Pro-Tips from Paris

Returning from a wonderful few days in NYC, followed by my family coming into town for the My 2nd Act reading and the final day of my writing workshop, it seemed like I only had a few hours to get everything in order to leave for 6 weeks.

I’ve impressed myself with the logistics of this trip.

First, packing was a challenge. Simplicity is they key to the El Camino, but I would also be spending three weeks in France and Switzerland where perhaps something nicer than hiking pants and a t-shirt would be in order. But I didn’t want to bring anything too nice since once I get to Spain, I’ll be sending my “fancy” clothes forward to Santiago. I’m still a little skeptical of the postal system and whether my stuff will actually arrive. I also didn’t want to trust the airline with the Camino gear I’ve spent months planning and buying. So, I carried on a backpack with my un-loseable Camino supplies and checked an old small suitcase that will be shipped forward in Spain.

img_0128

Here’s the pin I used

Pro-tip #1 (for the ladies): check out Pinterest for pins that illustrate weeks worth of outfits with a few basic clothing items. 

I finished packing with a whole ten minutes to spare before I had to leave for the airport. Other than being on the world’s coldest plane to Paris, the flight was uneventful. Upon landing, I was unsure I took the correct plane because the sky was blue and I saw the sun. Strange because every time I come to Paris it’s cold and gray. Fortunately, when I exited the airport, the old Paris I know and love appeared. It was freezing. Don’t they know it’s almost May here?!?!?

After I collected my bag (yippee, it arrived), I bought my metro tickets (in French) and got on the train to the city. I had to switch trains at my Parisian nemesis, Gare du Nord. I only got lost five times, instead of ten. Then I got to Les Chatlets, which is the evil sister of Gare du Nord. I think I went in circles five more times.

Pro-tip #2: Just plan on getting lost and adding 15 minutes to your trip if you have to travel through Gare du Nord.

Four hours after my plane landed, I met my friend JB at his office to get the keys to his apartment. He gave me great directions and other than not being able to open the door for about ten minutes, that journey was uneventful.

I just wanted a shower and a little rest at this point. But, my dreamy, steamy, long hot shower was cut short by the little hot water heaters in Parisian apartments. Rookie move. Of course, this occurred when I was just about to rinse. I jumped out, layered up and then curled up on the couch for a glorious hour-long nap.

Pro-tip #3: When traveling to a foreign country, don’t count on unlimited hot water (or sometimes, hot water at all). This is an American luxury.

I woke up when JB arrived home and we went for a nice dinner. Hot camembert, duck, potatoes. I might need to walk to Spain to burn all the calories from this meal. With a full belly and jetlag in full effecy, it took me negative 30 seconds to fall asleep.

Pro-tip #4: When traveling to Europe try to select a flight arriving as late as possible. Most arrive early in the morning. Try to stay up all day and you’ll fail miserably (or just be completely miserable). I landed at 2:00 p.m., where I only had to stay up a few hours, before I crashed.  A couple days here and my sleep schedule is completely onboard with Europe.

Friday, JB and I spent the day walking around his typical Parisian neighborhood (Montmartre) and Parc Monceau, having lunch with some of his friends, going to Musee d’Orsay and then going to a show I’ve been wanting to see for years, How to Become Parisian in One Hour. Definitely check it out if you’re in the city:

Then today, I went to the George Pompidou Musee, had a nice vegetarian lunch and visited with one of my favorite friends, who happened to live just a couple blocks from the Eiffel Tour, where I stopped by on my way home to snap a quick pic.

img_0127

From Paru du Champs de Mars

Walking back to the apartment, I was thinking about this post and feeling so grateful for how far I’ve come – health- and life-wise. The first time I ever came to Paris, my suitcase was stolen out of the car and I was scared to go shopping for replacement clothes alone while Fabien was at work. Now here I am, walking around with city like an old pro, speaking french and everything.  I also thought about how different both Paris and I are since my last visit here, nearly two years ago. Most definitely, we are forever changed.  Both of us a bit traumatized, but still here, stronger, wiser and beautiful.

 

 

Advertisements

Paris Encore: Bateaux, Bones & Breathtaking Views

Now that classes have started, I have made some friends. (Yay, friends!!!) It’s funny to see our nationality clicks form almost instantly. Naturally, there are a few American girls I have bonded with – two from Detroit. By pure coincidence I have met one of them before, when Fabien and I picked up our marriage license.  Him presenting his passport and her recognizing where he is from prompted the conversation of her coming here in January. The world is so small.

After a couple of weeks in Orléans, we were all ready to get out of dodge and spend a few days in Paris. Yes, I know – I just wrote a blog about my visit there, but….IT’S PARIS and possibly the only city in the world deserving of two blog posts in one month.

Our Adorable Parisian Apartment (www.airbnb.com)

We used Airbnb and (again) had fantastic experience that included our very own adorable Parisian apartment avec a cat, named Terton.  (Please pronounce with a french accent, otherwise, he will not respond. Snobby french cats.)

Americans in Paris

In typical Parisian fashion, the weather did not cooperate, but it was still a fantastic weekend. We visited some usual suspects (The Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Moulin Rouge & Champs Elysees), but we also did a few new things, which were absolutely wonderful.

Friday night, we took a ‘Bateaux Mouches’ (translation, fly, as in the bug, boat) along the Seine. An amazing way to see the lights in the City of Lights. There are a couple of companies that do this and they are about the same price (approximately 12€, but we used the one near the Eiffel Tower – link here).

Catacombs

However, what I was most excited for was going down Saturday morning.  We woke up early only to descend below the sewers & metros to Paris’s world-famous Catacombs. If you’re not familiar and want to read the history, click here. But, basically, in the 17th century Paris had a sanitary problem because of all the dead bodies buried in the city. The solution was to move the remains into the quarries where they remain to this day. There are literally hundreds of miles of hallways underneath the city lined with bones. Rumor has it, there are currently people living in the Catacombs. Très creepy! We spent 2 hours walking through the tunnels, inspecting skulls, bones, carvings, tombs and wells. I know it’s quite morbid, but it was also really neat to see and hear the history.

Finally, Sunday morning we headed to Notre Dame to climb 387 stairs into the towers of the famous cathedral. Now, let me make a correction to my last Paris post (The Worst Tourist in Paris) – I still love the park, Buttes Chaumont, BUT Notre Dame has the best view (see below). Pourquoi, you ask? Well, you can see the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur and the rest of the beautiful city, but what you get as an extra is a close up of Notre Dame’s iconic gargoyles and a breathtaking view of the Seine. What is more Parisian than all of those things? The answer is nothing. So, here is what I’m recommending…If the budget is tight, go to Buttes Chaumont. You’ll love it. But, if you’ve got a few euros in your pocket (maximum 8.50€) and it’s a clear day, go to the towers of Notre Dame. Do one of these two things or don’t even bother going to Paris. Kidding, but really, being atop Notre Dame was amazing.

Now, I’m going to cool-it on Paris until the weather is better. I’ll be back in early April to run a half-marathon, but until then….Paris, Je t’aime!

A few more pics have been added to the photo gallery.

The best view in Paris