Updated: Jan 30, 2019
A vacation in Paris? Oui! Oui! That was the excitement I felt after booking three flights and a hotel room for myself and my two kids, Courtney and Joshua, for our vacation to coincide with Deco Off and Maison et Objet; two interior design fairs in Paris.
I had been to Paris once before, so I knew some of what to expect, but that was nothing compared to the lessons I learned on this trip. Some were welcomed; some, not so much! And this post is in no way meant to cast a negative light on the beautiful city of Paris, but merely a post about my personal experience there.
I am sure I don't have to convince you that Paris is a beautiful city. I mean, Ubering in from Charles De Gaille airport, and seeing all the amazing old buildings and landmarks, you can't help but being in awe. My kids and I couldn't stop taking photos and videos on our phones. The city definitely greeted us with beauty and history. I was in love!
So, what lessons Veronica? Sounds like an amazing trip. It was. Most of our time there was amazing. It was a dream come true. My kids loved it too - from the walks in the city and taking photos along Champs Elysees to Arc d'Triomph, to the bus tour of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and a visit to the Musee d'Orsay, and not to mention the food. We had a blast. My son learned so much and he discovered a new gift that he wants to explore - photography.
The kids attended the shows with me, and although Josh was done after day 1 at Maison and Objet, Courtney was excited to go back day after day with me, touring tons of trade showrooms and booths. In fact, she became my unofficial social media manager and photographer. All the beautiful pictures, videos and stories that got posted to Facebook and Instagram, was all because of her help
But despite the good, there were some elements that tried to ruin our time there, and we of course didn't let that happen. But we also experienced nothing short of a small miracle as well, so everything turned out beautifully in the end. I did feel compelled to share the good and the not so good here, because it may actually help others traveling to Paris. So without further ado, let's get to the 10 lessons I learned on my Paris Vacation
1- Take the time to explore my own backyard.
I admit it, I don't get out as much as I should to explore the beautiful neighborhoods of Houston. Work and life kinda gets in the way. So I cannot honestly be surprised when I see Parisians hustling and bustling away while they are surrounded with the beautiful architecture and landmarks. While we were in awe snapping photos every chance we got, it's like no big deal to the locals. This made me want to change that in my own life. I realize now that it is a blessing to live a place where I am always surrounded by beauty, so it is very important to take some time to appreciate the beauty in your own backyard
2- Plan your trip
I have to admit that I am not super detailed with planning when it comes to traveling. I usually like to see where my travels take me and what I feel compelled to explore when I arrive at my destination. But I now realize that I should have planned some of the activities and how we would get to these activities. The train rides weren't super fun, especially trying to read the maps, and Uber rides became super expensive, sometime $80 per trip. I think if I had taken the time to do a bit more planning I would have saved quite a bit
3- Don't plan your trip
I know, I just said to plan your trip, so this sounds contrary to that. But one of the things I did enjoy is the exploration and finding new places that we hadn't planned to visit. At one point, we got lost trying to find the Marche aux Puces Saint-Ouen flea market, and ended up in a very quaint neighborhood that had beautiful little shops and cafes. We ended spending some time there and it was just an amazing find. So, do allow yourself time to explore a bit, and maybe even get a bit lost. There are beautiful neighborhoods to discover in Paris
4- Three is a crowd
One of the things I did plan carefully is our hotel accommodations. I was very leary of staying in sketchy neighborhoods, and I read reviews and did my due diligence when I selected the hotel we booked. I thought I booked a room with 2 beds. We arrived in Paris, tired and hungry and immediately headed to our hotel to check in. We were stopped dead in our tracks when we were told that the hotel policy, and apparently a local law, is that three people cannot stay in one room, unless the room is a certain size, or the third person is under 4 years old. The hotel had no rooms at all that could accommodate three people. This meant that I would have to book a second room, period. Well, it turned out that they had no rooms available that night. We had to go next door to a different hotel where we booked two rooms for the night. We ended up finding an airbnb, since the arrangements we made at the previous hotel would not work at all for us. There is just no way I was going to stay in two separate rooms the whole trip. I am now in the process of trying to file a claim since their policy did not clearly explain this. To say this was a shock and annoyance is an understatement
5- Fanny packs are a must
So, if you follow me on Facebook, you would have most likely know about our phone dilemma. My son's iPhone 8 plus was stolen/lost in one of the train stations. I knew for sure we would never see that phone again. We put the phone in lost mode, listed my daughter as the contact incase it was ever found, and of course remotely wiped all the data. We all came to the conclusion that my son will have to find a job to get himself a new phone. You have the be very careful in the train stations since it is very easy to get pick-pocketed. A fanny pack is an awesome asset when traveling by train in Paris. I told my son all about scammers and pick pockets before our trip and he still carelessly left his phone in a side pocket of his jacket. Kids!
6- There are still wonderful people in the world
Well, it was nothing new to me that people aren't always super friendly in Paris. I mean, someone would literally bump into you and not say excuse me. The waiters weren't super friendly at the restaurants either, but nothing too crazy. The hotel lady where we had our room snafu had no real desire to help us, however the gentleman at the other hotel was very nice and friendly and super helpful. We took it all with a grain of salt. So imagine our surprise when about 5:00am one morning, my son's phone called my daughter's phone. She tried to Facetime the number back, someone picked up and then it got disconnected. We thought it was so weird and immediately thought that it was some major scam going on. The person called us again the next day, and of course there was a language barrier. We used a translation app to communicate with him as best as we could. He claimed to have found my son's phone and wanted to meet with us to give it back. He could only meet at night because he claimed to work at night in the train station. Needless to say, there was no way I was going out at night to meet a perfect stranger in a strange city, especially one that I suspected of stealing from us. After posting it on Facebook, a friend of mine reached out and offered to connect me with her brother-in-law who lives in Paris. He was able to call the person holding the phone and scheduled a meeting to pick up the phone.
It turned out that this gentleman did in fact find the phone apparently in an electrical panel in the train station, and went out of his way to charge it to reach us. My friends brother-in-law even offered him a tip and he refused. Can you imagine the shock (and slight guilt) I felt? My son now has his phone back! That to me is a small miracle. Although it never really left, my faith in mankind is restored. I literally thought the phone was stolen and gone forever. Boy was I wrong, and boy is my son happy :-) He still needs to get a job. haha
7- Don't forget your electrical outlet adapter
I am sure you already know this one, but do not forget to bring your electrical outlet adapters. You will not find the US version anywhere. You would think the hotels would have them ready for guests, but they don't. Fortunately we had two, but could have used one more. If your trip is all about unplugging, then fine, but you still need it for your hair dryer.
8- Get ready for close contact with perfect strangers
We stayed out in Montevrain outside of Paris - Val D'Europe stop on the RER train, so that meant lots of long train rides for us. In some cases the trains were so packed that we were rubbing up on total strangers. You could feel people literally breathing down your neck. I don't think I have ever been so close to anyone my entire life. Lol. It was all part of the fun, and we honestly didn't mind too much. It was indeed an experience
9- Bring lots of cash
This one goes without saying. Always have enough funds when you travel in case of emergencies. But we found that everything was expensive, and totally added up quickly. Just a regular sit down lunch - basic stuff was upwards of $80-$100 each time. The train rides added up fast too, and so did the Uber rides. I am yet to tally up my total spend, but it was a lot!
10- Don't fly into Heathrow in London
No, I am being serious with this one. If you can avoid flying into Heathrow, by all means, avoid it. They are so strict with liquids that it was beyond words. Our flight connected through Heathrow from Houston. Of course we had to go through security check again. Our liquids were the right sizes, and we each had them packed in our suitcases in little travel tote bags. Well, they had to be in clear baggies, and we were only allowed a certain number - whatever fit in the baggies. They even considered mascara a liquid, and they threw out some of my daughter's products because they did not fit in any of our baggies. Despite pleading to them that our flight was boarding, they took their time - even reprimanding us that TSA in Houston did not do their job "harassing" us like they did. We made our flight with a minute to spare. Let's just say that I felt singled out, and the attitudes of the agents were disgraceful and spiteful. I will be avoiding connecting through Heathrow in the future. Unless I absolutely have business in London, I will not be flying there ever again.
One bonus lesson
11- Travel is stressful
I remember when my kids were young and we would travel home each year to Jamaica. It was stressful. Just imagine pushing a stroller through the airport while holding another kid. Not fun. I actually despised traveling back then. This trip kinda reminded me of that. What is it with the security folks at the airport manning the lines? They think that hurrying and scooting you along while screaming at the top of their lungs is helpful. Or worse yet, you stop to ask them a question, and they treat you like you should already know. They clearly don't understand the long flights, flight delays and security checks we have already gone through. It's like each airport tried to top the other one with being discourteous. I finally told one guy in Paris that screaming at me won't make me move faster - he apologized, stating that he just wants me to get through quickly. Ya, not the way to do that!
I am sitting here now writing this post at Miami Airport, where my flight to Houston is connecting. We have a 5 hour layover! Lucky us! Haha. It does give me time to get some writing done, so I won't complain. But it was no bed of roses finally getting to the gate.
All in all, I absolutely enjoyed my trip away. I will be the first to say that it wasn't a rejuvenating vacation - I may need a vacation from this vacation. Haha. It was mostly a work trip, and I did get some amazing inspiration from Deco Off and Maison and Objet. I can't wait to get started on some amazing new projects. Book yours now!
Will I be back to Paris? You betchya! Next time I will have to make it a luxury trip though, and I am sure I will have another set of lessons to share.
Have you ever been to Paris? What was your experience like? Chime in
Thanks for stopping by!