The route to our first apartment was an easy one. The Metro in Paris is the best I have ever experienced and so straight forward. The stop popped up only 1 block away and the instructions from our airbnb host were very clear.
We dropped our bags in our new place and google’d how to get to the Eiffel tower.
My data plan was still mysteriously not working on my phone, even after an entire train ride of troubleshooting during which I got my brother to contact Samsung in Canada for an unlock code. And now that my phone was unlocked the plan itself was providing me only calling and texting, but no data. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever have an easy day. So we screenshot the route via metro and headed out so to not waste away the day, as our time in Paris was limited.
Notre Dame Architecture
The Metro transfer stop for the Eiffel tower was that of Notre Dame and I also knew there were crepes lingering somewhere nearby – a must in Paris. I had seen it before but Paris was an exciting opportunity for me to show Miguel around. I love Paris and the architecture and history, and it is a fun prospect to show someone around who has never really traveled at all, let alone to to a place like Paris. We walked up to a small corner creperie that I have gotten crepes at before. Unfortunately they were no longer selling them this late in the evening. So we walked straight to Notre Dame and I watched his eyes light up.
Notre Dame is pretty cool building, even for those who have traveled the world and seen all types of architecture. The stonework and detail in each and every statue, the gargoyles, the giant circular stain-glass window, and just the fact that it is this dominant piece of architecture on a little island in the setting that it is! We took some photos and decided to come back the next day when it was open – as Miguel wanted to go up to the top and I, too, had never been.
RER Train System
We went back down to the subway and hopped on the RER train. Now – I have been to Paris twice before this and I still have no understanding of the RER system. I believe they are more long-distance trains as I believe I took one to the Palace of Versailles last time, but they make a few stops in Paris? That is my guess. And for some reason google had told us to take that train to the Eiffel Tower. We really had no idea how to use it, which platform to be on, or even which train to get on at that platform (since more than one stop there). There is a TV with a few names telling you the final destination of each, but that didn’t help us. One train came and a few people got on but we had no idea if we were supposed to. Instead of puttering around, I just figured ‘why not’. We ran to the door and jumped on right before it closed. We then stared at the map as it started to move even more confused. A man must have been able to tell we were 1) lost, 2) tourists, and 3) English, because he asked us where we were headed. Lucky for us he said “You’re on the right train. Just get off 1 stop after me”. PURE LUCK!
The Eiffel Tower & Sparkles
The train let us off sort of far away but it allowed us to walk along the river and play peekaboo with the Eiffel tower, which was now lit up in the darkness. As we walked towards it more and more was revealed between the trees until we saw it in all of it’s glory right out in front of us. It was magnificent as always and Miguel was star struck. After 1000 pictures from every angle we made our way underneath it.
Since all of the terrorist attacks they have heightened security at the base. Where one used to be able to freely stroll under and out the other side, now had a lineup to have their bag checked and a metal detector scan. It is not the big bulletproof walls that I was expecting from the news, but it certainly took away from the peaceful experience it used to have – but I guess that is the world we live in now… (WHY CANT WE ALL JUST GET ALONG… idiots).
We wandered around underneath and were too late to go up, so we headed out the other side to sit on the grass and wait for my favourite part… THE TWINKLE! I just love the twinkle. It is so magical. I had never watched it up close from the grassy area and apparently that was the place to do it. The grass was packed with couples and groups and friends all waiting for the same thing. The annoying street sellers were out in full force selling champaign, wine, and flashing blue things thy would flick into the air over and over. But we ignored them and waited patiently for about 10 minutes. and then… BOOM
What I Hate About Paris
After the twinkle was over we walked to find the bottomless pit (Miguel) some food. God forbid it had been 13 seconds since he last ate (ok… it had been a few hours… so fair enough). I didn’t really know what was around there, but being as it was one of of the top tourist locations in the world, I imagined there would be something. Sure enough, there was a typical red-awning restaurant 2 blocks down.
(I am just going to address this now… but my least favourite thing about Paris is the red-awning restaurants. None of them have any branding… they all sell the exact same thing… there is absolutely nothing special about the set up or the food or the experience… I really dislike them and I try to avoid them at all costs, which seems to be an impossible feat. I talked to my Persian friend about it and he liked the fact that it was not branded – that it was not a popularity contest and that it was so easy to sit down and you knew what you were getting… but I just don’t see the joy in groundhog day for meals).
We ate some mediocre food at a high price before heading home for the evening, as I was starting to feel a bit sick again. And it was not long before we were both fast asleep.
Hop on Hop off
Because I was not feeling the best, and I knew we missed most of what London had to offer, I wanted to do a Hop on Hop off bus so Miguel could at least get the big picture of Paris. We got on at the primary stop by the Louvre and clambered up to the top floor. It was almost 40 degrees out and the only way we would survive the day is with some fresh air breeze on the top of the bus. Unfortunately for us the traffic was bad that day and it was more of a ‘get roasted on top of a metal surface in direct sunlight’ than than ‘wind through my hair convertible’ experience I was hoping for.
The first round was the Blue tour, and to be honest, I had no idea what it was we even saw on that one. Maybe because we were on the Red route and I was waiting to see things I recognized and never did and then it was over. when we got back to the Louvre stop Miguel was hungry (surprise surprise) so we walked down to the end of the street to eat at the closest restaurant, as we still wanted to do the red route before they stoped at 7. Guess what that restaurant was? You guessed it… a typical red-awning good-for-nothing basic-food-on-a-plate restaurant. So… we ate mediocre food for a high price and then got back on the bus.
The Red line bus was the main attraction route. We passed the Arc de Triomph, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Concord, and anything else you can think of that is synonymous with Paris. It was good as a recap for me and an intro for Miguel.
Afterward we got a Starbucks iced coffee and decided to walk the Tuileries Garden and sit by the fountain. This is probably my favourite place in Paris, the Garden is just breathtaking and the water features, although dirty, are a great place to enjoy a sunset.
We then headed back to our room to meet my friend Alric for dinner.
Terrorism At Our Doorstep
Alric met us at our flat (and no… he was not ‘terrorism’, haha!). He is a friend I met in Canada many years back and makes an appearance in all of my Paris blogs as I always make a point to meet with him when I am here.
We told Alric we wanted to eat true French food and to avoid the red-awning restaurants like the plague. We wandered around for a little while as it was pretty late and many of the restaurants were now only selling drinks. He then had a thought and we began to head towards Chatelet area to a restaurant he knew of. As we crossed though an open air (and yet, covered) plaza a group of people started to run towards us screaming from around a corner. Without hesitation I turned on my heels and ran as fast as I could across the plaza, hearing Miguel yelling “stick close to the walls”. As we neared the other side people started to run towards us through there as well, so we had no choice but to cut across through the center. We had no idea why people were running and screaming, but with all of the terrorist attacks going on I did not want to stay and find out. As we ran I looked back to see a group of fully geared up SWAT men running into the area. Miguel, Alric, and I only ran for a few seconds before the whole thing died down. Alric was hardly bothered by it but I was extremely shaken. I had never been in a situation where I felt I was running for my life, and I no longer felt safe.
Our restaurant was 2 blocks away and I spent the entire dinner feeling sick to my stomach and staring at the door. Alric did some googling to see if he could find any news on the situation and get to the bottom of why people running away from the area in panic, but we found nothing.
We did enjoy our meals and conversation and near the end of the dinner I felt a little more at ease. Miguel had a lamb shank and I just had what turned out to be a giant round of cheese (that I couldn’t finish). Alric opted for something that looked like tuna tar tar but with raw beef. At the end of the meal the waiter brought us all a complimentary rum in a small glass (almost like a glass of port). Miguel, being the redneck east coaster that he is, threw his back like a shot. I stared in horror. I did not want mine anyway so I slid it over to him quietly and told him to sip it like a gentleman in an expensive french restaurant.
You can take a boy out of the east cost, but you cant take the east coast out of a boy.
We walked home and my head was on a constant swivel. I was so pleased to be home. I thanked Alric for the evening and Miguel and I headed up to bed.
In For A Long Night
Unfortunately my night didn’t end there. Whatever bug or flu or food poisoning I had came in full force all night long. I was up sick for hours and hours and decided that the next day would be spent finding a doctor for real this time (hopefully one we could actually wait around long enough to see).
Check in and Check out times rarely line up. We had to be out of our first apartment by 10am at the very latest, and the next airbnb didn’t have check in until 3. However, I did manage to convince the lady to let us drop our bags off at 11. The places were only minutes apart so we sat on a park bench nearby waiting for the hour to pass. There was an outdoor toilet nearby that I spent most of the hour in.
We dropped our bags off at the new airbnb and then headed out to find a clinic nearby. We found a ‘Traveler’s clinic’ nearby which turned out to be a bit of a maze to nowhere. ‘Traveler’s clinic’ apparently meant that they help companies get vaccines for their employees who travel as part of their jobs (or at least that is what we understood from the google translate). However, there was a private doctors office in the building and he agreed to fit me in for an appointment at 3pm (3 hour wait).
I killed time with Miguel while he ate at a restaurant, we walked around the area, and more or less wasted the day.
When I eventually got in to see the doctor he diagnosed it as a stomach flu that he usually only saw in the Winter. He gave me some medicine for both ends of my body and I paid 25 euros for the visit.
Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead… nope… Wrong show
Drugged up and after a short rest in our airbnb, Miguel and I headed to Notre Dame to head to the top. It is still unclear to me why I thought that I could climb 400 stairs with a stomach flu on very little sleep… but I didn’t want Miguel’s whole trip to be a big episode of ER. So we waited in line and did the trek, stair but stair, to the top.
I am glad I went as it was a new experience and a cool one at that. The big bells rang while we were at the top which I hoped would shake the flu to death and I would be healed (that was not the case) and we got to see the gargoyles up close and personal. He continued on to the very top and I headed back down to curl up against a wall and wait in the shade.
We headed back to the airbnb to rest again and planned to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower later that night.
We headed out for dinner as I was feeling a little bit better and had hoped that with some food I might make it long enough to get to the tower. We went to the Pompidou rooftop terrace and ate at the “Georges” – a beautiful restaurant overlooking the city. The food was amazing and the price was a big one – but it was our last night so we enjoyed it.
After dinner I needed a rest before we went to the tower.
By Eiffel Tower, I meant ER
Yea… we never made it to the Eiffel Tower – something I will regret. I have been to Paris 3 times and still have not been to the top.
Instead, I tried to sleep through the sickness but ended up crying on a call to Health link and my dad in the middle of the night and then taking an Uber to the hospital.
The hospital was a strange experience. In an effort to be environmentally friendly they did not have many lights on in the ER… which made it look like we were in an episode of a post-apocalyptic show. I used google translate to explain my symptoms and called my friend Nicole’s mom on the phone to translate between the doctor and I. Germaine is ‘Canada French’, which is slightly different than ‘France French’ but we eventually managed to get all of the questions answered. I then waited for 5 hours for blood and pee sample results.
In the meantime, Miguel rushed back to the AirBnB to get all of our bags as we, again, were going to be running late for our train. He made it back within 5 minutes of me getting the clear with a new bag of medicine (no real diagnosis), and we caught an uber to the train station with 10 minutes to spare. Needless to say, we have been very lucky.
(Ps: still waiting to hear back from the train company as I tried to change the time of our train and it changed the date, so I had to change it back to the original time – and it charged me 60 euros for all of the changes. Hoping I can get reimbursed. Fingers crossed).
And with that, we were on our way to Biarritz! A 5 hour train ride away.