Saturday, August 30, 2014

First Class to Paris, France!

Paris is as beautiful as they say it is. But too bad nobody tells you how overrated it can be. Am I the only one who was slightly disappointed? This was my first time ever, first class experience to Europe. I'm sorry to say that I have been forever ruined and scarred by it. I never want to travel internationally in coach again. Once you go first class, it’s hard to go back. So save yourself future heartache, book the coach seat (always book the coach seat). Granted, I look extremely unimpressed in the photo- we hadn’t even taken off yet I had no idea what was coming.

Once we took off, we immediately were being pampered. Smoked salmon as an appetizer? Heck yes! Roosted beef tips with a baked potato? Heavenly! And I'm sorry, did you just ask me what dessert I wanted? You mean to tell me you have ice-cream with all the fixings? And now that I'm done, my seat will literally lay all the way back, I can watch all movies/ shows I want, this super comfy blanket and pillow are all mine, and you will even bring me as much alcohol as I want (not that I indulged - drinking when traveling to your destination is a big no-no in my book! It will only make your time less enjoyable when you’re already jetlagged)? I'm sorry, where am I again? Because I could have sworn I was 35,000FT in the sky...

Okay, okay, I'm done! First class travel is definitely worth it if you can afford it. But let’s be honest, how many of us can really fly first class, let alone fly it more than once (internationally). So let's move on!

Charles De Gaulle Airport was completely foreign to me; this was my first trip to a foreign country without the parental figures. I was traveling all on my own (well, with my love), and I was in Europe! Sure I'd been to Europe before, but it was when I was younger and with my parents. The funny thing about traveling as an adult is that you literally have no idea what you are doing. When we walked out off the plane we had no idea where to go at first (yes, we followed the signs but still ended up taking longer than it should have to get to the train). We struggled to get directions from the airport customer service representatives. We stupidly forgot to download maps to our phones. And when we finally got to the train, it took all we had in us to not fall asleep on it (pickpockets are a real problem).

When we finally were in the city, the very first time we walked out of the terminal and saw the buildings around us I forgot how tired I was. The buildings were beautiful, the road was beautiful, the sun was warm against my face and it was almost perfect. Everyone always talks about how gorgeous Paris is, but they lack to tell you that it kind of stinks (literally), and it’s also sort of dirty… Garbage isn’t picked up on the streets and sidewalks I guess (see it’s the little things that we take for granted here in America). Regardless, I was bubbling over with excitement. We dropped our bags off at the hotel (too early to check in) and began to explore the city with no map and no real sense of direction.

Thankfully, understanding the train is super easy! We hopped on and went straight to the one monument you can’t NOT see when in Pairs- the Eiffel Tower!

Getting to it was a bit difficult. Parts of the train stations were under construction so we couldn’t directly travel to it (downside of going at the end of summer)? We also had no idea how the bus systems worked (and were told to avoid them). So we did the next best thing, took the train as far as it would take us, and then walked the rest of the way! Going from point A to point B is something everyone gets to do. But, walking around the city and finding your own way is an experience all on its own. We saw parts of Paris we might not have seen if the train had taken us directly to the Tower. So what if we had to walk over a mile? Yes, we were exhausted, but we were in Paris!

I will tell you that the Eifel Tower IS as beautiful as everyone makes it out to be. It was swarming with people (and pickpocketers) and was one of the most beautiful structures I'd ever seen!

The only thing that ruined my experience was almost getting pickpocketed! Sure, we were told to be careful (and we were), they told us that pickpocketing was bad over there (and it is). What we didn’t know though, was what was meant by the term "pickpocketers". This term does not simply mean someone trying to pick your pocket; they actually have clever ways of getting your money. One guy kept trying to show us some sting trick, and he wanted to see my finger (yeah right... nice try). If I was to let him show me this trick, he would then proceed to ask for money since he "entertained us". Some people fall for it. As tourists, we usually accept the best when traveling. Our guards are let down, we begin to relax, we enjoy ourselves and want to socialize with the locals. Unfortunately, they sometimes just want to scam us.

I'm sad to say that we almost got pickpocketed ourselves. Well, not my love, but ME. I almost fell for it (and I thought I never would). I don't remember much, some lady came up really nice and happy, then began to talk about how disabilities are a huge problem over there and that they need a certain amount of signatures to pass some type of law or something. I told her my signature wouldn’t help, since I wasn’t a citizen, but she insisted it would. Thinking no harm would come (and with my bag firmly on my lap, unable to be picked) I figured 'why not'. But, just as I was about to sign it (not with my real name), some old guy emptying the trash in the park began to yell at the 3 of us in French. He then pointed to me and with a heavy accent said "NO" then pointed to her and said "Pick pocket!” Not thinking twice about it, I practically through the clipboard back at the lady. She smiled warmly and tried to say he was wrong, but the old guy would not let this go. He came over to us and kept talking, I turned back around and the lady was gone. For weeks I couldn’t for the life of me understand how I was to be pickpocketed.

Until, I did some research back at home. Apparently, by signing that form I was somehow expected to make a donation to said "law" aka, miss pickpocketers own pocket. So what did we learn?

RULE #1: Don't sign anything, don’t accept anything, don’t ask for anything!

We had lunch, got stuck in the middle of some war reenactment and then went back to our hotel to take a nap. We set our alarm for 1 hour, but slept through it and for an additional 3-4 hours! By the time we awoke half of the city was already closing (Don’t visit Paris on the weekend!).

RULE #2: No matter how jet lagged you are DO NOT take a nap!

Taking the nap screwed our sleep schedule over for the rest of our short trip. We still made the best of it though.The next day was spent walking through the Louvre. Yes, you really should anticipate spending at least a day in there. And yes, it is as beautiful as everyone says it is. All of that history! The grounds themselves! It’s extraordinary, and was my favorite part of the trip. I felt my breath being taken away more times than I remember, some of what I saw even made me tear up. It was beautiful. It was all so beautiful.

I think the wonderful part about visiting here is that it’s expected of you to take breaks and truly enjoy the place! Some people were rushing around taking as many photos as they could. But, what’s the point of that? What kind of experience are you really getting? If you are short on time, see what you've always wanted to see. Please, don’t rush trying to absorb as much as you can. You will regret not enjoying the simplicity of the moment.

(Just look at how beautiful!!)

(Yes, we did see the Mona Lisa, much smaller than you'd expect right?!)

To top this day off we even stumbled into the Notre Dame during mass. Well, not really stumbled, we decided to stop by on our way back to the hotel (waited in line for about an hour), and when we walked in we were promptly ushered to the side as the service began.

What I had witnessed earlier was extraordinary. What I had witnessed then and there was a different type of beauty. I snapped a short video clip, but not wanting to be utterly disrespectful I ended the video and put my phone away. But even so, I had to document it. Hate me if you will. But, there was just something otherworldly about being there while mass was going. I can’t explain it. You’ll have to take my word on it, and I encourage you to one day visit during mass.

RULE #3: Even though you are a tourist it does not give you the right to be disrespectful!

Until next month, happy travels!