2013-08-07 49 2
In a small grove of trees near Viarmes, a rural town north of Paris
Transilien H from the Gare du Nord in Paris this afternoon. Check out the hashpoint, then walk into Viarmes and look around...
Made it within 10-15m or so, but didn't nail it because I'd
forgotten willfully denied that my GPS was out of batteries. Interesting surroundings though. More when I have time! -- OtherJack (talk) 19:46, 7 August 2013 (EDT)
I have more time now. The reason I willfully denied my battery problem, which my GPS had warned me about during my previous hash or two, was frustration over my complete fail at doing laundry that morning in Paris. I'd somehow mistaken my host's front-loading, French-labeled washer for a dryer, brought all my dirty clothes to the laundromat a few doors down from her building, spent about ten minutes coaxing the old washer there into starting, walked back up to her troisième-étage apartment, twiddled my thumbs for an hour, descended again, brought the wet clothes back up the steep stairs, realized my mistake, yet failed to realize she had a drying rack (this was my first time doing laundry in Europe), brought the clothes down again, and spent more euros on the laundromat dryer. All this when what I really wanted to do, was geohash. The point was quite close to a station on the Transilien (the regional train network around Ile-de-France.)
So when the clothes were finally definitively drying, I thought about climbing the stairs one more time to exchange the batteries, but instead just fled the scene for the nearby elevated Métro station and my awaiting expedition. (The gps and coordinates were already in my pocket.) A transfer later and I was at a back entry of the Gare du Nord, where a train was conveniently set to depart in only 15 minutes or so. I didn't even bother seeing the famous front hall of the station (or remembering to buy batteries). The interior of the brand-new train, however, did not disappoint.
It was in this sparkling, heavily designed conveyance that I rode through run-down banlieues, tidy well-to-do suburbs, and finally green rural farmland with old little villages. The sky was looking ominously convective, with grey towering cumulus everywhere and a lot of humidity, and the forecast called for a risk of showers and thunderstorms. No rain yet though. Eventually the train branched off onto a little single-track spur, slowed to maybe 30 km/h (20 mph), and entered deep woods which often completely enclosed us left, right and above, like a tunnel. I questioned the wisdom of what I was doing for a bit, but soon enough we pulled up to the rural Viarmes platform and I got out along with maybe five other people.
It was actually quite a scenic, tranquil spot - the land to the north fell steeply away revealing another big stretch of farmland through the trees, with the town of Viarmes in the mid foreground. For now, though, I was headed south, deeper into the forest. I followed my hand-drawn map across the tracks and down a little country road, which appeared to be in the right place but with a different name. There were puddles everywhere from the morning's rains. Soon I was on an even smaller gravel lane, closed to everyone but riverains (I figured this meant pedestrians.)
As I rounded a bend dogs began to bark everywhere, but luckily they were all behind fences, along with horses and cows. Quickly even the gravel ended and I was essentially on a hiking trail. It was not too overgrown though, and soon I emerged onto another dirt road. This was supposed to hook up with a more major-looking road in a few dozen meters.
However, when I came to the junction, it was oriented the wrong way, and both of the choices were just as unimproved as what I'd come in on. Was I lost? I finally decided to go check out what was down each road. Right quickly led me out of the woods and smack into the side of a cornfield, but left continued bumpily through the woods in the direction I thought I needed to go. So left it was...
... and with time I emerged back into farmland, the road improved to gravel, I passed a few properties and finally I could see an intersection ahead with a bigger, paved road. This part matched my map much better. And when I got to the corner... the road names matched! Thank the algorithm, I was not lost. I excitedly turned right and headed for the geohash, which was in a small grove of conifer trees growing to the left of this road at the crest of a short rise.
As I drew closer I turned on the gps, and it began displaying its usual low battery warnings. I didn't think much of it due to my success a few days earlier. When I reached what I thought was the closest point on the road, I looked at it again to find that it had turned itself off! I got it to turn on again long enough to re-establish signal and tell me I was still one or two dozen meters away (I hadn't entered the coordinates earlier, so I don't know the exact distance) but it wouldn't stay on long. Furthermore, the grove was behind a small but real fence, and was probably part of the nearby farm property. I thought about hopping over, doing a few figure 8s and guessing the location -- the undergrowth didn't look bad at all -- but the combination of possibly hostile ownership with no guarantee or proof of success dissuaded me.
So, with a heavy heart, I headed back down the road, past my original entry, under the railroad and down into the town of Viarmes. Which turned out to be rustic and pretty, but rather abandoned, with next to nothing open. I guess everyone was on August holiday on some Mediterranean beach. But it was a pleasant hike back up the hill to the station, it never actually rained (!), and at the end of the train ride back I got such a fine view of the basilica of the Sacré-Coeur that (after obligatorily walking around the Gare du Nord and seeing the Eurostar come in) I was inspired to head up and check out Montmartre. Soon I was a normal tourist of Paris again.
At dinner at a bar later that night, my host and her friend had never even heard of Viarmes... I guess it's too small for Parisians to even register. So score one for geohashing. I might have spelled it wrong for them, though. (This is also when I found out that clothes get stolen from laundromats all the time here. Luckily, we returned to the neighborhood at 11pm to find mine still on the premises, which we could access because the owner was still hanging out in his couscous restaurant next door drinking and watching TV. They were STILL WET though. The drying rack finally put them out of their misery.)
| OtherJack earned the Blinded by Science Consolation Prize