You know how you have those days where from the moment you wake up nothing seems to go right?
This was my first day in Paris.
I was legit having some serious FML, which was made so much worse by the fact it was my first day in the City of Love! The City of Goddamn Love, for crying out loud!
If I was a religious person, I probably would have been on my hands and knees screaming “why God, why?”
But why was my day so bad?
Well, it all started with a 7 am arrival and a severe case of jet lag. From there, things started to go down hill. I’m talking a toboggan flying down Mount Everest down hill (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was pretty bad!).
Instead of getting an airport transfer, we decided to be thrifty and get the train from Charles de Gaulle airport into the city centre. First, it took us forever to find the shuttle station, then even longer to work out the ticketing system. When that was all sorted we thought the struggle was over and that we could look forward to a comfortable ride into the city I’ve always dreamt of visiting.
Boy was I wrong!
When the shuttle pulled up, I got on and Mitch (my then fiancé, now husband) was right behind me. But, apparently the shuttle didn’t want to wait for him and the doors shut immediately after I stepped on. Naturally, we freaked. After what felt like a million years of desperate struggle (it was probably only a few seconds) a helpful stranger stepped in and helped us force open the doors. All good, right? Ahhh no! Mitch leapt on the train, dragging our suitcase behind him, but the suitcase got stuck in the damn door! The handle was on the inside with his hand on it, but the case itself was on the outside. The aforementioned scenario was then repeated until the bag and Mitch were both safely inside the shuttle.
Crisis averted… temporarily, at least.
When we arrived at the station on the other end (forgive me, for the life of me I can’t remember the name. I feel like it started with a G?) we disembarked and headed eagerly for the exit. This triggered our next dilemma, where the hell was the exit? We walked in circles for about 40 minutes and attracted some unwanted attention from the really scary looking soldiers patrolling the station with full on machine guns before we finally found our way out.
Then, we got lost trying to find our way from the station to the hotel so we could drop our bags off before spending the day exploring. At this point, we had figured out that not speaking the language and that initial culture shock of being in a foreign speaking country is actually a real thing.
Okay, so our trip to Paris had a bit of a rocky start, but once our bags had been safely stored away in the hotel, we had collected a decent map of the city and stuffed our faces with croissants from a nearby bakery, we thought things were looking up!
FYI, those croissants made me quickly realise that Australians have no idea how to make a croissant like the French do! They were that delicious, melt in your mouth, flaky on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside kind of deliciousness. But I digress.
Things were somewhat uneventful for about an hour or so, which was great! However, as the hours ticked by and the fatigue and jet lag really started to set in, I started to get a little on the grumpy side. Keep in mind that at this point we had flown from New York (where it was 10 am) to Iceland, Iceland to Paris, all with very little sleep, only to realise we had the whole day to pass before we could check properly into our hotel.
The next drama of the day came with the all-too-familiar tale of European tourist traps. We experienced, not one but two of these on our first day in Paris. The first of which was the good old, sign our petition while we beg you aggressively for a donation as my friend tries to pick pocket you. Well, we weren’t so easily fooled, especially since I was feeling pretty aggressive at this point! Word to the wise, steer clear of these people, they are really forceful and many a tourist has donated absurd sums just to get away from them.
Our second one was at the Sacré-Cœur. Even though I’d read up on tourist traps before we left Australia, the sneaky one we came across here wasn’t one either of us had heard of before. Luckily for us, we had a chance to watch these tricksters in action before they tried to approach us. Basically, they had these finger trap things and they would come up to unsuspecting tourists and say in broken English, ‘do you want to see a magic trick?’ Even if you said no, they would follow you and even grab your arm and try to force you to let them put their handmade contraption on your fingers. Once they had it on, it seemed impossible to take off, and they would either insist you pay them to remove it, or you pay them for the actual finger trap. It’s also worth noting that they weren’t approaching any men, just women and kids.
When they came up to me, I immediately said no and turned to walk away. As I tried to move, however, the man grabbed my arm and held me back. Mitch at this point stepped in and also took hold of my arm, as the man tried to forcefully put the finger trap on my hand. I was actually so frustrated at this point that I yelled at him and yanked my arm away from him so forcefully that he stumbled back. We then quickly rushed away.
Sadly, traps like this are very common in European countries, as well as a lot of Asian countries, but they’re not everywhere – they’re just really annoying when they do pop up.
Our last drama of the day was a two-in-one type scenario and involved a nasty run in with an automatic toilet, which you might have heard me mention somewhere on this blog before. We managed to get ourselves severely lost, and spent about an hour wandering in circles, only to realise we had travelled barely a few hundred metres from our original starting point – The Arc de Triumph.
During this time, I had been keeping my eyes peeled for a public toilet (apparently Paris has very few public toilets!) When we finally found one, it was one of those automated ones with the sliding door and the voiceover that gives you instructions. So, desperately needing to pee I bolt into the toilet, the door shuts behind me and I proceed to go about my business. When I’m done, the toilet automatically flushes, I wash my hands and then I go, ‘well fuck’. I had no idea how to open the door! The signage and the voice over were all in French, and alas, I can speak very little French…
So, what did I do? I stood there like a moron, that’s what. My brain was too tired and frustrated to process what was happening, so the thought of pressing random buttons and hoping for the best didn’t even cross my mind. Luckily for me, the doors automatically open after a certain period of time. On a side note, imagine what would happen if you were still bum on seat taking a dump? Awks…
It’s pretty safe to say our first day in Paris wasn’t exactly successful, but I’m just going to chuck this up to inexperience and sleep deprivation. Happily, the next eight days were fantastic.
The moral of the story? Shit happens, but don’t let it ruin your holiday.