Getting Lost in Paris – Not What I Expected

I can’t think of any creative way to launch into the stories of our recent trip to Paris and Italy so I figure I better just start at the beginning or I may never start at all!

Our flight was direct from IAD to CDG and the flight was surprisingly fast.  I think we caught a tailwind or a updraft or something like that and we ended up getting there about an hour early.  So around 6 am we had landed, found our way to our luggage and out the door to find our shuttle van.  Traffic was nuts coming into Paris so it was 10:00 am by the time we actually arrived at our hotel.

At this point it is important to note that I did not sleep on the flight.  At all.  Not a wink.  So at this point I have been awake for nearly 24 hours.  And I was a walking zombie.  I honestly don’t remember a ton about the first day.  Something about stained glass and cathedrals I think.  At one point I was falling asleep while walking.  I didn’t even know that was possible.  So travel tip #1 – Sleep on the flight, at all costs, or take a flight that allows you to arrive in time to go to bed once you arrive.

In all seriousness we did see amazing sites that first day.  Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle and La Conciergerie, then off to lunch at La Rose de France where I had the best french onion soup I have ever tasted in my life.  But really, other than that the day is a blur.  We headed back to the hotel for a nap around 4 pm and had to pry ourselves from the bed to make our 8 pm dinner reservation.

Also, did I mention that it rained?  It was rainy this day.  And cold.  We brought umbrellas.  But it was still uncomfortable and really confusing, trying to read the map and the signs and figure out landmarks in the rain.  This definitely put a damper on my first impression of Paris.  (ha ha, no pun intended).  I know that the rain was not Paris’ fault, the blame was her shame to bear in my eyes at the time.  Then not knowing which way to walk down Blvd. Saint Germain to find where we were supposed to eat breakfast (which turned into brunch by the time we made it) drove my anxiety to a new level.  I was afraid that this was how it would be for 5 days, wandering around white buildings with balconies that all look the same looking for places that don’t seem to exists despite being clearly marked on a map.  In the RAIN!

I so desperately wanted my first impression of the City of Lights to be all wine and romance but it just wasn’t.  And honestly, it took me a while to get over it.  I let it get to me and it had a negative impact on our first few days of vacation.  In hindsight, this is tragic. And a little embarrassing.  I fancied myself an experienced traveller.  With international locations such as Bali, Nairobi and Jerusalem under my belt, I was confident I would have no problem navigating a modern European city like Paris.  Alas, that was not the case and my pride kept me from getting over it.

So while we are at it, let me get the negative junk out of the way so I can move on and focus on all that there was and is to j’adore avec Paris.

Metro.  A blessing and a curse.  If you have any physical disability do not count on the Paris metro system.  Not that we DID have a physical disability but I personally couldnt get over how many stairs up and down and across and around you have to navigate UNDER ground.  At one point, we got on a metro-looking train only to realize we were on a RER train (not a metro) and our ticket wouldn’t work in the little machine that lets you exit.  We had to follow someone out of a handicapped exit to escape.  Then we realized we got off at the wrong stop backtracked, and again found ourselves trapped and had to walk straight through an arriving train to reach the exit. The blessing of it all is that trains are always coming, and fast.  So it was very convenient, it was just a little cumbersome to navigate.  And HOT LIKE FIRE.

Fashion. I consistently felt like a slob in Paris.  My closet could never live up to that of the commoners and commuters we passed by on our way to the sites each day. Looking around at others riding with me on the metro, I was the only one sweating like a fat American. While cute women and men were donning leather jackets and scarves, I had already stripped down to my last layer without causing embarrassment to my spouse by the first transfer spot. Everyone had on cute boots and leggings.  I liked the look, but there was no way I was breaking in any new boots touring around the Louvre!

Ladies ‘o the Night.  Yes you read that right.  We had a situation on the street where we lived in Paris with some drunk dudes hollerin at the “workin’ girls” if you know what I mean.  It was SO noisy and loud at night we could not sleep with the window open.  We finally asked about it at the front desk and they were the ones to tell us that a new club opened a few doors down that attracts a certain kind of undesirable night life near the hotel.  Now, this was in a really nice area of the Latin Quarter.  Our hotel was a very cute, quaint, B&B type place with only a few rooms, certainly not the kind you can rent by the hour!  Needless to say, hotel staff were mortified and apologetic.  Not sure what can be done about it but the things we heard sounded more like the Moulin Rouge than the Latin Quarter!

Food.  Sorry Barefoot Contessa, I didnt like the food in Paris.  I was really shocked by this.  I expected to LOVE it and not get ENOUGH of it.  But I found myself staring down the same plates of meat and potatoes in every place we dined. EXCEPT one.  And that restaurant gets a post all unto its own.  Now, this could have to do with alot of things. There are plenty of folks who I’ve shared this with who have already gasped at my comments on the French food.  And perhaps I was misreading the menus or not being adventurous enough.  Just suffice it to say I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed by the food.  In fact, the last night in Paris we both ordered Veal Scallopini.  Yes thats Italian folks!  I couldn’t wait to get to Italy.

I do want to give a shout out to our Paris morning breakfast joint – Paul’s Bakery.  We found it the second day and LOVED it.  It was consistently tasty and VERY nice people.  Coffee was good, too.  So go on and hate on me for sticking to the chain, but this place did not disappoint!

At the end of the day, I think what irked me most was being out of control.  I struggled to just let go and enjoy the ride.  I regret this tremendously.  Thankfully this only lasted about 2 and a half days at the beginning of a very long and enjoyable trip.  I just had to get over myself long enough to relax and go with the flow.

OK enough of the bad stuff.  There is nothing else bad to say about the trip.  But I had to get that out before moving on to the goodness.  That’s why this is getting posted on Friday.  In the press secretary world you always release bad news on Friday.

Next up you will find all the amazing stories you have (hopefully) been waiting for.  And now that I have all my pics organized and ready I have no more excuses.

More to come!

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5 thoughts on “Getting Lost in Paris – Not What I Expected

  1. Bud Moeller says:

    Next time I’ll be your city guide. You guys had the worst experiences of anyone I’ve ever heard of in that beautiful city. Not much travel experience in Europe?? We’ll do it right! 🙂

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