Tag Archives: France

If I knew then what I know now

A friend and I were new to the travel scene. We had only arrived in London a few weeks prior. She would live there for three months, and me for six. A few weekends in, we had decided that we wanted to go to Paris! Cue Bonjour Paris from Funny Face.

Oh Paris. We couldn’t wait to get there. Everything romantic about Paris that one would think of, we had in our heads. Romance! Fashion! Shopping! Sophistication! Food!

Yes, that Paris probably exists. But since we were recent college grads and not really rolling in the dough, that Paris would have to wait. Our fine French cuisine was perfectly fine. Fine dining it was not. We had perfectly fine crepes from street carts, and assorted cheeses and omelets and wine. Oh the wine. We drank it like water that weekend. Hey, it was cheaper than a soda, and we were trying to stay on some semblance of a budget for our weekend getaway!

We had arrived by train late at night and we had booked a small hotel. We didn’t want to stay at <gasp> hostels (soon after this trip I realized hotels would be my new best friend during my travels). This was a small, cheap place.

If TripAdvisor was around back then, we didn’t know. And if it was, from my memory of the place, it would not be highly rated.

I remember was that the blankets were like potato sacks, the lock to our door was broken and the climb to our room was at least 6 flights of rounded staircase.

Did I mention we packed high heel boots? We had no business doing that because fancy dinners and fashion nights out were not in our future. We also packed skirts and cute tank tops. Did I mention this was the middle of November and Paris weather is not warm that time of year.  We didn’t realize this of course, thinking, it was Paris! Ooh la la!

The plus I remember about the place we stayed, was that we had one of those romantic balconies you think of when thinking of Parisian architecture. Granted it was not very deep so we basically stood with our back to the building clutching the wrought iron balcony directly in front of us.

What my friend did not tell me was that our terrace, connected to every other terrace, oh, and that terrace door, did not lock.

This place was so far out of the center of Paris, we couldn’t even see the Eiffel Tower. This would not be a big deal since we didn’t know if you could see the Eiffel Tower from everywhere in the city, except we found out later that night that we were nearly thirty minutes outside of Paris. Maybe even further.

So what are you to do when arriving late into a strange city displeased with your chosen accommodation? Get drunk at the local bistro of course!

And get drunk we did. I believe we ate cheese omelets (only thing we could read on the menu) and drank more than enough red wine. Somehow the two of us started speaking French via my Spanish skills and met a few locals. I remember that we decided to get drunk in order to tolerate the accommodations. I do not recommend this.

Needless to say we got back to our place, laid down our heads and woke up very hungover. This is why I don’t recommend this. We were hungover in gross digs, that we were already repulsed by. It was slow-moving but we were ready and willing to find new digs for our remaining two nights in Paris!

The place we found overlooked the Notre Dame, in a great neighborhood, and to this day I have no idea how much we spent. I can tell you that when I started backpacking like a proper backpacker, never again did I stay in a place that had an elevator AND en suite televisions! Not only did this place have an elevator, it was one of those old school cargo elevators where you could see out as you went up. And the televisions, had English-speaking stations with French subtitles.*

While this place wasn’t the Four Seasons, for two clueless backpackers…we were sitting pretty for two nights. I laugh now because we had so much to learn.

* Having televisions with English channels in a country whose native language is not English actually annoys me now. I love not really knowing what’s on the news but trying to figure it out. You are totally taken out of your comfort zone and it turns into very basic language learning. I find it fun.

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