Let me preface this post by saying, my mom and I have had a lovely time in Paris. We've just had a few misadventures along the way.
But, let me also preface this by saying I don't work well when I don't feel organized. And since coming back from Spain, I have not at all felt organized. My email accounts have more emails that need responding to than not, I haven't sat down and done a budget in about a month, and I haven't done any sort of workout in just as much time. And I had just finished back to back trips--Germany/Spain, followed by my two sisters and mom flying in to explore Ireland, only to leave immediately after that with my mom to have adventures in Europe. With those trips, planning for this one was not on the top of my list... So we were kind of going in blind. (And all this has left this blog sorely neglected -- weekly roundups may end up being monthly at this point.)
All these things don't make for a Rachel who's on top of her game. So, keep that in mind as you read.
Here's a breakdown of our adventures:
I've had really good luck in the past with AirBnB, an online booking site that allows hosts to 'rent' their properties to visitors. I've booked private rooms in the past (where I stay in a room of an occupied house), and had a great time and great experiences. The Paris apartment I found was the first 'entire home' I had booked and both Mom and I were excited to feel like a local in this marvellous city.
However... And this is a big however, that's not exactly how it turned out. After leaving the airport and finding our way on the Metro, we got off the subway smack dab in the middle of Paris' Chinatown. Rather than hearing the beautiful French language and seeing perfect patisseries and boulangeries, we saw Chinese characters written on all the buildings, and more Mandarin spoken than French. Now, don't get me wrong, I usually love Chinatowns. In Vancouver, BC, it's one of my favorite neighborhoods to explore. However, this was not at all what we were looking for. We soldiered on and found the apartment building.
I had been in communication with the owner about checking in and getting the key, so when all I heard from her was 'the key will be under the mat' I thought it'd be easy as that. But, alas, that was not to be the case. We got to number 24 to find a secure building with a keypad. Uh. Someone came out of the building, so we were able to sneak in, but then what do we do? Knowing it was a rooftop apartment, I trekked my way up the six(!) flights of stairs and looked under every mat there was. No luck. Great. Now what?
Well, let's start praying and hope we find a phone! We wandered around and finally found a pay phone. I had the lady's phone number, but how was I to know you're supposed to dial a zero? Every single attempt ended with 'incorrect number, please try again' -- and there were 8 attempts (for more on how I know exactly how many calls we tried to make, see the * below). Frustrated does not even begin to describe!
We wandered around some more (keep in mind we still have our luggage! Thankfully we both packed relatively light.) and finally found a place that could make a call for us. China Airlines tour agent, we are in your debt. A kind lady called for us and after two no answers, the owner of the flat called us back. Thank you, Lord! She explained that she had sent an email to me with all the information (one I did not receive), and then proceeded to give me the needed info. Let's go!
We trekked up the five flights of stairs--apparently I should have looked at the mats on the fifth floor rather than the sixth., something I might add that was not noted in the description of the place, but neither was the fact it was in Chinatown!--and found the elusive mat with the key underneath. Finally! The apartment overall was lovely, while small, it was clean-ish, cozy and fine for our needs. But, the location was not at all ideal, the five flights of stairs was far from comfortable, and the very spotty wifi was frustrating, especially as I had planned on getting work done this weekend, all of which would be online.
We got our bearings and ventured out before we got too late in the day. Keep in mind I had gotten about 2.5 hours of sleep the night before, and both of us were up at 3:30 to catch a bus to the airport. We were walking zombies (are there non-walking zombies? Sorry, my apocalypse knowledge is lacking.). We wandered and wandered (suitcase free, at last), and ended up finding some of the most important sites in the city. We were tired however and I was getting to the point where I was falling asleep while standing. We headed back and once again, trekked up the stairs (dragged ourselves, really), and hit the sack. One good thing of this apartment -- my bed was comfortable and I got a solid 12 hours of sleep.
Upon waking, we'd had enough. While the apartment was already paid in full, with little chance of a refund, this was not at all the Parisienne experience we were looking for. Seeing women standing on the curb in a 'are they doing what I think their doing?' fashion, we sought other options.
That's the story of Hotel #1.
I hopped on Priceline and booked a room until Monday to hold us over until we left for Amsterdam. We got into the Hyatt Regency and we were jazzed. We left as soon as possible and headed on the metro to Hotel #2. Perfect! We were able to check in and get into our room right away. Not too shabby!! While dated, it had a comfy bed, reliable wifi and most importantly it was in a neighborhood with a very Parisienne feel.
Now we were in our first full day in Paris -- let's explore! The only problem? Rain. And lots of it. The morning started well enough, despite having to move across town. We're used to the Metro system and the move was painless. We joined in on the Sandemans Free Walking Tour (if you're traveling in Europe, I highly recommend these tours! They are top-notch.) Halfway through the tour, the rain came. And came. And came. We didn't let that stop us too much and ended up walking all over town and bought a 3EU umbrella from a street vendor. Rainstorm #1.
On the way to the Arc de Triumphe in the evening, we were on the Yellow Metro line which has automated doors on the cars. The stop was quite busy, so before we knew it we were getting jostled around a bit. While Mom got on, I didn't before the doors started to close. No big deal. We yelled, I'll meet you at the next stop! And I thought that'd be it. However, the doors started opening again, and since the lady next to me started to get on, I thought I'd try again too! Not the best idea. Before I know it, the doors are closing and I'm not completely in the car yet!! Mom's face was stricken, as I'm sure mine was as well! I got my body in but my right foot wasn't so lucky. I was yanking and yanking and I seriously thought I was going to lose my flip flop! The doors finally opened enough for me to slide my foot inside. Mom and I looked at each other and just started laughing. Phew! That was a close call! Even throughout the rest of the evening, you'd see one of us giggling and at one point we couldn't stop and we both had tears in our eyes from laughing. That's the story of my one foot saved.
Yesterday we also had loads of rain, however, we were smart enough not to get caught in it this time! Mom went out for some shopping (of course she found some sales, as she has the best sale radar around, even internationally), while I stayed in the depressing hotel business center and got some work done. When the sun was shining and glorious we sat outside and shared a lunch. The clouds rolled in again and the storm was coming. We headed back to our hotel and watched the first half of the Netherlands/Mexico World Cup game (Go oranje!) while the storm passed. It was nice to be dry while Rainstorm #2 made its way through town.
One thing about traveling in the summer is the fact that the sun doesn't set until 10pm. So if you want to see the City of Lights lit up, you have to stay up late. We decided tonight was the night to do that... we'll take an evening cruise and then go up to the top floor of our hotel, have some wine and watch the Eiffel Tower light up. Grand plan. All day I had been saying, just wait until tonight, it'll be great. And yes, the view was magnificient. However... the price of the cocktails was not. We got up there, Mom grabbed the drink list and the cheapest thing on there was a Coke for 12EU. A coke for 12 EU! What!?? A glass of wine was 25EU! Um. Nope. We had zero overpriced cocktails. We soaked in a bit more of the view, I apologized profusely because I felt bad Mom hadn't seen the Eiffel Tower completely in its glory (even though I fully understand it was not my fault) and we went to bed. Not an awful day, but it sure didn't end on the greatest note!
And now, the piece de resistance: Hotel #3.
Just as we hadn't planned on moving from the apartment (Hotel #1 in this case) to Hotel #2, this Hotel #3 was just as unexpected. Remember that preface I had at the beginning of this (really long) post that mentioned I wasn't feeling organized? Well in the fury of figuring out a new place to stay from the apartment, I didn't actually look at the dates and just went off memory. I had thought we were in Paris until Monday, 01 July. Well, funny thing, we're indeed in Paris until the first of July, except, that date falls on a Tuesday. Our train to Amsterdam and the place we're staying is on Tuesday, 01 July. Shit.
Thankfully (well, maybe thankfully isn't the right word), Mom is used to my potty mouth, so she didn't get too upset when I had some choice words to say to myself. Yep, we have one more day in Paris! Not a bad thing, by any means, however, not a grand thing when you have no place to stay! Once again, I found myself on Priceline trying to get a room booked. Seriously?! This is getting ridiculous. Priceline couldn't help me out, but Expedia stepped right in. I found a place in the Montmartre district and it's perfect. It's perfect for our last--for reals this time--night in Paris.
Who knows what this evening will hold, but considering the adventures we've had so far in the City of Lights I wouldn't be surprised by anything. One thing's for sure. Mom will be seeing the Eiffel Tower -- we'll have a prime seat, a bottle of wine, maybe a baguette to round it all off, and it'll be grand. Unless of course, I lose my shoe on the way.
*When we finally made it into the apartment and had connection (albeit very spotty connection), Mom got several fraud alerts from Chase Bank that there was a potentially fraudulent charge on her card. It turns out that every call attempt we tried, charged her card $20.79! And those calls didn't even go through!! When we had secure wifi, she logged into her card account and there were eight charges for $20.79. Yeah, those will be contested!