Europe: 2, Tracy: 0

We had 18 good hours here so far. We’ve been here for 26 hours, and eight of those ‘good’ hours, we were sleeping (and the other ten were drinking). The 18 good ones stretched from last night before dinner, until this morning–well, it was actually almost noon–when we arrived at Notre Dame.

Dinner last night was good–we managed to order, the food wasn’t terrible (it wasn’t good, either, but it was edible with lots of mustard added), and we returned to the apartment and sat by the open windows and drank wine. It was nice. Then my husband bounded out of bed this morning to go to the boulangerie to get bread for breakfast, as he’d been fantasizing about living in this manner for months now. He brought me back a pain au chocolat, which was amazing, and even set the table for us for breakfast. He’s really enthusaistic.

We then had a nice little stroll down to Notre Dame–a 15 minute walk from our apartment. This is where the nice day ended, and our trip regained it’s awful, me crying in the street atmosphere. You see, whilst the husband dreamed about sitting in parks, drinking wine, and letting time pass, I (of course) dreamed of DOING things and SEEING things. The only thing I saw at Notre Dame was the line. If by some miracle, I some day arrive at the gates of heaven, and the line is that long, well, I’ll be spending my eternity elsewhere, thank you very much.

It was at this point that I had my second nervous breakdown. Ok, actually, it was right after this when I discovered–upon getting ready to flee the overcrowded area–that the restrooms were CLOSED. I cannot exist in a country that, when given a courtyard of maybe three hundred thousand tourists, closes its ONLY restroom. No wonder Paris smells like piss; oh yeah, that’s NOT a false stereotype.

Anyway–back to my nervous breakdown. I can’t really say it any more ways, and so this will be the last post about it (which means it may be the last post entirely, as I don’t see this getting any better), but, basically, I am so utterly distraught that I planned this and looked forward to this and spent THOUSANDS of dollars on this, and I hate it here. I think I can honestly say that. I hate it here. I have no desire to stand in a four block long line in the hot sun whilst having to pee and call that a vacation.

After running from the sweaty masses at Notre Dame (which I only took two pictures of), we decided to walk down to the Louvre, mainly because today is Tuesday and the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. We thought it would be nice to see the gardens on a day when the crowds are gone (because there’s no way I’m going there any other time), but we misjudged the distance (I think all tourist maps are purposly distorted to make things seem closer together than they are) and by the time we reached a point where we could see the gardens, we were exhausted and starving (it was around 3:00 by this point) so we took the metro back to our apartment, where we had another expensive but incredibly mediocre meal (I thought food here was supposed to be good. Where’s that damn animated rat when you need him?)

The one bright note in all of today was that the metro was very efficient and easy to use–it maybe took us ten minutes to get from the Louvre to our apartment, and that included a transfer. Which would be great, if I ever planned to go anywhere within this godforsaken city ever again, other than directly to the train station in two weeks to get the hell home.

I am just…so…sad. I thought this was what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I wanted to see the world. But, apparently, the world sucks. It is hot, and crowded, and loud, and there’s nowhere to pee. So really, my extreme state of distress isn’t even about this trip. It is really about who I am. I thought I could do this. I thought I’d love doing this. I thought I’d be traveling all my life. Clearly I was wrong.

So…now what?

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26 responses to “Europe: 2, Tracy: 0

  1. Oh no!! I’m so sorry you are sad. As far as sightseeing is concerned…what if you took a guided tour? Would that get you in any quicker? Like pick one thing in each place and get the tour?

    If you don’t want to do that, and it looks like this is how it will go then maybe you will have to change the your expectations of the trip. Maybe what your husband had in mind is just great? I went to italy and spent 1 week in Rome..we saw things but most of it we spent enjoying wine at lunch…and walking around and just living the life there. I totally get wanting to see things but I too hate the lines.

    I’m sorry! I hope your trip gets better!

  2. How long will you be in Paris? Where are you going next? I forget.

    I’d like to hear some Doug counter-point.

    And also, I never heard about the exciting pod rooms.

    Thanks for taking the time to write 🙂

    • Nia–we will be here until the 2nd of august, with an overnight during that time period to Amsterdam. I’m currently looking into a trip into the countryside as well, to get out of the city (obviously i need to!) and funny you should mention it–doug was talking about a counter-blog just last night. he laughed at your comment, and said to write ‘he wants to, he’s just to lazy to actually type it’. maybe i’ll make him do one tonight. a ‘what it’s like to be in paris with tracy’ post would be awesome. the pod rooms were exactly what they seemed like they would be. i’d ABSOLUTELY stay there again–if i was traveling alone. i love doug, but there was just enough room for ONE person in that room! will write more about it later (you know, when i’m done whining about paris.)

  3. Hi Tracy. I am sorry to hear your day didn’t go so well, but I like the idea that Jen gave about a guided tour. That might not be a bad idea.

    Also, please don’t stop writing. This is a good way to let those feelings out. I understand what you are saying, and am not here to criticise but to listen and hopefully make you feel a little better.

    Have you asked on the board for restaurant recommendations? What about going to Monoprix and picking up some ready made things to eat? We did that sometimes and found quite a good selection.

    Hang in there.

    • actually, there’s a monoprix right down the street. i was in awe–quinoa salad to go? really? that’s awesome. i’d be so healthy if i lived here! and actually, the highlight of our day was a little walk down a street nearby the apartment we’d not previously explored, and i found all of the markets i was looking for. we picked up some real strawberries (not the fake kind you get in supermarkets, that were gassed red and over large) and fresh figs–possibly my favorite food ever.

  4. Tracy, one thing you need to remember is to keep an open mind and remember that things will be different there.

    Not sure why there were long lines at Notre Dame, we have never had to wait to get in…it’s free to get inside. I’m so sorry to hear that you have decided that you hate Paris.

    You should really try to relax, listen to your husband, go to Champs-Elysees find a nice Cafe with outdoor seating, get a table, enjoy Paris’s wonder desserts and people watch.

    I feel sad that you are that far from home and not enjoying it, I feel that you are cut out for big cities.

    Why don’t you go to the cemetary Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise you can see where Jim Morrison (from the Doors is buried), Oscar Wilde, Chopin they sell maps of the cemetary so you can find where every one is buried. There are so many famous people buried there. My 16 yr old daughter and I had a great time walking around there.

    Keep a smile on and think positive, and remember things are different there and embrace it.

    Robin

    • Robin–thanks for the encouragement. And I know things were going to be different–I was ok with that. It’s not Paris, it’ me (ha ha–that sounds like a cheesy ‘breaking up with Paris’ line!) Crowds and lines drive me insane. I don’t wait for things–I just don’t. And when I have to–like for a cab at the station–I go insane. And I, too, was shocked at the line at Notre Dame. We were not planning on going up in the tower, which we expected there to be a line for. When we saw the blocks long line (I took a picture, but they are a pain to upload), we assumed it was for the tower, but no, it was the general line. It was as bad as the line for the Crown Jewels in London (which we did not visit–I took pictures of that line, too.)

  5. Marilyn Leslie

    Hi Tracy, Sorry you are having a rough time. The line for Notre Dame is for climbing the tower. if you don’t won’t to climb you can just go through the church. Have you thought of just doing a bus tour around the city to do anoverview. You cann the sites, travel in air-condition comfort, and rest your nerves. I found the Latin quarter a little too crowded for my comfort, so did not spend much time there.
    Would like to encourage you to take a deep breath. As far meals go check out the websitehttp://hungryforparis.squarespace.com/ This by the author of the best 102 Restaurants in Paris. Hope things turn around for you. Remember to buy your museum pass so you can skip to the head of the line at the Louvre, The Musee D’orsay, The Rodin, La Conciergerie etc.

  6. The next time you’re in a long line and need some excitement, just have Doug rant and rave about how much he hates European Soccer. Keep calling it Soccer, they REALLY like when you do that.

  7. You know, travel isn’t for everyone. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Part and parcel of being somewhere else is the hassle and inconvenience of not really knowing how it all works, the inability to talk to most people since they speak another language, and lines because what brought you also brought other people. Not for everyone.

    If you do decide to keep exploring Paris, I agree with the earlier poster who suggested the museum pass. RS talks about it in his book, if you have it. Basically buy it at a lesser-visited museum (so you don’t have to wait in line to get it), and then while it is valid you get to skip the lines (not sure how it works at the Louvre, but there is an underground entrance by the subway that doesn’t have long lines). Don’t be shy; we walked right to the front of the line outside the D’Orsay, showed the pass to the attendant at the front, he lifted the rope and let us right in.

    Also take a night boat ride; not the dinner cruise, just the boat ride. It gets cold on the water, even in July, so bring a jacket just in case.

    I highly recommend taking one of the bus tours around the city. You get to see all the buildings from above the crowd if you sit on the upper deck.

    Lastly, I always enjoy taking a guided walking tour. These cost only about 10E or so for 2-3 hours with a guide showing you around; given the size of Paris you’ll need to pick one focusing on a given area. The RS book mentions them, and you can find out about them online as well. You just show up and pay, no reservations usually needed.

  8. Tracy,
    Tell yourself this – millions of people can’t all be wrong. There’s a reason people go to Europe – because it is a great place to visit and to experience. You knew this already, but you are letting the negatives overwhelm you.

    A few days ago you said you were going to reset your itinerary for one major site per day. Are you still doing this? If so, then you should have plenty of flexibility left so that you aren’t held captive.

    I second those who have said find a cafe that you stumble up, sit down, order something to drink (coffee, cocktail, whatever) and just let Paris soak in. Listen to the foreign language being spoken around you (this is part of what you are there to experience).

    Lastly – make a mental decision that you are going to enjoy this trip. If you don’t, then it’s possible you’ll let these negative feelings take such a hold that you will be doomed.

    Would you really rather be at home?

    • yes, you are right–i am doing that. i am letting my negative feelings doom me. that’s one of the main things i’m upset about. i was just sharing this with my husband. i’m standing there, on the left bank, looking at the ideal view of notre dame, and i’m so unbelievably pissed off that i don’t even care. not even enough to raise my camera and take a picture. it is an all consuming rage. i guess i think that because i spent all of this time and money getting somewhere, i should ‘get to’ enjoy it. but the other thousands of people who spent the same time and money are getting in my way. and yes, i’m really THAT self-absorbed. i’m aware of it–which does not make it better–but at least i can admit it.

  9. Perhaps if you travel in the future you should consider the off- or shoulder-seasons to avoid crowds.

  10. Hi Tracy, I hope Wednesday will be a better day for you. Since you don’t like (or can’t handle) lines that is why I suggested visiting the cemetery. Just because you are in Paris until Aug 2nd doesn’t mean you have to see a tourisst sight everyday. Here’s some ideas for you……St. Germain Des Pres~the oldest church in Paris…….Arenes De Lutece~ (47 Rue Monge) the remains of a 1st century Roman amphitheatre unearthed in 1869……Jardin Des Plantes (57 Rue Cuvier)~Botanical Gardens of Paris, founded by Louis XII……for shopping (evan if you don’t want to buy Galeries Lafayette……..here are some names of Market of Paris~~Beauvau-St Antone(closed Monday), Cite Des Fleurs this one is a much loved market on Ile de la Cite, Puces VanVes, metro Porte De Vanves………canal boat trips~~triiiiips on the Canal St. Martin through locks and under the Bastille vault,trips take about 3 hours and are usually not as crowded a the river Seine boats, boats are eqauipped with phones, bars and toilets. there are two companies that have these trips Canouxrama 42.36.15.00 (phone#) and Paris Canal 42.40.96.97……..here are some names of parks and gardens~~Parc De Belleville, pare Des Buttes-Chaumont, Jardin Du Luxembourg, Jardin Des Tuileries, Parc De Monceau and Parac Montsouris…..not sure if you would be interested in any of the above but just thought I would let you know about them.
    I would suggest you not going to Versailles..it would probably be crowded and maybe long lines.

    Hang in there.

    Robin

  11. oops..should be trips on the
    Canal St. Martin

  12. Tracy, I think you need to get out of the city. It is just too overwhelming for you. Take a 1 hr. train ride to Chartres. The trains go out of Montparnasse every 1/2 hr. or so. Look the train schedules up online using this site: http://bahn.hafas.de/bin/query.exe/en Then write down the schedules so that you can hand it to the ticket agent without having to try to speak French. Chartres is a lovely, small town with a beautiful cathedral that has amazing stained glass windows. You could even have lunch/dinner there.

    As for French food, I’m with you on that. Don’t like it and it costs way too much. When I was there with my daughter, food wasn’t high on the priority list. However, air conditioning was. So, we went to TGIF for the air con, all we could drink sodas and for food that we knew what we were getting. We would get there when they opened at 5 p.m., eat, drink, play cards and just hang for hours until it cooled down and we were re-energized. It is poor taste for restaurants in Europe to indicate that you need to leave. We also would go to McD’s for lunch because, again, food in Paris was not a high priority. You do what you have to to make for a more pleasant stay.

    Girl, just get out of the city. I look forward to seeing how you are doing tomorrow.

  13. Tracy,
    At the end of the day the major tourist sights might be less crowded. Maybe get a later start, just wander around, have a leisurely (late) lunch and then go to your planned sight of the day. You will be in Paris until August 2nd, no need to rush through things. I, like you, do not like crowds and waiting in long lines just contributes to this. You can’t get away from the crowds fully, but maybe adjusting your timeline will help. Good luck!

  14. Tracy – you are getting lots of good advice. The Rodin
    and Musee D’orsay will make you feel better! We
    all would love to hear from Doug and his point of
    view. Rambouillet is a small village (not too long a
    train ride from Paris) that you might enjoy – it’s not
    so much a tourist destination so no lines! Everyone
    is pulling for you to turn your trip around. Doug
    sounds just great – let him lead you to the fun that
    this trip can be.
    Linda

  15. Hi Tracy,
    I stumbled upon your blog link after reading some of your posts on the Rick Steves site. You are probably not short of advice of all sorts, but I’ll add my two cents to the mix.

    As someone above mentioned, you might find traveling in the “off-season” a bit more to your liking. My first two trips to Europe were in the middle of winter. First time was in January to Rome, Paris, Antwerp and Amsterdam. The second time was in November over Thanksgiving to London and Paris. It was fantastic. No lines (with the exception of a short line at the Louvre), the shopkeepers were more relaxed and less harried and I don’t recall any unpleasant smells in Paris, probably because the city wasn’t baking in the sun all day. Yes, the weather will be cooler, and it might rain a bit more, but we also had gloriously sunny winter days. And it was fun to see the cities all decked out in Christmas decorations. It’s also a lot cheaper to travel in the winter months and I found all the usual tourist attractions/museums open and blissfully free of sweaty crowds.

    So if your life back home allows it, in a couple of years when you feel ready to maybe try again…give winter/fall a thought. Good Luck (and as for the food in Paris…I lived off of baguettes and apple tarts when I was there, so no shame in eating simple food that you recognize. I also had a great meal with friends at the Chili’s on the Champs Elysese, not sure if it’s still there, and who cares if it was an American restaurant…sometimes you just want food you recognize and there is nothing wrong with that!).

    Enjoy!

    • thanks for the advice. your are right–i’m getting a lot of it, but i appreciate all of it. sadly, the one bit of advice we can’t take is traveling in the off season. i’ll dream all my life of travling in spring or fall, but we are both teachers, so that is not to be (we have two personal days a year between september and june, so july and august is always shall be!)

      • hehehe, the restrictive time off schedule was one of the reasons I left the teaching profession! Perhaps when you retire an off-season trip will be in the cards. Best wishes for the remainder of your trip!

      • Tracy, can you travel over your Christmas break?

      • i suppose we could travel over christmas. i’ve looked into it. but we only get ten days off (at best–depending upon how the days fall–sometimes as little as one work week) and christmas-new years is THE most expensive time to travel. i’m not planning on teaching until i retire (i’m only 30–i plan to have another career or two before i’m done) but my husband is, so it is summer for us until i’m in my late 60s!

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