Bienvenue a Paris…?

The first thing I did when I entered our apartment in Paris (our APARTMENT in PARIS) was burst into tears. Not tears of joy, tears of frustration and sadness. I cannot believe something I’ve planned for for so long, and looked forward to for so long has turned out to be such a miserable experience.

We pulled into Gare du Nord an hour late, because of some issue I didn’t understand or care about–as you can tell, I was perfectly happy to be on the train. And I should have been–because what was awaiting me off the train was the closest thing to my own personal version of hell that I can think of.

I don’t know if I even want to get into the details of it–a word for word play by play would be several pages long. Let’s just say we stood in multiple lines–really long lines, impossible, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me lines –in an attempt to get from the station to the apartment. I am postive, given the distance, that we could have walked in less time than we stood in line for a cab. The line was literally around the side of the building. And that was after the first line we stood in, attempting to purchase metro cards (the only working machine was not accepting cash–the cash it had taken us a half hour to procure from a cash machine that, once we found it, had a long line in front of it–surprise surprise.) At several points during this whole experience, I got to pay 70 cents (or about one US dollar) to use a disgusting bathroom that, you guessed it, I had to stand in line for. If there is a hell–and I’m sure that if there is one, I’m going there–it will look exactly like Gare du Nord Station.

We had arrived at the station at noon, and walked in to our apartment, two miles away from the train station, at 2:30. I don’t see how this is anyone’s idea of fun. I don’t even see how anyone can have fun after going through something like this.

I’ve been in Paris for four hours. Two and a half of them I stood in line, I cried for around a half hour, and I’ve spent the last hour writing home to get my flight changed to an earlier date (there is no way I’m going to Barcelona) and writing this. The shades are drawn, I have not taken one picture, and I have absolutely no desire to walk down to Notre Dame, or anywhere, for that matter.

I cannot believe how wrong this is all going. And I’m so embarrassed about it–writing this is hard, because I know people are reading it and laughing at me. But perhaps some people are reading it and nodding in agreement. Perhaps some people are reading it and better preparing themselves for their own trip. Perhaps others will learn from my stupid, stupid mistakes. That, at least, would be something.


Appendix–in the time it took me to write this, my husband went for a walk, and came back practically waving the French flag, proclaiming ‘I LOVE PARIS’. So maybe he’ll be able to bring me back a croissant or something, after his adventures.


10 responses to “Bienvenue a Paris…?

  1. I seriously doubt any of your friends are laughing at you. However, I would like to suggest that you not cancel your trip to Barcelona. You have learned some things which you can now use to your advantage.
    1. Before you enter any new country (especially if they do not have the euro) make sure you have 200 dollars of their cash in your wallet.

    2. Next time go to the bathroom on the plane/train before you are about to get off. This will save the aggravation of looking for a dirty public toilet.

    3. When arriving in a new country always take a cab to your room/apt/hotel immediately. You are too tired to mess with public transit.

    4. Always take a small nap before venturing out. Relax. You don’t have to see everything. On the first night stick close to your locality, eat at a local restaurant.

    5. When in a new country, make your first trip with public transit a short trip. That way you are less likely to get lost. You will also get a feel for how things work.

    6. Except things for what they are and abandon your preconceived notions. Europe is not America. Its really not as pretty as the National Geographic pictures. But, if you relax into it. You will find little delights. Great pastry shops, excellent wine, small museums and galleries. Talk to people and ask them about their country. Be a journalist and a historian.

    Warning: Paris can be a tough place for an American tourist. Lots of graffiti just like in Budapest, but worse. The French bus driver will actually stop the bus in the middle of the route and get out to have a cigarette break. Shops will close suddenly for a break, just as you get to the cash register after waiting in line. The French don’t care. The French countryside is better.

    I would go to Europe every year if I could afford it.

    One other thing, which I learned from my daughter – Rachel has travelled extensively in Europe and North Africa and basically packs a very small pull along. I think it qualifies as a small enough to be a carry on. I think I will do that next time as well. No need to pack a million things no matter how long you stay.

    Forget the past, Tracy. Relax and enjoy your trip. But don’t cancel Barcelona.

    • violet–thank you for all of that advice. you are much more worldly than i! but two things–one, it was the cab that was the problem–we waited in line for a cab for over an hour. and barcelona is canceled (already done) and i feel good about that decision–blog post on exactly why coming soon.

  2. Tracy, your experiences so far are why we try so hard to get people not to overschedule, to allow for things like unforeseen delays and getting lost. I know it’s a powerless feeling to have things go wrong, but you are learning from it and things will get better. Sometimes even the very best plans get waylaid by something you could never anticipate, and it’s not your fault. You just have to deal with it, and make choices among the things you intended to do, to choose what to let go.

  3. Tracy, None of us are laughing at you. We have all experienced something like this at some time. We want you to have a great time and be able to enjoy your trip. I would also counsel you NOT to shorten your trip. Maybe change some things- stay longer somewhere, or go out into a more rural area, something like that. We are thinking about you in positive ways!!! Something you wrote made me think you are a teacher. I was a special ed teacher and a middle school assistant principal before I retired. You are in the January/Feb/March long haul part of your trip. I remember those times- no break to look forward to, the newness has worn off. But this, too, will pass. Don’t push too hard. Get hubby to take you for a walk- just a walk- maybe find a bakery and get a pastry and some juice or wine. Go to a park, or a bench under a tree and just BE. Breathe in and out, taste the sweet pastry, induldge in the wine or juice. “Smell the roses” either litereally or figuratively.

  4. Tracy,
    No one is laughing at you. But, please listen to this – do not cut your trip short. You will regret it. You are in Europe – in the middle of summer! You obviously are encountering crowds and long lines – to be expected in July. However, you are in one of the most wonderful cities in the world. Pace yourself – you do not have to see everything. Your husband sounds as if he is very supportive. Ask him for help with the planning. Relax, stop at a cafe – have a glass of wine. I’ve been to Paris twice and am eager to return. It can be overwhelming, but the beauty that is this city is not to be missed.

  5. Tracy, you are helping others! I leave in two weeks and have made a couple changes based on your experience.

  6. I don’t think anyone is laughing at you, at least not anyone that’s traveled a bit. They know that things can go into the weeds at any time. My VERY first time abroad I was meeting a friend in Rome who took a different flight. Friend made the reservations for the hotel, was an experienced traveler, all I needed to do was relax and enjoy. Except friend *missed* the flight, as it dawned on me about 2 hours after we were supposed to meet up. Finally got in touch by cell, got name of hotel, walked there and things got better.

    You’ve learned some valuable things for some future trip; you will probably look at an online map to find out how far it is from the station to your hotel (google even gives walking directions). If you travel light like RS suggests you could walk it in nice weather and enjoy the stroll. But truth be told no matter how much you travel something still goes wrong; and we all find new mistakes to make.

    Your husband sounds like a jewel; after all you went thru HE was able to go out for a walk and let the misfortunes fall away. You can too…

  7. Pingback: Farewell 2010–Post 3: Risk and Joy in 2011 « Blog on the Run

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