Friday, August 14, 2009

Travelling from Amsterdam to Paris - Black bloggers on the move

Photo and copyright: Linda Garrison (Arc de Triomphe)
Summer news. We, a Dutch black-brown blogger couple, travelled to Paris by train from Amsterdam Central Station to Paris Gare du Nord. This train station is the busiest station in Europe, and one of the busiest railway stations in the world. The female blogger will write her own story on her Dutch Blog.

Most important travel choice. Taking the car was an option, but is was a four hour drive, stops not included. Driving in Paris wasn’t an option, because you have to be a Parisian to drive a car in Paris.

Most interesting train experience. On the Thalys fast train we met a Dutch Moroccan couple who were going to Paris to visit family. It appeared they only lived a few blocks away. What a coincidence!

Most worst metro experience. We had to jump out of a metro carriage into a dark metro tunnel. Everything went smootly when we took the metro to our destination, but when we took the metro back to the city the trouble started. While we were heading to Gare du Nord the metro suddenly stopped in the tunnel. It was a crowded metro on a hot summer's day. There was no message from the metro operator as to why we had stopped. After about ten minutes we heard people opening the door of the metro. And suddenly we found ourselves standing in the door opening of metro carriage, but without the station platform. We had to jump from the metro carriage into a dark subway tunnel. It was like jumping from the top of a bunk. After a two minute walk we saw the lights of the metro station Gare du Nord. It appeared the train was broke. I hate to say this, but this is so French.

Most interesting bus experience. When we arrived at Gare du Nord we took the city bus 42 to the Champs-Élysées. In the bus we met a Dutch Caribbean couple who were heading to the Eiffel Tower. They where in Paris for the second time, because they wanted to show an another family member the culture of Paris. Small world! We also talked to the French folks on the bus. Real city people. Always in for a small talk.

Most interesting black experience. You see black people everywhere. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that in the recent past black people in France were afraid of calling themselves black or “noirs”. Afraid of not conforming to the French principle that all people are French and equal. It was the French black organisation CRAN who activaly began adressing the issue that visible minorities in France faced discrimination. The front man, Patrick lozes wrote the book 'Nous, Les Noirs de France'(We, the blacks of France').

Last ethnic detail. Two black people in the metro were calling us 'Caribe'. Some people are always trying to label you.

Most interesting city experience. Of course we got lost in Paris. So we asked a bus driver which bus we had to take to Gare du Nord. He first pointed us to a bus station in a nearby street, but while we were walking towards the bus station we heard a yell. It was the bus driver. He had left his bus to tell us he knew a shorter route. Great guy. We waved at him as he drove by.

Most notable difference between Paris and Amsterdam. People in Paris ride scooters like people in Amsterdam ride bicycles.

Most favourite French author I was suddenly thinking of. Of course Alexandre Dumas, author of the The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. I still remember the moment when I found out he was black. Dumas was reburied in 2002 in the Panthéon of Paris, the great mausoleum where French luminaries are interred. Former French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged that racism was the reason why he hadn't been enshrined in the past. Dumas was the greatest.

Dumas reminded me of a video of a school trip of French children from an urban school. They were on a excursion to get to know the famous French author Honoré De Balzac. Interesting detail, the children are from the neighbourhood where the ethnic riots broke out.

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