Europe, France, International Foodie, International Travel, Travel for Adults, Trip Report

Our First European Adventure: Learn From My Mistakes in Paris

     In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, I was so pumped to visit Paris. In high school (longer ago than I’d like to say), I took French as my foreign language for when I inevitably visited. More recently, Disneyland Paris edged out Paris the city as number 1 on my bucket list, but visiting the greater Paris area was GOING to happen. Our compromise for Europe was going to Amsterdam for my husband and going to Disneyland Paris for me. So now that you’re in the proper mindset for how I felt about France, we journey from Amsterdam (Day 1, Day 2) to Paris.

    Whether the frustrations of our first day in Paris was just a result of having such high expectations or it truly was the stars aligning against us, I’ll never know. But, I can at least share our trials and misfortunes to hopefully make your Parisian experience a better one!

It was incredibly cheap (~$100) for us to fly from Schiphol to Orly International Airport just south of Paris.  We arrived around 10am local time and picked up our luggage without issue. We made our way to the main terminal and waited in line to purchase our metro tickets. The metro system in Paris is set up in zones that are concentric circles around the city center. Having done my research, I knew we would want to visit all 5 zones for maximum flexibility (and Disneyland Paris). When we got up to the ticket kiosk, our credit cards wouldn’t work. We had some cash, but not enough to cover a 5 day ticket for both of us and the cost to do 1 day now and a 4 day ticket later was much more expensive.

  • Lesson 1: Carry Extra Local Currency!


There was a gentleman walking around answering questions who told us that the kiosk by the bus stop accepted American credit cards. We made our way through the airport to get to the bus stop, only to find the machines were the exact same ones back in the main terminal. We backtracked all the way to find that the information desk we actually needed to visit was about 20 feet from where we started. We purchased our 5-day tickets and made our way to the bus stop again. Using Google maps, we hopped on the fastest bus to our hotel, ready to finally be on our way… but wait, this bus isn’t part of the Paris metro system and you have to have reserved your spot in advance. Once again, we made our way back to the main terminal, incredibly frustrated.

  • Lesson 2: Don’t Rush When Figuring Out Directions!


At this point, we had been wandering the airport for over 3 hours and were starting to lose our patience. We decided to grab sandwiches from one of the airport food stations. We ended up sharing one sandwich because they misunderstood my order, but at least we had food in our bellies. We took our time with Google maps this time, making sure we were heading toward the correct bus. Unlike Amsterdam, the multiple legs of our route involved changing not only buses, but stations. Many of the stations are underground and very few had escalators or elevators, so we were pulling our 50 lbs. suitcases up and down multiple flights of stairs. We finally made it to our stop and were rolling our suitcases up the hill to our hotel when my husband’s rolling handle broke off! I pushed it the rest of the way and we could not have been happier to reach the check-in desk!

  • Lesson 3: Pack Light! Backpacking isn’t so much a movement as a necessity!

    When we checked in, I requested a room as high up as possible. Our hotel was on Montmartre, a hill overlooking the amazing Paris skyline. We made it up to our room and my jaw hit the floor when I looked out our window! I felt the frustrations of the day start to melt away as I starred at the Eiffel Tower, peaking up over the roof tops. It was the view I’d always dreamed of, but it was real and I was living it! It’s difficult to see in the picture, but it’s right in the middle, above the rooftops.

  • Lesson 4: Don’t let frustrations ruin your day! (Not a mistake I made, but always good to remember.)
     We spent the afternoon relaxing, watching the one English channel available – BBC News. As an American abroad during election season, that was an adventure in and of itself! It was so interesting to hear the views of American politics from non-Americans. Even the daily newspaper in the lobby of our hotel had the first presidential debate as front-page news.  The goal of this post is not at all political. I just found it interesting to hear perspectives outside of the US and to see how prominently the election was being covered by international outlets.
  • Lesson 5: You can’t escape the election, even if you leave the US!
    That evening, we searched Trip Advisor for places to eat near us – neither of us wanted to deal with having to use the metro system again.  We found a place with good reviews, touting an authentic French experience, just across the street from our hotel – Tifinagh. We were seated in the small restaurant and quickly greeted by our server, who brought us the hand-written chalkboard menu for the day.  Prior to our trip, I used the Duolingo language learning app to brush up on my French so there were words I recognized, but the handwriting made it difficult to translate descriptions.  The server saw we were struggling and kindly came over and told us about each item, stating what each was: beef, chicken, rabbit, etc. He provided his suggestions and we ordered our first French meal!
     We both selected the griddled cheese entree (in French, entree means the appetizer, not the main course) and it honestly was to die for! I think it may have been lightly breaded because it reminded us of a classy grilled cheese sandwich. My mashed potatoes were exceptionally creamy. For dessert, I had the creme brulee and my husband had a chocolate layer cake, both of which were delicious. The baguettes served with our meal were exactly what you would want in a French bread – nice crust with a soft interior. Our server was very pleasant and accommodating, as well. All in all, the meal was a nice experience, except for one little thing…
    ANDOUILLETTE.  Follow me on this logic – (1) the server said it was beef, (2) it sounds like andouille which comes from the FRENCH Quarter, (3) if it’s beef and it is similar to a spicy cajun sausage, I’m probably going to like it. In case you haven’t guessed, these were not correct assumptions.  While the meal was from a cow, it was not what I typically think of when I picture beef (read at your own discretion). I never wanted to be that American, but I honestly could not eat it. The smell turned my stomach, but I powered through and took a bite. I couldn’t tolerate it in my mouth so I swallowed as quickly as I could without chewing just to get it out of my mouth. I was incredibly embarrassed, but I just could not do it. I ate all of my mashed potatoes and asked the server to take my plate.
  • Lesson 6: GOOGLE YOUR FOOD CHOICES, even if you think you know what it is!
    After such an interesting day, I was so ready for bed. I took one last window out our hotel window, saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the night, and hoped for a better day tomorrow.

No matter how frustrating life can get, keep your spirit and Never Grow Up!

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