Paris Day 1 (9 May)

I foolishly stayed up too late on the night of May 8th…meaning I woke up on the 9th at 05:30…my flight to Paris CDG was to leave at 07:05! Eek!!! But I thought, no problem, I’ll get to the airport in time.

Luckily my bag was all packed and ready to go, but by the time I’d fixed my hair and gotten dressed, it was already 6:00. Then the damn Metro had to be delayed for about 3 minutes on the way to the airport (to the point where it shut down and all the lights were turned off) ā€” it was 6:30 and the plane was most surely boarding…and there I was, sitting in the Metro and getting no where.

When the Metro re-booted and finally completed its slow-ass journey to the airport, I RAN as fast as I could to the check-in terminal. I was flying Air France, so my terminal was not in the main terminal where the metro drops you off. The lady at the check-in counter told me I was WAY too late, but she called to make sure. Yup, the people at the gate said the plane was already boarded and I was too late. It was 6:50. The plane would leave in less than 25 minutes!!!

I was already resigned to taking the later flight. I didn’t have to check-in to my hostel until after 14:00 anyway, so I could take the later flight. It was my fault. I was late, I would accept full responsibility. I was not angry. At least, not with Air France. I held up my printed boarding pass and told her I wouldn’t mind taking the next flight if that was possible. She saw the pass and said, “oh, you’re already checked-in?” as if that changed everything. She called the folks at the gate again and this time she hung up and said I could board! But my bag would not make it; they’d put it on the next available flight. I couldn’t believe my luck!

I ran to security and the lady had the nerve to stop me and do a full-body scan. I made an impatient clucking sound and she said, wait. I wanted to say, lady, I have a plane to catch! Why is it that when you’re in a hurry, THAT’S when Metros shut down and THAT’S when security decides to randomly pick you for a double-screening? After security I ran all the way to the gate. By the time I got there, the attendants were saying, “it’s a good thing you ran. You need to be here 30 minutes before boarding.” I tried to tell them that this was an unusual thing for me (it is, because when I went to London I arrived at the airport 2 hours EARLY).

I was totally out of breath when I got to the plane. The flight attendants were very nice and got me some water. I got to sit in Row 4. Somehow my ticket was upgraded to the Affaires class even though I paid for standard economy. This was the first time I’d sat up front in an airplane.

After I’d caught my breath and the flight got rolling, I grew excited…I was going to FRANCE! I looked at my little notebook where I’d written down instructions on how to get to my hostel, where/when the walking tours met, even had information about a bike tour. I’d had so much fun on the tours in London that I couldn’t wait to do it again in Paris and meet even more interesting people! I also studied the French phrases I’d written down: Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur, je ne parle pas bein Francais. Parlez-vous Anglais? Because I’d heard that I wouldn’t be able to get by as easily with English in France. I hoped the rudimentary French I’d learned in elementary school would come back, lol!

The flight was short and before I knew it we had landed at CDG. I quickly went over to the baggage counter and explained my issue. The nice man said he’d file a case for me and call them to let them know to put my bag on the next flight. Since I had SO much time before I had to get to my hostel, I decided to wait at the airport. If they didn’t put my bag on the next flight, I’d have it delivered to the hostel. They even gave me a nice overnight-pack (it’s what they do when bags are lost). Wow. So for being late, I got a goody bag. There was some good stuff in that bag — a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, a t-shirt, shaving kit and more!

Waited around the airport, noting its strange layout and design. Ordered a crossiant at a cafe. Everyone who worked at the airport spoke English well, but there was a great deal of French (and other languages) echoing off the walls. I couldn’t believe I was in France.

Finally the other flight came in and my bag was there! All right! Way to go Air France! I thanked the man at the baggage counter who’d helped me and I was off to find the hostel. First I needed a train ticket and some Euros. So, proceded to exchange my Danish crowns for Euros. Then I bought a Paris 5-day pass, which would be good for unlimited rides in all 6 zones on all means of transport — bus, Metro, etc. The pass would allow for transport to and from the airport as well.

Then I took the RER train into the city! Gare Du Nord station was my stop, and the hostel was only a short walk from there. Like London, Paris was busy, but not as busy. I had to ask a woman at an information desk how to exit the Gare Du Nord station because for some reason I couldn’t find the way out. I asked her if she spoke English and she said “What do you want” very rudely. I politely asked my question: “Where is the exit?” and she said, “huh? Access? Accent?” and I clarified, “no, how do I get OUT of this station?” She pointed in the direction of the exit as though I was stupid. Whatever. I’d rather ask how to get out than to walk around in circles looking lost.

Once I got out into the street I proceeded to find my hostel. I’d checked the area on Google Maps street view the night before, so I already had an idea of what the street would look like. Still, Google Maps Street View is no subsitute for actually BEING there! Well, the street was a bit confusing and I went in the wrong direction twice and had to ask a nice couple to point me into the right direction. FINALLY made it! The outside of the hostel also has a different name than what was advertised on the website, so you have to go by the building’s actual address. It was very easy to miss. But I found it and I was glad.

The hostel was very nice. It was called Vintage Hostel. I’d booked a 4-bed mixed room. They even had an elevator! When I arrived in my room, no one was there. I chose a top-bunk again, unpacked and took a look at the various maps I’d accumulated, trying to decide what to do first!

A woman who looked about 30-ish came in soon, she introduced herself as Olivia. She was very nice and said she was on a backpacking trip by herself. We talked a little about how people say Paris and this particular neighborhood we were in was a bit sketchy, but we agreed that as long as you don’t act like an obvious tourist and if you walk like you know where you’re going (even if you don’t), people will likely leave you alone. Of course, you can’t ever be 100% safe from danger, but that’s the case no matter where you are! Olivia also explained the metro system to me. It was actually quite similar to London’s Tube, but easier. Easy like Copenhagen Metro. šŸ™‚

Well, I was in the mood to see something, so I went downstairs and asked the man at the front to show me how to get to the Eiffel Tower. First things first, right? Got on the Metro, enjoyed the ride; had to transfer between Line 4 and Line 6 at one point. The Eiffel came up on my left without warning. It was quite big and I couldn’t believe it (I can NEVER believe I am anywhere). Unfortunately the weather was a bit crappy and rainy. But I didn’t care. I walked through this park that’s near the Eiffel, then under the Eiffel itself. Took a million and one photos. Did a lot of walking around that area. Then I was starving, so I went to a nearby store and bought some cookies. I’d return to the Eiffel in the morning during the walking tours. I was really looking forward to the walking tour. And maybe even the bike tour if there was time.

Caught the Metro back to my Paris “‘hood” — my hostel was located near the Anvers Metro, very close to Sacre-cour. Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking up and down the streets in my Paris “‘hood.” I got some stares from men (I saw them through the corner of my eyes), but I did not make eye contact with anyone. For dinner I had, what else? Chinese. I am crazy about Chinese food. The lady at the little restaurant did not speak any English so we had to resort to some sign language. And fortunately the only other customer in there at the time spoke some English so he could translate. I have it easy in Copenhagen, really.

Well, after dinner I’d had enough adventures for 1 day. Time for bed! I met some of the other people in my hostel room, there was Zach, a nice guy from Australia who had been on a backpacking trip for several months. He invited Olivia and myself downstairs to hang out and have some drinks and food. I would have gone with them but I was EXHAUSTED and I wanted to wake up early for the tour in the morning. So I had to pass on that one. Olivia went, I think. I went to bed!

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