday, May 29, 2016

Laundry in Paris, train problems and Rouen

Leaving Paris

One of the last things I needed to do on my final night in Paris was laundry. I'd very specifically chosen an apartment that had a washing machine so I didn't have to worry about finding a laundry service or a laundromat/laundrette – though, hilariously, it turns out there was one just around the corner from me; it also looked clean and functioning, unlike any I saw in England. Still, using one also means time and having more than a reasonable number of coins on hand – though this place could have had a change machine for all I knew.

But there was a machine in my apartment – a brand (Brandt) I'd never heard of before – and it was a combination washer/dryer (something else I've never used before, though I have heard of them), but not the ones you see in Australia; it was top-loading, but the drum had a horizontal rather than vertical axis. So, I think the principle is the same as a front loader, but there just isn't a door with a porthole on the front; rather, there's a lid like a normal top loader, but then a two-part hinged door to the drum.

"Why didn't you a take a picture, dumbass?" Because it didn't occur to me at the time, jerk. Fine, I'll get one from the internet.

I was a bit hesitant about using it without knowing something more about it, but I couldn't find a manual in the apartment (I should have tried the broom closet, since when I was looking for an ironing board the following morning that's where I found it) and even Google wasn't proving to be much help, though I wasn't able to find a model number on any of the visible parts – which weren't many, given it was in a cupboard. What Google could do, however, was translate the words next to the buttons ('séchage' means 'drying', if you were wondering) so I was able to determine which did what.

Oh, and the apartment people had given me a biscuit/lozenge/tablet of laundry powder thing for the machine, but it didn't appear to fit in the dispenser gadget underneath the lid. Having never used one of those either I was vaguely concerned, but decided to just throw it in with the load anyway. Worst case scenario is that it wouldn't dissolve properly and I could give it another run-through with just water to finish it off.

So, one dial twist and one button push later it was underway. Simple. Once that was done, I put it on 'dry' and let it run. It had a timer that came up with 23 minutes, which seemed a little short to me – though, while I have a dryer in my place at home, I've never actually used it; ergo, it seemed possible to me that dryer technology has improved such that modern versions can get it done faster. So, after it had finished, I went to check.

Not very dry at all. Hmm. "Okay", I thought, "Maybe it's not meant to be as full for drying as it is for washing. Let's take half of it out and give it another go." Which I did, and while things were much dryer the second time around, they weren't 'dry' as such. And it was getting late by this time; I needed to go to bed so I could get up early and get everything done (including packing all of the freshly laundered clothes) before the apartment people were coming at 9am to check me out1

I decided that I'd lay everything out on the generous amount of horizontal surfaces I had available – chest of drawers, chairs, small dining table and shelf above the space heater – and see how they were in the morning. If they were still damp I could throw them in the dryer again and/or use the apartment's iron.

Much of it was still too damp in the morning – socks were mostly okay, as they tend to dry quickly – so, as planned, it was into the dryer for some of it and under the iron for some other things. Of course it was at this time I realised there wasn't actually an ironing *board*, but that didn't bother me; I just laid one of the unused towels on the bed and used that instead.

Et voila; laundry done. And fingers crossed the apartment in Tours – where I intend to do my next batch of laundry and chose, similarly, for that purpose – has a similar device.

Paris to Rouen

Laundry problems solved, I set myself to thinking about the next obstacle: getting from Paris to Rouen. I'd bought my inter-city train ticket months ago, so that wasn't a problem – but I had to get there first, and it was pissing down with rain. My plan had been to walk from the apartment in Rue Saint-Roch to the station at Gare Lazare, but I couldn't do that while it was raining; while I had an umbrella, it didn't quite cover me, my backpack and my wheeled suitcase – and I wasn't so sure the latter was terribly water-resistant. But, being as paranoid as I am after the airport incident, I had a backup plan – catch the metro two stops from Pyramides station, a much closer walk to the apartment. And I was fairly sure that went right to Gare Lazare itself and I wouldn't have to go out into the rain after I got there.

Getting to Pyramides was easy enough. Getting on the 14 to Pyramides was a bit trickier because it involved lots of stairs and somewhat incomplete information on signs. But I got there without too much difficulty and made it to Gare Lazare.

That's when things went to merde a little.

They'd made it pretty easy to get from the metro section to the intercities section – footprint stickers with SCNF (the train company name) on them, leading up stairs and escalators and so forth – until they ran out and I was left looking at some screens. The first set appears to be RER (city and slightly out of the city trains, kind of the metro's slightly larger sibling), which wasn't what I was after; the second looked more like it – intercities trains – but, despite it being well before the scheduled departure time, my train (13107) and the destination (Rouen Rive Droite) wasn't on there.


I checked my ticket; I was at the station it had on it. I checked the date and the time: it was the right day and well before the time. More than a little confused, and a lot more than a little angry, I ran around like the proverbial headless chicken looking for anything that might be where I was supposed to go. Eventually I found a sign saying the Normandy line (in French) – I'm damn glad I knew Rouen was in Normandy – and went to where that pointed and found the actual trains themselves.

But still no information for the 13107 to Rouen Rive Droite. I also couldn't find anyone resembling a station employee or an information desk. Eventually I found someone who didn't speak English, but who at the very least pointed me in the direction of someone who could.

They told me that, because of strike action, I had to catch a different train; mine wasn't running.




At least now I had an answer, albeit one I wasn't wildly confident in. But I had some time – he said the one I had to catch wasn't leaving until 10.50, which was a little less than an hour away – so I wandered around a bit and found the actual information desk and double-checked with someone there. That they barely seemed to know what was going on didn't really fill me with confidence, but I didn't have a lot of choice. So, I went back to watch the departure board.

After several delays they finally announced a gate, and the massive crowd of people built up from several delayed trains thrust itself towards the train. Caught up, physically and mentally, I didn't even realise that when I got onto the first carriage I could get on, I'd gotten on a Class 2 rather than the Class 1 I had a ticket for. After I checked my ticket I realised I was in the wrong place and decided I had better move – I don't know how these things work, after all; if the person who came to check the tickets found I was in the wrong carriage, it might have been a problem. But, while trying to move I got stuck near the exit to the overfull carriage and couldn't get out.

And then the train started moving. So, I spent the first part of the journey standing – along with a bunch of other people – in walkway outside the carriage's toilet. So, that was fun; we all had to crush ourselves against the walls when someone needed to come and use the facilities. Which quite a few people did.

I had intended to ask the person checking the tickets what I should do when the eventually showed up – but they never did. Not a one. I could have taken that damn ride for free instead of paying the 26€. But, after the first stop a lot of people got off, so the aisles were free and so were a few seats. I was very happy to sit down by this time, since my back wasn't not especially impressed with what I'd put it through over the last week as it was, even before this.

Eventually I got to Rouen and walked from the train station to my hotel, where (as usual) I dropped off my stuff and started wandering around. And I'm glad, because it's a lovely place – as you'll see from the pictures.

A bulldog, but a kind of brindled one. I didn't know such a thing existed.

I think of this place as "The Slanty Shanty". Fans of The Simpsons will get the joke. That aside, it's fairly common in Rouen.

This is actually a fountain, but it's not working for some reason.

Yep. It's a bidet. They do exist. Don't ask me what it's like to use one; I wasn't game.

The view from my hotel window. That's the less pretty part of town.

This on, the other hand...

The bridge has awesome Viking sculptures on the bridge. Vikings were fairly important in Rouen's history.

The Seine is lot prettier here than in Paris.

And that was pretty much it for the evening.

1You know what I mean.

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