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Paris Below

After the Bateau Mouche, I went out for dinner at a place that had really great service but terribly awful food. Luckily the wine and the coffee were good. Just... terrible food. No taste to it, very bland, all organic. Gah. Add some *spice* for crying out loud.

Afterwards I had the sudden recollection that I was going to be leaving Paris the next morning, and had several postcards to send, but no stamps.

Paris has a 24-hour Post Office, and if I had done things right, I would be able to get there, buy some stamps, get back on the metro and head back to the hotel to get just enough sleep to not miss the plane. Or so was the theory.

Instead, I got lost, and somehow ended up in Paris Below.

I stumbled into an area of Paris where the lights were even dimmer than usual. The whole city seems to have less light in the streets than anywhere else I've been except China. Which isn't a complaint - light polution is annoying - but it was very disturbing to go from the dimly lit streets to this even more dimly lit area, with only pedistrains in it. The sounds from the main street (which it turned out I was only two blocks away from) completely died, and there was no noise at all except for a trickling fountain and the sound of low-voiced French.

The main area seemed to be a square of some sort with this fountain in it. I don't know how to describe it in any way that gives the scene the sense it had. I actually had the thought Why am I in one of those scary circuses they show in cartoons all the time? I so felt like I didn't belong, and that I was unwelcome. Groups and couples were sitting or standing or walking around with a definite sense of this being a regular thing, but it was eerie in the way their voices echoed off the walls, the way there was no sound of traffic. I felt a million miles away from the crowded streets I was on just a few minutes before.

I finally figured out the direction I needed to walk in to at least be in the area of the post office, but all of the streets were still part of this. I passed no cars, only people, and from some of them felt that sense of malice that I think only comes when you're in the wrong place, and you know it, and they know it. I tried not to act like it bothered me, but I find it unlikely that I suceeded, which just made me stand out more.

I walked down a street with a canal on one side of it, large trees on either side of the canal. I could hear something that sounded like a drive-in theater, or maybe a movie playing against a building. I could hear the dialog clearly, but couldn't see or get any idea where the noise was coming from.

After twenty minutes of walking, I stumbled back onto a busy street, lights bright enough to hurt my eyes after the semi-darkness. I found my way, slowly, to the post office, bought my stamps, and took a cab back to the hotel.

I could have walked, but who knows if I would have chosen to make it back.


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