Welcome to Part 2 of… however many it takes to tell this story.
In my previous post, I attempted to set the scene for the recent trip I took to Paris — my third time visiting this great city. Now let’s get into some of the fun details!
Day 1 – Arrival
After a somewhat uncomfortable flight surrounded by lots of French people who spent the entire time getting in and out of their seats, we finally arrived in Paris. We landed around 11:30am. After stopping at an ATM for cash (and running into a completely topless woman who was obviously making some kind of political/drunken statement), we made it to the RER train station and figured out how to turn our paper Euros into coins for the ticket machine. Finally, we were aboard the RER headed into the city.
Oh, by the way…
The train ride was uneventful and easy. That’s a good thing, because we (and I use the term “we” very loosely) needed all of “our” stamina to get out of the train station and walk the 3 blocks to the hotel. Never in a million years would I have thought walking 3 blocks would take so much out of us. But you see, up until this point I had no idea we were traveling with someone who wasn’t physically equipped for a city like Paris. For the entire 6-9 months that I’d been coordinating air travel for this trip and communicating with the people traveling with me, not once did I receive knowledge that anyone was diabetic with a bad knee and in need of a new hip. Now let me just say this: I was well aware that we had a wide range of ages in this group, from 30-something to 60-something. But I made it very clear to the group, months in advance, that if you’re coming on a trip to Paris, THAT MEANS YOU ARE WALKING — A LOT. So, you will understand my surprise when I learned what we were dealing with. During this 3 block walk, we had to stop a few times, we had to walk very slowly, and we had to keep a constant eye out, you know, in case anyone passed out from low blood sugar. At one point there was discussion of whether we needed to stop and get food, 50-pound suitcases in tow, before we reached the hotel. Which again, was only THREE BLOCKS AWAY FROM THE TRAIN STATION. Okay yeah… I think I need to pause on this topic now, before I say things I’ll regret.
See? I’m not mad at all! Here’s a picture of me with some of the folks in my group — once we arrived in our hotel:
By the time we made it to the hotel, showered, and came back out for an early dinner (or late lunch), I was kind of irritated and just wanted to be left alone. Not exactly the mood I wanted to be in for my first night back in Paris, but “Oh, just fyi, I can’t really walk too far/fast, and I can’t do stairs, so you need to work that into your plans, kay thanks!” wasn’t exactly the message I wanted to hear on my first day back in Paris.
Due to my irritability, I allowed the group to decide where we would eat, instead of giving them the basic tips on how to avoid tacky tourist trap restaurants. So, we ended up eating at some crap place right in front of Notre Dame with an entire menu printed in full English (huge no-no), with men standing out front waving people in (another huge no-no), and of course everything was overpriced. Not a great dining experience.
Crepes and Sunset
After we finished eating and came back to the hotel, I was at last able to relax and take a deep breath. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, my phone rang. It was an old colleague of mine, a French software developer living nearby who I’d planned to meet up with that night. He was already at the restaurant, with his girlfriend. Crap! I was tired, and I sooo didn’t want to get out of bed. My roommate came with me, bless her heart, and luckily we were less than 3 minutes’ walk from the restaurant. As soon as we got there, I was immediately put in good spirits. The place he’d chosen was a beautiful creperie with sweet and savory crepes from Brittany (Bretagnie). The food was delicious, the conversation was wonderful, and it was great to catch up with my friend.
When we left the restaurant, my roommate marveled at how it didn’t actually get dark until 10pm. Of course I knew this already, but I saved it as a little surprise. Everyone always gets a kick out of that, and even though I’d seen it before, as we walked back to the hotel, it was the first moment I had to let it actually sink in… I was finally in Paris.
Day 2 – Fête de la Musique
Every year on June 21, there is an all-night celebration of music in Paris called the Fête de la Musique. While many cities worldwide participate in this event, Paris is the heart and probably most well-known location. When I was planning my trip, I had no idea this event existed, let alone that it would be occurring during our trip.
Music is Everywhere!
On the morning of June 21, I traveled with some of my group to the Louvre. Later, we ended up breaking off to head back to the Latin Quarter with a smaller group. While traveling, we encountered quite a few musicians throughout the Metro stations.
Clarinet Player (Disclaimer: I thought my mom was taking a PHOTO and instead she was recording a VIDEO)
Night Falls, Cue the Debauchery…
Once night fell (finally), the Fete was in full swing all over town. Our hotel was about 2 blocks from Notre Dame, so activity was literally right outside our window. Literally. There was a rock & roll band, complete with amps, drums, and screaming, set up right in front of our hotel’s main entrance. Needless to say, there were people EVERYWHERE! Drinking, smoking, yelling, fighting, singing, dancing, and of course… peeing in the streets.
Some of my more adventurous travel partners joined me for a late-night stroll to see what the festival had to offer. For your enjoyment, in no particular order, here are my highlights:
- A dude peeing in the Seine River
- An a Capella group singing in front of Notre Dame, half of them drinking from open wine and/or liquor bottles
- Numerous attempts to take a group photo were thwarted by young men jumping into our photo, completely drunk
- Organ/choir concert at Notre Dame (Note: We left early because the music was less like an angelic church choir and more like a creepy haunted gothic castle concert. Also, all the accompanying commentary was barely audible, and it was in French, so we couldn’t hear/understand anything that was being said.)
- People throwing empty bottles into the river
- People getting into drunken fights in the streets
- The festival stayed in full swing, all over the city, until at least 5 or 6 in the morning
- The number of times I said aloud, “Who is going to clean up all this mess?” was borderline excessive. But come on. Thousands of empty bottles EVERYWHERE and the entire city was partying. So it was a totally valid question.
Stay tuned for part 3… coming soon!