Ghost town

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

  • In an effort to get out of Paris and explore the surrounding area a little, I’ve come to Troyes; a town about 150 km (93 miles) southeast of Paris where it would appear nobody lives.

    Taking a cheap express bus from Paris to Troyes is simple enough. It’s not exactly an epic journey, though in the end, I found out that the bus doesn’t actually stop in Troyes. Instead, it stops on the edge of some out-of-town shopping park (that was closed!?) before it rejoins the highway and goes on to wherever all of the other people on the bus were actually going to.

    So there I was, standing by the side of the road, on an unusually cold day that felt more like winter, thinking to myself that all of the featureless soul-sucking shops around didn’t look anything like the “picturesque Troyes” that I’d seen online.

    There are times when I think that France is actually just India with excellent baked goods, cheese, and wine. I say this because, just as in India, things are often strangely convoluted or unnecessarily complicated here. I put this down to being ‘part of the charm’ of France, and perhaps just their way of making everyone remember that while getting a bus to actually take you to the place on your ticket might not be possible, nobody else in the world can make a croissant quite like the French.

    No city buses or taxis were going to come by the retail desert I was in, and as the bus pulled away I stood there looking confused amidst a handful of other people who now found themselves marooned in a shopping no-mans-land.

    One by one people just wandered off in different directions, muttering in French. Had it not been for a kind lady who took pity on us and offered a ride to the town with her friend who had gotten off the same bus, I might still be standing there now, thumbing at Google Translate on my phone, trying to find an appropriate translation for “What the fuck am I supposed to do now?”

    After a short ride in the kind ladies’ car, I found myself standing on cobbled streets among buildings that looked like the Troyes tourist information website. Ancient homes and shops painted different colors and huddled closely together, leaning like weekend drunkards waiting for sobriety to straighten them up. The cobbled streets and narrow laneways made imagining the history here easy. However, for some reason, there was practically nobody around and nothing open; nothing apart from the gleaming new and modern tourist information office that is.

    Might there be a reason the burly bus driver didn’t want to drive that last short distance into the town? Should I be concerned?