Let’s suppose, for the next few posts, I’m sitting in an imaginary time machine and have set the dial to the summer of 2010. At this moment, we don’t have a blog, zero trip planning/travel experience, and butterflies in our stomachs. What we do have is two weeks of precious leave, an opportunity to discover four fabulous European cities, and our restless feet with us. Our plan is to head to Paris – then take the Euro-rail to Amsterdam – hop on a night train to Venice – before flying to Rome.
Isn’t there too much already written about Paris? You understand my predicament. So, here’s what I thought. I’ll address the rookie traveller who dreams of discovering one of Europe’s finest cities. Our take might not be the best route to follow. However, hopefully, you would a point of reference on what not to do. And, if you’re a seasoned Euro traveller/backpacker, this post might be a good way to relive that first trip.
Rulebook to Surviving Day-1 in Paris
1. Study your map before arriving at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport. Especially, if you’ve almost missed your connecting flight, are horribly jet-lagged, and had to smile repeatedly at the rude immigration officer. The last thing on your mind should be how to figure the route out of the airport.
2. Do not depend on your high school French to communicate. It’s an added advantage, but people do speak English. Lace your question with a smile and luck will shine on you. Sometimes, you may get a polite head shake. Sometimes, people may help you without you having to ask for help.
3. The Paris Metro is the most convenient and budget friendly way to travel around the city. You could buy a billet book or a pass. Once you’ve figured the map, your life will be much simpler. It will be a miracle if your jet-lagged eyes would understand where the pink lines cross the green on the map.
4. Travel light. I guess that’s where the term backpacking comes from. If figuring the metro system is complicated, imagine lugging a suitcase across a flight of stairs and into a crowded train.
5. Book your hotel near the places of interest you’d want to see. After walking, wandering, occasionally getting lost finding the metro entrance; the last thing you’d want to do is keep changing trains to reach your hotel.
6. Your hotel might be closer than you expected it to be. Consider the possibility that you were going round in circles to ask for directions.
7. When hunger calls, be open to food you’ve not heard of. Who knows, you could get rewarded.
8. Do not make the mistake of sleeping after check-in. If you do, put the alarm on or you will get up shortly before dark.
9. If you made a mistake by booking your hotel in the outskirts of the city, chances are that everything shuts by 6:00 pm. Make sure you carry food back or have your dinner before heading back. Budget hotels may only serve coffee and a snack in the evening.
10. However tired you may be, do not forget that you’re in Paris – home to fine chocolate croissants, desserts, and wine.
The Cheat Sheet:
Paris Tourism: Parisinfo