27-30 December 2019
Our trip to Paris taught me a very frustrating, yet valuable lesson.
When booking our flight from Madrid to Paris, I used a third party website to search for the best deal. After entering all of our details, I selected the cheapest flight. Madrid Barajas to Paris-Vatry. Knowing how large Paris is, I figured there were several airports in the city, so I didn’t think twice, booked our tickets and that was that.
We woke up on Friday morning, grabbed our bags and headed for the airport. Everything went smoothly, we made it to our gate and boarded the second tiniest plane either of us had ever been on (the smallest being a 4-6 passenger plane making flights between Jamestown and Pittsburgh). Looking back, we should have been suspicious by the size of this plane traveling between the two largest cities in the European Union, but nevertheless, we made ourselves comfortable and we took off.
The flight was fine and we even enjoyed wonderful views of the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France and Spain. However, when we landed we were met with quite a surprise.
As our plane touched the ground, Jacob turned to me and asked if I noticed a city anywhere as we were landing. Once he mentioned it, I thought it was odd because I hadn’t and it did look like we were in the middle of nowhere- turns out, we were. I pulled out my trusty maps app on my phone and quickly realized we were not in Paris. In fact, we were actually in a very small town called Bussy-Lettrée, about 174 kilometers from Paris in the northeastern champagne region of France.
Naturally, I was panicking at this point. We were hours away from our destination with seemingly no way to get there. Thankfully, Jacob kept it cool and we managed to communicate well enough with an employee at one of the airport’s two desks who sold us tickets for a (rusty, old, dirty, no heating) bus heading to the city.
Two and a half hours and 70 euros later and we finally made it to Paris. Lesson learned- always check the location of the airport before you book. Just because the city is in the name of the airport, doesn’t always mean the airports is remotely close to that city.
Once the initial blunder was behind us, we had a fantastic time in Paris. Our first night consisted of checking into our airbnb, of course. We stayed with a French man in his 60s, named Didier. He didn’t speak a word of English, but that didn’t stop him from trying to talk to us every chance he got. He greeted us wearing a leather Harley Davidson jacket and the classic white Nike dad sneakers. He owned a Harley, which he kept trying to tell us about while carrying my bag up the five flights of stairs to his apartment.
Later that night we hopped on the bus to go see the Eiffel Tower. We climbed up to the second floor, a very difficult feat for Jacob as he’s terrified of heights. Then, we sat across the river where we bought some crepes and mulled wine from a food truck and watched the tower sparkle, one of Jacob’s top 5 moments in Europe.
For many months, including the time we were there, the Paris public transportation workers were on strike. This made getting around an absolute nightmare. Most days we would wait upwards of an hour in freezing temperatures for a bus to come or get halfway through our journey on the subway to learn that the next line we needed to take was completely shut down.
On our second day in Paris we went to see the Arc de Triomphe. We found a little cafe nearby and enjoyed some coffee and sat for a long time under the heat lamps, people watching and warming up.
Next, we ventured down toward the Notre Dame Cathedral. Across the river we saw a large “Yellow Vest” protest. Most roads leading to it were blocked off by police while the anti-government group were chanting and setting off fire crackers. We watched from a distance, then decided all the ruckus had made us hungry, so we had dinner at a little restaurant and tried a few new things including escargot and duck.
The next day, we went to the Louvre. As with many things in Europe, we were able to get in for free because we are under the age of 26. We spent most of the day in and around the museum taking in everything we could. And no, we did not stand in the extremely long line to see the Mona Lisa so we admired it from afar.
Obviously, Paris is on everyone’s travel bucket list. It can seem overwhelming as it is a very large city with so many things to see. I recommend giving yourself lots of time there and narrowing down the most important sights beforehand. In my opinion, one of the most amazing parts of traveling is taking some time to wander about without a plan. We have enjoyed some really unexpected and incredible moments this way.