The Eiffel Tower - Photo Taken September 2010

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wrapping it up: Reflections

Allowing 3 hours at CDG is a good idea.  The Novotel Paris CDG Terminal is located right next to the airport tramway that links the terminals, so it didn't take long to get to Terminal 2E, which was packed with people.  When I had checked in online from the hotel, the Delta website directed me to the Air France website because they partner the flight.  So, I figured that I needed to check in at the Air France counter.  I wasn't able to print my boarding pass at the hotel, so needed a boarding pass and to drop off my luggage.  The self-service kiosks at Air France weren't working right and when I finally got to one, I got a slip that told me to check with an attendant, and then I learned I needed to check in at Delta, which was right next door. 

The line at Delta was long, but moved fast.  I struck up a conversation with the woman behind me, who lives in Vancouver, BC, and is also a quilter.  Since I had already checked in, I didn't need to wait for a self-service kiosk, got my boarding pass and checked my luggage.  Then a fairly long walk down the terminal to the security line.  My gate was M43, which required another ride on a shuttle before going through security.  Again, I struck up a conversation with a couple from Olympia, and we sort of stuck together until we boarded the plane.  Once through security, I was intent on spending the last 12 euros in my pocket.  I bought a couple of tins of salted caramels for 11 euros and came home with just 1.65 euros - a cheap souvenir.  I really planned my money well, and even have a few budgeted dollars left, as well!

The flight home was smooth except for a few bumps, but seemed long. I watched 3 movies and read a little, but didn't sleep.  We arrived a little early.  I quickly got through passport control and customs, and was home by 2 pm.  Living 10 minutes from the airport is very nice.

Now that I am pretty much recovered from jet lag, which I find is worse coming home than going, I want to take a little time to reflect on the trip.

My apartment, La Belle du Marais, rented through Cobblestone Rentals Paris, was exactly as pictured on the website, but perhaps a bit smaller than it appeared in the pictures.  It is located in a 16th century building that has no charm of its own.  The elevator was tiny, but reliable.  The free wi-fi and long-distance phone calls to the US were very convenient.  The building is located in the southwest corner of the 3rd Arrondissement, on a limited traffic side street just one block east of Blvd Sebastopol, and a longer block west of the Pompidou Center, off Rue Rambuteau.  There is a supermarche about a block away, and lots of shops and cafes just steps away.  There are also 2 north/south and 1 east/west bus lines close by, as well as 3 Metro stations.  I really liked the location.  There was a lot of pedestrian traffic and energy in the neighborhood, as well as some street noise.  The popular bar l'Art Brut Bistro is right across the narrow street, and it generated quite a lot of noise which was amplified by the narrow street.  Fortunately, it was cool enough that I could keep the window closed at night. 

Because my knee was acting up, I decided to ride the bus rather than using the Metro.  Sometimes I rode the bus just 2 or 3 stops, to save my knee for when I got to my destination.  I still did a lot of walking, and there are lots of stairs.  In all but 2 of the cafe/restaurants I was in, "les toilettes" were either up or down a flight of stairs. And, climbing stairs was required in most museums.  Some Metro stations have escalators and/or elevators, but most have only stairs, and there is quite a lot of walking involved once you get into the Metro tunnels.  I actually rode the Metro only one day when I went to Chateau de Vincennes, then up to the Champs Elysees on Line 1.  The Paris Bus map book, which I bought at a newspaper kiosk for 6.50 euros was invaluable.  It shows the bus lines on street maps, making it easy to see where the stops are and where one can make transfers to other lines. 

Without exception, the Parisians I met were warm and helpful.  I used as much french as I could, and if I was having trouble, the other person would ask if I wanted to speak english.  My main problem was understanding the french spoken to me.  I found that most of the people working in tourism related jobs spoke excellent english, but were very tolerant of my attempts to speak french. It is critical to learn and use a few basic french phrases before visiting Paris, or any other part of France.  Saying "bonjour" at the beginning of any encounter with a french person is imperative.  Saying "merci," and "au revoir" are also important.  It wasn't unusual for me and whomever I was speaking with to use a combination of french and english on both sides.

At no time did I ever feel unsafe or threatened.  While petty crime, such as pickpocketing is fairly common in Paris, especially at the big tourist sights, I didn't encounter any of it.  Several times I was approached by the "petition girls," young women, usually Roma, who want you to sign a petition, and then either try to get you to give them money, or a confederate tries to pick your pocket.  But, all I had to do was shake my head and wave them away.  Twice, I encountered the "gold ring" scam.  This is when someone "picks up" a gold ring in front of you, wants to know if it's yours, then tries to get you to pay money for it.  In both cases, I just shrugged and walked on. 

The meandering streets in Paris are like small villages, each with its own character.  You can walk over one or two blocks and be in a completely different "village" with an entirely different flavor.  That is why walking and cafe sitting in Paris is so much fun.  And, Parisians use and enjoy their parks.  The parks have lots of chairs and benches where one can sit, enjoy the passing parade, and soak up the sun. 

French children (and dogs) are well-behaved and welcome everywhere.  Restaurants don't have children's menus. Parents teach their children to try and appreciate different foods. 

There is a lot of discussion on the various travel forums about what to wear when in Paris.  Most tourists want to blend in with the locals.  I took a monochromatic wardrobe: black slacks, black shoes, black raincoat and sweaters, and black and white patterned tops.  While I don't think I exactly blended in, but I don't think I stuck out either.  While I saw some very stylish women, most everyone dresses pretty much like we do in the US.  I did notice that most french women in dresses wear hosiery.  I also saw quite a number of young french men wearing brightly colored Nikes.

For a purse I used a Baggalini with 4 outside zipper compartments.  I tucked my camera into one pocket, and apartment keys into the smallest pocket.  I put my credit card holder into an inside zipper pocket and put my coin purse in a separate pocket from my bills.  I usually started the day with about 100 euros and kept the rest of my money at the apartment.  Keeping my money and credit cards in separate compartments ensured that I wouldn't loose everything should I be pickpocketed.  I carried a photocopy of my passport, leaving the original at the apartment.

Living as a Parisian for two weeks was an adventure that I'd do again in a heartbeat.  Traveling solo allowed me to do what I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it.  While I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, I usually didn't decide what I would do on any given day until that morning.  There were many things on my "list" that I didn't do.  I didn't do any day trips out of Paris, mostly because there was so much to do in Paris.  Having been to Paris before, I didn't have to go to some of the big Paris sights unless I wanted to.  I walked past Notre Dame several times, but didn't go it - I went in three years ago.  I didn't go up the Eiffel Tower - the weather wasn't good, and the best views of Paris include the Eiffel Tower.  I did go to the Louvre, but to a wing I hadn't been to before.  I enjoyed walking in neighborhoods that I had not been to before, and I enjoyed 3 of the many Paris street markets.  There is still so much left to see and do - I could go back a dozen times and still have a reason to return.

So maybe there is another trip to Paris in my future - I sure hope so, but if not, I'll hold onto the memories of this trip.

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed your blog. I am thinking of 3 weeks in Paris next year when I do my 'running away to Europe on my own' tour. Sounds like that won't be too long.