Paris in May: the weather was warm and though some of the locals were not, we still had a grand week in the City of Light.
After going through the surprisingly quick customs at Charles de Gaulle Airport (“Passport please.” *stamp* “Au revoir”) my husband and I took an hour-long cab ride from the airport to our hotel, the K+K in Paris. Note: we took a cab instead of Uber because the taxis have a fixed rate of 55 Euros from the airport, and we weren’t sure what traffic would be like. In our case, arriving on a Wednesday afternoon, the traffic looked insane from our American perspective, what with motorcycles and scooters weaving here and there and cars changing lanes without a moment’s notice, but we got to the hotel safely albeit breathlessly and most importantly, in one piece.
The K+K is a basic hotel that caters to a lot of American and business clientele, so the rooms are much larger than rooms you’d find at other local hotels. We were on the top floor of the place, which features well appointed rooms, a nice fitness area, and a bar and small restaurant that I cannot recommend. The breakfast served there is 18 Euro for what amounts to continental breakfast (pastries, cereal, fruit, with some sad looking eggs and sausage for the truly desperate like myself) and the other meals appeared to be made by the bartender on duty each night (the cleaning staff manned the bar bravely during the day). Luckily there is no shortage of cafes within a very short walking distance, so the hotel food didn’t mar the trip at all.
On our second day, we opted to visit a place I’d wanted to see for years: the Louvre. It was everything I expected, along with the crushing crowds around the tiny Mona Lisa and the incredible art from all ages of antiquity. High from a day of cultural and artistic overload, we headed off to our next stop, the Bota Bus – but there was a small incident along the way.
I spotted a group of Romani girls, possibly high school or college aged, who were carrying clipboards and trying to get people to sign up for something. The large group ahead of us laughed them off, but then then they spotted me and began walking quickly in our direction. I immediately said, “No” to which the lead girl replied in Americanized unaccented English “No?”
She then shoved the clipboard into my side, and though my hand was already around my purse, I felt another hand deftly undo the zipper and slip inside in an instant. I pushed the girl away, and she shouted at me, turning tail along with her friends. A pickpocket.
I live in a major city but I’ve luckily never been a victim of any kind of petty crime before. Pickpocketing just isn’t a thing where I’m from, for better or worse because of America’s love affair with guns. Mugging and carjacking are far more common where we’re from (both involve guns), and oddly, I think I’d know what to do in either of those situations (give the criminal what they want and hopefully leave with your life). This wasn’t my first time being swindled in Europe (I’ll tell a tale of a shabby ring, a sob story and 10 Euro another day), but it was enough to shake me pretty badly.
After a trip back to the hotel to drop off my purse for good, we bought two tickets to the Bota Bus – a touring boat that floats down the River Seine and you can hop on and off at various attractions. The calming water calmed my nerves, and though we didn’t get off to see any more monuments or museums that day, I felt a lot better by the time our stop arrived.
Further improving my mood was dinner at Le Saint Germain, presented by our waiter Kevin, who was an absolute joy. He didn’t make fun of our lack of language skills but instead taught us some handy vocabulary and gave effusive fist bumps when we dared to use our new words. Merci to him for that. I have to say, Paris was pretty intimidating to me at first, as it’s the first time I’ve been in a country without knowing much of the language. My two weeks of French Duolingo was not doing me any favors beyond being able to meekly say a quick “Bonjour” every time we walked into a new place.
As the week wore on, my bonjour’s became more confident and I began to pick out parts of conversation here and there that I could decipher without a full brain fry. Unfortunately, as my vocabulary got cooler, the weather got considerably warmer, and the poor old air conditioning in our hotel just couldn’t keep up. I recommend buying a small USB fan to stave off sweaty days and nights if you aren’t sure if your hotel has good air conditioning or lacks ceilings fans (as ours did).
We bought tickets for the Big Brown Paris Bus, an on and off bus tour that took us to all of the major attractions around the city. I highly recommend visiting the Musee de Orsay, a train station turned lesser known but incredible museum that is filled with Van Goghs, Monets, Manets and more. Overall, I think that museum is a better value than the Louvre since it’s impossible to see all that the Louvre has on display in any reasonable amount of time, but I’m also a big fan of Impressionist art, so the smaller gallery hit all the right notes for me.
As our week was drawing to a close, we found ourselves drawing up our belts – if you live on the typical American diet, you will lose weight here whether you want to or not! I ate little more than bread, cheese, and salad for seven days and walked everywhere and ended the trip a good 5 pounds lighter with zero effort.
We decided the final stop on our journey should be the big one: the Eiffel Tower. We’d driven around it for days, but never really came too close to it during our trips to monuments and museums. We took the bus to the site, and as I steeled myself, ready to grit my teeth, get over my fear of heights and get to the top, I looked at the line for the elevator.
It was a roughly 3 to 4 hour wait in 80+ degree weather.
My husband and I turned right back around and hopped back on the bus back to the hotel, a little discouraged, but knowing that neither of us could tolerate that kind of wait in the boiling hot sun.
To make up for missing my chance at topping the tower, we took a cab at 10pm on the dot to watch the tower sparkle for five minutes. The light show is short but absolutely dazzling and a must-see for any casual explorer in the area. Unfortunately, it’s also copyrighted by the light show’s creator, so I can’t post a video of it here – but trust me, it’s beautiful.
Overall, the trip was a fun, casual adventure. No fancy dinners, no great galas, no muss, very little fuss. The Parisians instantly knew we were Americans everywhere we went, whether by the size of our bellies or the width of our smiles, and weren’t exactly what we’d call hospitable in the American South, but they also weren’t rude either. They were living their lives, we were just visiting their city. No big deal. I had a lovely time in their gorgeous city and I hope to visit again sometime soon!