Many of Paris‘ great modern romances begin and end in one its seven major train stations ( or ‘gares’). Gare Montparnasse, Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord, Gare St. Lazare, Gare de Bercy and Gare de Lyon — all of which, for their architecture, beauty and/or history, are destinations in and of themselves. Every day across the city from one of these stations, hundreds of young lovers are separated from their Parisian paramours by ridiculously manageable ticket prices and the SNCF (the official authority overseeing France’s train system). Where these lovers go, one can never tell, but their departures often leave Paris a city as full of love as it is of broken hearts.
Parisians are not known to be the friendliest of people to meet, especially in the eyes of newly expatriated expatriates or voyagers who often lament the fact that it is difficult to meet the ‘French’ and instead find themselves in the constant company of other sojourners — but even long term expats get tired of all the comings and goings after a while. A Parisian acquaintance once explained this phenomenon to me: “We are in the most beautiful city in the world… and it attracts the most beautiful and interesting of people from all over the planet, who we Parisians fall madly in love with, and who all sooner or later, leave and break our hearts. It is normal that we are not so friendly.”
My friend had learned her lesson, but there is still a wealth of Parisians young and old willing to tempt the fates and fall in love, if even briefly, with one of these mysterious ‘inconnus’ (strangers). Sure, stroll the Canal St. Martin or the banks of the Seine in the summertime and you will see lovers sipping wine alongside the strumming guitar of a young troubadour. Curl up next to your ‘chéri’ under the heated lamps outside any corner cafe and take an espresso in the wintertime…but if you want to see love and all its joy and tragedy first hand, pull up a seat and take a café gourmande at Le Train Bleu overlooking the departures terminal at Gare de Lyon. Watch the platform for the train leaving to Turin, or grab a ‘cup of joe’ from the coffee cart at Gare Montparnasse and watch the Eurostar as it readies for its departure to London. Here you will see more tragedy and romance than anywhere else in all of Paris in some of its most beautiful settings. Try not to cry… for those lovers whose stories are what the French call ‘durables,’ return tickets are not all that expensive these days.
photos courtesy of Bigod & Stewart Leiwakabessy/Creative Commons