Travel

Paris

I’m in the midst (that’s putting it lightly, since it’s almost been a year) of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here. The first part of this post is lengthy travel troubles, feel free to scroll past to the pretty pictures!

In my last post I discussed that Paris was a complete shit show, and that’s still putting it mildly. The Budapest airport has got to be my least favorite airport of all the airports that I have ever been to. When you walk in there is no direction as to which counter you check-in at. In fact, you are not allowed to check-in until your flight is shown on a big leaderboard. And this leaderboard is not digital, it’s like the old fashion leaderboard where the letters and numbers flip when a change is made. When we first got to the airport we did not see our flight on the board, so we waited, and waited, and waited but every time the board changed our flight still wasn’t listed. It was inching closer, and closer to our boarding time, it became quite clear that our flight was delayed but no one actually communicated that. When all of the other flights leaving Budapest that evening had checked-in, there was a large group of us just waiting in haphazard lines for the airline company to check us in and tell us the gate we would be boarding. At this point at was around 9pm, and I was so over travel.

Finally check-in started, we were told that the flight was delayed by at least an hour. When we made our way to the gate we found that the gate was behind closed doors, with a sign that said– ‘once you leave this gate, you cannot come back in.’ Once boarding began we found that behind the doors was a large garage, and that is where we were boarding our flight. Well we’d actually be boarding out on the tarmac, but we scanned our tickets at this desolate desk out in an airport hangar. Bizarre, but at least we were finally boarding our flight!

Once we were in the air, the pilot came on the speaker, but it was all in French, and I couldn’t understand a single word that was said. Hopefully nothing important! We had some turbulence, which I hate, and get so nervous about. Did I mention I was just so over traveling? But then as we came in for landing I could see the lit up Eiffel Tower and I couldn’t help but smile. It almost felt surreal.

We landed and exited the plane out on the tarmac, then boarded buses to bring us to baggage claim. When we got into the airport I flipped on my wifi so that I could map how to get us to our hotel. It was then that I found out that we were at Charles de Gaulle aiport, when we were originally suppose to be landing at the southern airport, Orly. So that’s what the pilot must have been telling us!

Someone standing next to us said that there were free shuttles since we had to fly into the wrong airport. To find out more about this I talked to a customer service rep, who informed me that Orly airport closes at 12am, which is why we had to fly to Charles de Gaulle. She also told me that there were three shuttles outside, one that was going to Orly, one that was going North of the city, and one that was going into the city, which was the one she advised me to take. She advised that it would be best to shuttle into the center of the city, and just take a cab for less money since taking a cab from the airport would be at least $50+. When we got outside, we asked all the drivers which shuttle was going into the city, but they all denied that they were going into the city. By process of elimination we found the shuttle that we believed we needed to be on, except that the driver was super rude, and kept telling us it was not the right bus, that we should take a cab instead. After slight deliberation we decided to get on the shuttle anyway to see where it would take us.

At this point I was near a nervous breakdown. I was just so worried about where we were going to be dropped off. Both of our phones were dying, and I was having visions of being dropped off at a parking lot, and the driver refusing to bring us back to the airport, so we’d have to beg someone with a car to bring us home with them! Luckily this did not happen. The bus stopped, and the first thing we saw was a drugstore, but of course it was closed. And to top it off, it was raining. All we needed was wifi so that we could call an uber. We huddled underneath the yawning of the drugstore, loosely connected to their wifi with a phone battery at 7%. We called an uberpool, at the time we had no idea what that meant, but we did not care. When the driver pulled up he was dressed in a suit, and was driving a very nice car so automatically I am thinking ‘how much is this going to cost?’ Luckily uberpool just means sharing the car with others, which we didn’t have to do!

We got dropped off down the street from our hotel, so when we walked up to our hotel we found that it was closed and that the doors were locked. There was a buzzer to ring for service, so we kept ringing the damn buzzer, over, and over. I was baffled because I had no idea that hotels could close. No where on their website, or in my reservation confirmation email did it say that we needed to check-in by a certain time. It was still raining and at this point we were soaked, and locked out of our hotel. If I thought I was near a nervous breakdown before, I was wrong. This broke me. I was on my 12th day of travel, and nothing ever felt like it was going right.

We both remembered passing a Holiday Inn, so we walked down the block to look for a place to sleep for the night. The guy at the desk might be possibly be the nicest man we encountered the whole trip. We explained to him what happened and he let us use his phone to call the hotel, just in case we were missing something. He also let us charge our phones, and use their wifi. Maybe these gestures don’t seem that out of the ordinary, but at 1am, when you are in a soaked in a foreign country, locked out of your hotel, it was the grandest gesture anyone could have made. Once we realized we were not going to get into our original hotel we decided to rent a room at this Holiday Inn. Taking a shower, and climbing into that bed has never felt so good.

The next morning we checked out, and made our way back to the original hotel. When we explained what happened to the guy at the front desk he seemed baffled. He asked if we had rung the buzzer, to which we replied ‘for at least 10 minutes.’ He checked us in, and said he would call management. We didn’t spend much time in the room, because we wanted to start out adventure for the day. On our way out, the front desk manager explained to us that the night manager had fallen to sleep, and since it had gotten so late, he assumed we’re weren’t checking in. To comp us for our troubles he offered us a free breakfast, which hardly seemed fair, we insisted we wanted our Holiday Inn room paid for. He needed to talk with management, so we set out for the day.

Of course the first thing I wanted to see was the Eiffel Tower! On the way we stopped at Les Invalides which is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments all relating to the military history of France. Because we were traveling a few months after the Paris attacks there was a strong military presence all over the city, but especially at this establishment. We didn’t go inside, just walked the grounds, and continued on our way.

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And after we left here, we walked a few more blocks and turned a corner and saw the Eiffel Tower. The feeling of seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time is indescribable. Much like when I was on the plane and saw the tower, all of the traveling stress that I had just experienced completely disintegrated the instant I saw the Eiffel Tower. I really didn’t think I was going to have such a strong reaction to this landmark. Prior to the trip I wasn’t that excited for Paris, it was never really on my top list of places I wanted to go. But standing there starring up at the Eiffel Tower was very surreal for me. Now get ready for a crazy amount of pictures, that will all look very similar.

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Alright. Got that out of the way. I wish I could tell you that these are the only photos of the Eiffel tower, but that would be wrong. There will be more, just wait. There is a water taxi that you can buy a one day ticket for, and ride it around to all of the major sights, hopping on and off whenever. Since I am writing this post almost a year after my trip (god, I suck) I do not remember the price, but I know it was relatively affordable. Plus I love using boats as a mode of transportation!

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We stopped at Notre Dame, which was beautiful. I’ve imagined seeing all of these places so many times, but when I actually saw them, it felt brand new. Does that make sense? Traveling is so surreal. We didn’t climb to the top because the lines were so crazy, but we did find a cafe with macaroons. And I found a street artist that I bought an oil painting from.

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From here we hopped back on the boat taxi and went to the Louvre. Again, we didn’t go inside, partly because we were limited on time. But if I ever get back to Paris, this will be one of my first stops.

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As you can see from the pictures it was already getting dark, so we decided to start heading back towards our hotel. It was New Year’s Eve, but we didn’t have much of a plan. We decided to grab some food and wine from the grocery store, warm up in our hotel, and then head back to the Eiffel Tower. I was getting so sick at this point, that I had considered staying in so that I could sleep. But who does that on New Year’s Eve, in Paris?

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We had heard in past years that there were fireworks at midnight at the tower, but with the recent attacks there probably wouldn’t be. No fireworks was just fine with us, getting to be at the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve is pretty much bucket list worthy. So here are a bunch more pictures of the Eiffel Tower, just now it’s dark. Feel free to skip past these. I really just couldn’t get enough!

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We weren’t the only ones that decided to go to the tower at midnight, there were lots of people, and we made some friends who were American, in the military and stationed in Germany.  There was also lots of military men at the tower with their big riffles in hand. At midnight the tower lit up and a bit of a light show happened. I can’t believe I almost missed this experience because I wanted to sleep! Although I ended up being really sick after this, so sleeping probably would have been the better idea.

After midnight we went out for drinks, and I drank just enough to give me a killer hangover the next morning. It didn’t help that the hotel was still being pretty unaccommodating when it came to refunding us for the night we were locked out. Part of the problem was that we booked through Hotwire, so we needed to contact them. However Hotwire gives no refunds, ever. After this trip I can tell you that I will never be using Hotwire again. So after a lot of back and fourth, they finally refunded us the full amount. We also hadn’t secured our transportation to Amsterdam, so once we checked out of our hotel we had to decide which bus to take. It’s about an 8 hour bus ride. The bus leaving at 4pm was a lot more expensive than the overnight bus, so against my better judgement, we booked the overnight bus. You can add taking overnight buses to the list of things I will never be doing again. There is a train that goes between Paris, and Amsterdam. If you book far enough in advance, it’s not a bad price. I hope the next time I travel I will be able to afford trains!

We thought we would use the day to tour more of Paris, but I was hungover, sick, exhausted and cold. We did see a few more sights, starting with the Luxombourg Gardens, which I am sure are beautiful in the summer!

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From here we went back to Notre Dame, which has a nice little park behind it, with benches to sit and enjoy the area. Since we had some time to kill, we sat for as long as we could handle the cold weather!

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Once we were good and cold we ventured into a cafe to grab coffee and warm up. From here we saw the love lock bridge, which has since been taken down! I am really glad I got to see it when I did! It was a bridge that had a bazillion padlocks attached to it. The idea was that when you’re in love you buy a lock, write your name on it, lock it to the bridge, and throw away the key! It’s sad to think it’s gone, but hopefully the city will figure out a way to do something really cool with the locks!

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After this I felt so wiped. Being sick while traveling is a cruel, cruel joke. Of course it was almost 4 o’clock, and I was kicking myself for not taking the earlier bus. We found a cafe to hide out at, eat dinner, charge our phones, and kill time. I know that killing time in Paris sounds ridiculous, but I was on day 13 of travel, beyond exhausted, sick, and freezing. Someday I will make it back to Paris and really explore the city!

We eventually made our way to the bus station, which was not enclosed, it was raining, and we were early so we found the nearest restaurant which just happened to be a McDonald’s. But a really fancy McDonald’s. I had a really legit salad made fresh upon order. We sat here for about an hour, waiting for the bus. However I don’t think they like people to sit there that long, because they played the same song, on repeat, for an hour. Torturous! The bus finally came, and we were finally off to Amsterdam, the last city on the 16 day European adventure!

Favorite Parts of Paris:

  • The Eiffel Tower, haha, could you tell? I think what I liked most about it is the connection to other people. It’s crazy to think about how many people and world leaders stood where I stood and saw the same tower.
  • How nice everyone was. I had previously heard that French people did not like American tourists, however I found that to be so opposite. We encountered nothing but nice people.
  • The vibe of the city. There is just something so magical about Paris. I can’t describe it, it’s just a feeling.
  • Crepes! Chocolate crepes!

Would I go there again?

  • Yes! Flights from Minneapolis to Paris are relatively cheap, so I’m really hoping to make a return to Paris, but for many more days this time!