National Geographic : 1955 Jul
Europe Via the Hostel Route I found out the next day that hitchhiking in France was very difficult. Finally I took a bus to Lyon and went looking for trans portation to Paris. Bus travel would be cheapest, I found, but they wouldn't transport my bike such a long distance. If I took the train, I could carry the bike, but the fare was $10. I decided to try my luck one last time as a hitchhiker. I spent the night at the Lyon hostel. It was pouring steadily the next day. I waited two and a half hours, but no ride was forthcoming. Soaked to the skin, I rode back to town and bought a train ticket to Paris. It looked as if the rain would last a long time. The Seven Seas sailed on Sep tember 3, and I knew she wouldn't wait. It was still very cloudy and damp when we hit Paris at 8 o'clock. I cycled to a small hostel in the Malakoff district. The woman in charge spoke excellent English. "Ah, my friend," she said, smiling. "I am afraid you are too late. Every space is taken, even the emergency cots. The only thing left is the box my cat sleeps in, since she is always staying out all night. But I will tell you how to get to another place. It is only half an hour by subway." Night on a Kitchen Table "But I'm on a bicycle, and I am not familiar with Paris. I'll sleep anywhere, even on the table." "Ah, the kitchen table. A good idea. To morrow we will try to find a respectable bed for you." As I was eating my meat and cheese sand wiches, a South African sitting near by spoke to me. "I say there, you just came in a little while ago, didn't you? I know the place is fright fully jammed. Where is your bunk for to night?" "You're eating on it now," I answered him. My eight-day stay in Paris was a brilliant kaleidoscope of impressions: the spacious legs of the Eiffel Tower straddling the vendor selling miniatures underneath; the view from the top of the Arch of Triumph where the wide boulevards radiate like bright-green veins through a gray leaf; the Paris subway and its maze of direction signs; the medieval church containing television equipment for a special broadcast. I walked along the bank of the Seine where homeless men slept huddled in their ragged garments. A solemn procession chanted its way to the Church of St. Louis, past young couples holding hands in the bright morning sunlight. I watched a merry-go-round opera tor trying to make an indifferent little girl, mounted on a wooden pony, smile. I recall the woman bent over a pile of sweepings outside a market, filling a paper bag with dis carded fruits and vegetables; and the three men engaged in a violent argument over a painting one of them had just finished of the Church of the Sacre Coeur. There were the garish neon signs outside the multitude of night clubs in the Place "Souvenir of Paree, M'sieu?" A bereted vendor hawks his wares beneath the Eiffel Tower's girdered legs.