Once upon a time I visited Paris rather spontaneously which was not at all in keeping with my obsessive planning nature. And while I don’t necessarily recommend this approach (unless it is the only way you can get there) it worked for me!
It happened like this.
We were planning our first trip to Europe where my husband would be attending a conference for a few days. We would be gone for two weeks, the first to be split between Reading and London. The second would remain open. Maybe we would spend more time in England. Perhaps travel to Scotland? Of course I really wanted to see Paris (doesn’t everyone?) but my husband wasn’t so sure.
Still I hoped. Near the end of our first week there I begin to use my persuasive reasoning skills in earnest on my defenseless husband. Paris is so close, I say. Shouldn’t we take advantage while we’re here? We may never come back. And there’s Normandy! We could visit the D-Day Beaches! How about that? (Yes, I pulled the world war two card on my history buff husband, as I figure it may be my only hope for getting across the channel.)
He’s concerned about the language. Don’t worry I say. I know a little French. (A long, long time ago I had taken two years to satisfy college entrance requirements. I still remember how to say such useful expressions as, ‘May I sharpen my pencil?”)
It was October, not peak travel season, so I assumed it would be fine. There was the Eurostar train under the English Channel direct to Paris in 2 hours. Although no hotel arrangements had been made, I did have a few leads from friends. And I read and carried portions of Rick Steves travel book on France. (All part of my secret planning. How hard could it be?)
The Normandy strategy worked. We would travel to Paris by train, spend a few days, then take the train to Caen, rent a car and explore the area.
We check out of our hotel and walk to the Waterloo Station to take the Eurostar to Paris. Walk up, buy tickets. Only Business Class is available. (“That will be one arm and one leg, please.”) Okaaaay. We are committed and pay the price. (I won’t tell you how much. It’s still embarrassing.)
We have a comfortable ride over and can smell the sea as we cross under the channel.
And we’re in France!
And then the strangest thing happened. We exit the train and proceed to street level and we are in a foreign country and they really do speak another language and we really do not have reservations and what on earth are we doing here? At least that’s what I sense emanating from my husband and I am right there with him. Except. It was my idea. I know the language, remember? So after a brief encounter with a con artist who would love to help us out at the cash machine (um, no thank you) we head to hotel referral #1 near the Louvre and inquire about the rates. 500 Euros is the answer. It was then I knew we were in trouble.
Hotel referral #2 is on the Left Bank and we take a cab and learn quickly that French cab drivers are not the most patient human beings in the world (at least this one wasn’t) and also have a predetermined amount they expect for their tip and we apparently don’t know what that is (who takes a cab in Seattle?) and well, it’s awkward and slightly unpleasant. Fortunately we don’t understand what he’s saying (well we got the general idea.)
Thankfully Hotel #2 is quaint and clean and lovely and better yet, only 100 Euros a night. And they have a room available!. Oh joy!
So we relax and settle in for the most amazing few days in the beautiful City of Lights.
“Parlez-vous Anglais?” I say over and over again and every time the kind response is in English. The red bus is our way around town and we see all the sights one must see in Paris, including this one. (Sorry about the picture quality but hey, it’s mine and proof I was really there.)
And now I can finally say, “we’ll always have Paris.”
And to think this was my ticket in.
Okay, that’s all I have time for. Thanks for following along!