Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Roamin' Roman Travels to Paris!

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to go to Paris. I had an old jam jar that I would collect money in—usually consisting of only coins for the possibility of one day going to Paris. Every Sunday I would wake up and run to the end of the driveway to retrieve the morning paper and immediately scan the travel section. I was constantly checking flight prices to Paris. (This was before the Internet was popular; I had to rely on the newspaper and travel agencies for information. And no, I’m not that old if that’s what you’re thinking) Each week I would compare prices and then calculate how much more I needed for a plane ticket. Unfortunately, years later, I never reached my goal for my Paris vacation. 

It wasn’t until Florence; I realized I should finally fulfill my Paris dream. I had made a promise to my traveling buddy Garrett, that if he came to Barcelona I would go to Paris AND London with him. I was hoping to weasel out of my promise but in the end I booked a flight to Paris… I still owed him for not going to London and instead negotiated on a hot chocolate in Paris. 
The flight to Paris was inexpensive, thanks to RyanAir. From what I gather many people use RyanAir and love the prices but don’t like the airline. I don’t blame them either, the seats and leg room are uncomfortable for tall people like myself. But for 15 Euros for a ticket to Paris, the price is right. I arrived in Paris at 9pm and it wasn’t until 1:30am did I arrive at the hostel. As you might know RyanAir does not fly directly into Paris, it lands in Beauvais airport, which is a 75-minute bus ride. The bus ride is 15 Euros and dropped us at the bus depot. From there we had to figure out the metro. I guess we were both a little tired because the metro seemed impossible to navigate. I let Garrett try and figure it out while I waited in line to buy the tickets. At least I was useful for something. The nice thing about traveling with someone is that they always have something to offer. Garrett was never afraid to ask for directions, or ask as many questions possible in order to reach our destination. I guess it’s a good thing because at times I would have given up, Garrett always got us there.

Problems soon surfaced when we were on the metro, within 20 minutes the line closed down for the day. So once again, we were stuck looking at a map trying to figure out where the heck to go. (Our hostel was not in the center of Paris, so it took a while to get to.) By the time we got off of the metro that was supposedly “close” to our hostel, we realized the directions provided SUCKED! Without Internet, we had to rely on asking people at 11pm where to go. The fascinating thing is every time we asked someone directions they would always give us different answers, and so we were on a wild goose chase trying to navigate. Finally we found the Hostel, “Peace and Love” (Don’t judge it by the name; it was the cheapest and cleanest place available.) I was totally shocked that downstairs was a bar and the night we arrived there where a handful of drunken people, not to mention a few couples drunkenly madly making out. This was my first impression and I instantly wanted to leave. The bartender pulled out a laptop from beneath the bar and signed us in. HOWEVER, between him serving drinks, the computer not working, and trying to help us, it took a over 30 minutes for the process.
View from my room at the hostel
We finally got to our room and went to bed. Little did I know that a few hours later the other person staying in our room entered drunker than a skunk. He began to make a lot of noise in addition to bringing a girl that didn’t belong in our room. I am going to skip and spare all readers what happened next. All I can say is that I was so thankful for my earplugs and pulled the covers and pillow over my head and prayed that what was happening below me was just a dream.  So far I was not in love with Paris.

I woke up early and told myself that it was a new day and to have an open mind. I know sometimes when I am disappointed with my first impression; it tends to damper the rest of my vacation. BUT this is why I am traveling and learning as I go. Only I have the power to make or break my vacation. First thing was breakfast! I was really hungry and soon we found a cheap bakery and got a pastry.  From there we discovered a metro closer to our hostel than what we found the previous night.

 The Louvre was our first exhibition. We had to tackle the biggest and the best first. Did you know if you are 24 and under (thank gosh I made the cut) in addition to living/studying in Europe the Louvre is free! The Louvre is huge! It cannot be tackled in one day. I recommend all those traveling students, if you don’t pay the entrance free, invest in guided audio tour. It’s only six Euros and you have all the information at the click of a button. We spent three and a half hours there before calling it quits. After three hours it just got overwhelming and needed a break. I saw what I wanted, the Mona Lisa and some sculptures, and with that I was satisfied.
After the Louvre it was the afternoon and Garrett had a recommendation from a friend of an amazing falafel restaurant. However, he didn’t know how to get there and once again relying on people for directions. I wish people would just say they didn’t know instead of telling us where they “think it is” or telling us false information. Garrett was extremely persistent. I swear he probably asked over ten people, and each time I became frustrated with the new direction we had to go. When you travel with other people, it’s important to do what they want as well even if it’s something you aren’t too keen on, and Garrett wanted a falafel sandwich from this specific place.  We probably spent another hour trying to find the restaurant, and if you ask me where it was I could only tell you it was in a Jewish enclave in Paris. The place was called King Falafel Palace for anyone who is looking for good falafel sandwiches. Good thing the service was excellent and speedy because by the time I arrived, I was beyond famished. I have had many falafels before, but this one really hit the spot. Delicious!!! Plus we got this special kind of lemonade that was really good; however it was a bit pricey, 3.50 Eros, almost half the cost of our sandwich. But when you’re traveling take every opportunity as it comes because you never know when you’ll be back.
 After lunch we retraced our steps to the Louvre area and walked in Tuileries Garden. My interest sparked while on the way to the falafel restaurant because I saw an opportunity to take photos. In Europe I am trying to improve my photo skills. 
From Tuileries Garden we walked all the way to Arc de Triomphe. Arc de Triomphe is located at the end of Elysees Boulavard and is an islanded in the middle of a road. A lesson learned for all you, there is an underground pedestrian passage to get to the Arc. You don’t have to run across the street like chickens with their head cut off. Garrett and some other Americans ran across the street dodging cars as they came inches away from putting them in the hospital. I could barely watch them. But in the end they made it and caused people around them to laugh. On the other hand I was safely on the other side and now faced with the dilemma of how to get to Garrett. I wasn’t going to do the same thing they did. Garrett tried to convince me through hand motions to run over.  Finally, all the time spent trying to figure out how to get across, there was a pedestrian tunnel right behind me. Patience paid off this time when seeking the answer.
Logically after going to the Arc de Triomphe it was time to visit the ultimate landmark in Paris—the Eiffel Tower. I am not going to say much, the photos below do more justice than me talking.  Three words though, BEYOND MY EXPECTATIONS!
I was happy to learn when I came back to the hostel the guy from the previous night had check out and we got a new roommate who was from France and knew respectful hostel etiquette.

In the morning our task was Notre-Dame Cathedral. The more we used the metro the easier it became to navigate the city. The only thing I wish Paris had more of was street signs directing people once they exit the metro to where the major monuments are. (Or maybe I need to improve my map reading skills) We got to Notre-Dame in perfect time before all the other tourists came. We didn’t have to wait in line for entry. There isn’t an entrance fee, however donations are greatly appreciated.
All I can say is I did a lot of walking throughout Paris. Sometimes it is the best way to see the surroundings. After the Cathedral we went to Champs-Elysees Boulevard. Lining the boulevard there are many tiny shacks with vendors selling all kinds of things. To cut costs of what a restaurant would charge we ate lunch there and explored. Most importantly, you all know I have a sweet tooth, so I got a couple of treats for myself and of course hot chocolate was a must, my fingers were freezing!
Pure Heaven
Must be close to Christmas!
From there Garrett and I explored more, mostly trying to find a jazz club to go to at night. That was another adventure of asking tons of people where to go after getting lost numerous times. Paris has decreased my confidence in my navigation ability. Later in the afternoon, we went back to the hostel for a nap and shower before going out. At the last minute we decided not to go to the jazz club we found earlier and try another one. Big mistake! I should always stick to the game plan, because once again we had a hard time finding the place and in short, once we did, it was too expensive. So we started to walk around and realized we were by the Notre-Dame Cathedral. At night there are many street performances and we stumbled across a man and his guitar playing classical hits. He instantly grabbed my attention when he sang “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. For your information, the song is about San Francisco and written when Otis lived in Sausalito. Otis Redding died in a plane crash at the age of 26 before his song was released and became popular. So being miles away from home and hearing this street singer sing the song, I couldn’t help but stay for another hour listening to him play, even though, I almost froze my face and fingers off. I had a little bit of home with me in Paris. I guess it all works out; I got my music performance after all.
Garrett had an early flight home and I was tired. What I love about traveling are the people you meet unexpectedly. I was making my way up the stairs to my room when this Swedish guy told me I had to join him for a drink down at the bar. I politely refused, but he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. While in the bar, I met a whole bunch of people, and a girl who graduated from the same high school as me only a few years below me—small world. But the most important part of the night was meeting an Aussie. Something about the Irish or Australian accent always seems to grab my attention. The next thing I knew, I was on my way to the Eiffel Tower with him. (Of course I talked to him and got the vibe, he wasn’t a creepy murderer. One could only hope.) I love social interaction with other travelers, they always have a story to tell and like I say, you get to experience their world for a short amount of time.

It started to rain once we got to the tower and, of course, I had left my umbrella at the hostel, but it didn’t really faze me. I swear he was a charmer because we walked through the park in order to get to the Eiffel Tower, which was beautiful. I don’t know if he intentionally timed it, but right as we arrived the light show started. That is when I fell in love with Paris, finally on the last night I was there. (And no I wasn’t in love with the Aussie.) It wasn’t just the company of an Aussie, but for the simple fact I could walk around at 1am in the morning and see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and not to mention the illumination of the tower caused from the fog—very mystical.

From there we got a late 2am dinner, can you image that there are restaurants that are still open? After dinner we faced a dilemma—taxis are impossible to get at that time. It was so bad that we had to walk all the way home and it wasn’t until 6am that we finally got back. We got lost many times and I’m not going to lie but I regretted bringing my purse because I felt like a target. Three nights previous to meeting me, the Aussie has been mugged. I was very relieved once we had safely arrived at the hostel, I still have my purse.

Sunday was my last day there and it was spent sleeping in and relaxing. I had a 2:55pm bus to catch, and I didn’t want to get lost on the metro. So I allowed more time than needed just in case I would get lost. I am happy to report, I made my flight and finally conquered the Paris metro.

As much as I enjoy traveling, it is a lot of work. It wasn’t until I went to Pairs; I realized how much work traveling entails when navigating becomes hard. But that’s part of the traveling experience. Live, learn and grow from it all! In the short amount of time I was there, I saw a lot, but never enough to be fully satisfied. This just means it will be totally justified when I return. - Whenever that will be, I look forward to it.

Yours truly,
Romin’ Roman

14 comments:

  1. Love the blog! It's so informative and a fun read. I felt like I was there with you (and I'm sorry I wasn't!).
    Otis Redding was born and raised in Macon! So that song is basically the symbol of our friendship because it bridges our two cities :)
    Love you, Travel Buddy. Can't wait to read your next blog about FRANKFURT, GERMANY!

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  2. Oh wow, what a trip and a half! And Germany next? I know what is going to happen when you get home. We will never get to hear lots more details of your trip. There will be no time. Instead of working 80 hours a week as you did before going to Europe, you will immediately be working the full 168 hours a week just to exist. C'est la vie. You will have my condolences at that time but for now celebrer et vivre. You deserve the best. Hugs, Norn

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  3. J'adore Paris! Glad you enjoyed it as well despite the colorful characters and navigational challenges. In my experience, getting lost while traveling is the best way to discover.

    Have a great time in Germany! Be sure to try the gluwein (hot mulled wine that will warm your fingers and toes). And, of course, don't pass on the meat/potatoes.

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  4. HAPPY LATE BIRTHDAY! FELIZ CUMPLEANOS!! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!. I GLAD FOR YOU ALL THIS WONDERFUL PLACES YOU ARE VISITING. NEXT TIME I WOULD LIKE TRAVEL WITH YOU. GOOD FOR YOU!!! I WILL SAVE SOME TURKEY.... JEJEJE.CONTINUOS ENJOYING YOUR TRIP. REGARDS,ERIKA.

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  5. What I really like from this blog is the transition from summer/fall into the Christmas holidays. It is so nice to see the store windows and how they differ from how they decorate here in the states. I can hardly wait to see Germany. They celebrate Christmas like no other, but you will have to tell us how it compares to Rome while celebrating Christmas there. More Christmas window pictures from where you visit will just enhance the trip to the days following up to Christmas.
    Your pictures are definitely taking a turn for the best. I love the connection of the hot chocolate cup themes you have throughout the blogs. The secondary theme of pathways and leading in roadways are always a treat and a nice way to "lead" your readers into your blogs. Little subtleties like pictures have essentially awoken the reader into just being where you are in that moment and experience.
    Carry on.
    Cheers!

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