Ever fly into Paris alone? A little strange you might say? Yes, well, that’s exactly what I did. I flew into Paris on my way back home from a tour of East Europe, on purpose. Paris was not my final destination, it was just a stop along the way. I guess you can say I’m a bit of rebel. I didn’t go with anyone, and I didn’t expect to meet up with anyone. But, I wanted to cruise around Paris, and see what happens. It was a sort of mission. How dare him, right?
The cheap flight on a Ryanair was about the only thing I regret. I remember climbing the air-stairs and catching sight of what looked like duct tape on the tail assembly of the plane. It wasn’t very reassuring, that’s for sure; but nonetheless, I landed in Beauvais airport safely. I even thought I was saving a cool hundred bucks on this cheaper flight, but in actuality, I went on to spend money on the subsequent bus ride from Beauvais into Paris. It was a LONG bus ride, to be sure; and it was especially hot inside the bus. If that doesn’t put you off then what follows might convince you to choose another airport.
You best believe that once you board that bus you won’t be getting off until you reach the city centre. There’s plenty of traffic along the way, and there are no washroom breaks. What’s more, my arrival into Paris just happened to occur during the taxi strike of 2015. So here I was, in great need of a toilet; but I was also roasting inside the carriage and dying to get off. And when we finally disembarked somewhere in the heart of Paris, it was a war zone! The Police were literally throwing canisters (and possibly rubber bullets), at a mob of protesting taxi drivers — many of who, just happened to be running directly towards me. And yes, I walked super-fast from the station with my gigantic suitcase being pulled behind me — I wasn’t expecting Paris to have a meltdown when I arrived. Yet, I was sure I’d still be able to flag a cab down to take me to my hotel. Wrong.
So I had to walk (briskly) whilst towing my luggage along behind me for at least another hour before I reached my hotel. By the time I checked into the hotel, the wheels on my suitcase had split in two and would now wobble uncontrollably — I’m not even joking. But, I considered myself lucky to have at least found a mobile phone store; and I wasted no time in swapping-out my SIM in order to gain access to the maps feature on my phone. I put the hotel address into the destination box; and once I knew I was walking in the right direction, I can assure the reader that the worst of the experience was over.
The Metro is another level if you don’t speak a word of French. I managed somehow with a little effort -- memorizing the spelling of the stations was a big help. The Metro is also quite prone to vandalism; I can’t say I was surprised when I noticed an adolescent spray-painting the wall within a station with a gang sign. For me it was a bit distasteful. But, Europe seems to be the cream of the crop when it comes to art with aerosol cans. Another big help with the language was an app on my phone that I used to translate French to English. The waitstaff at a restaurant thought it was particularly amusing when I used the app to place an order — if you remember, this was five years ago.
Of course you can explore Paris for days; or even weeks-on-end. But there are a number of places of historical significance and I’ll list a few of these no-brainers for first time travellers: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Notre Dame. I visited the Notre Dame before it caught fire; and I’d like to think that I’ll be back over the pond to see it following reconstruction. What about Napoleon’s Tomb? Or maybe the Pont des Arts? These all left a lasting impression. The many cafés and all those signature Haussmann apartment buildings that line the streets and boulevards, were especially nice to see first hand. But, you can’t forget the Louvre —you can spend a week in there — and it’s quite amazing.
So you might cruise around Paris on your own and have a jolly good time; but if you’re looking to spark a conversation with someone you happen to overhear speaking English, just have them hold your camera and take a few pictures for you! I’ve used this method quite a few times and it works rather well.