Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Year's Eve (Paris part 2)

Prior to this trip I had to endure two full days of babysitting for a friend. This was a pretty easy task since both boys are over 10 and can pretty much entertain themselves. Unfortunately, it made the two days prior to my most anticipated trip all the much longer. I was looking forward to this trip for many reason, 1. I was going to see my sister again after 7 months 2. I was going back to two places I have already been so I already knew my way around and 3. New Year's Eve, in Paris... do I really need to say more?

Finally, it was the morning of my departure from Gensgens, Switzerland and I woke up before my alarm and used the time to check my computer. I was then greeted by the first bump in the road on another glorious adventure. Glaring back at me from my computer screen was a message from my mom. "I found your train tickets on Jennie's floor". My first thought was why would my mom want to joke with me about that. Then I checked facebook and saw another message from my mother, "I found your train tickets in Jennie's room, what do you want to do about this?" Surely my mom wouldn't go far enough to joke both on skype and facebook (and it's official if it's on facebook). So there I was, hardly leaving the house with my heart racing and anger coursing through my veins. I remember thinking "How could she have forgotten the train tickets... I reminded her at least 5 times NOT to forget the train tickets!... of ALL things, SERIOUSLY!!!!" Then I took a deep breath and tried to steady myself before I went into another panic attack. "OF ALL THINGS!!!!!" Needless to say, I was pretty upset.

Then I got into the taxi and started my journey back to Paris.

My flight was on time and arrived to Paris on a cloudy Wednesday morning. My sister's plane had arrived 30 minutes or so ago. Now I just had to get off the plane, grab my baggage, find out where my sister's plane came in and then figure out how to get into the city. I hadn't thought that it would be difficult. I mean, how big could Charles de Gaule airport really be? Again, my good intentions were met with unfortunate circumstances. CDG Airport is huge, with 3 terminals separated by a metro train. After waiting for my baggage for an hour I was starting to worry that my sister might have started to try and find me. I had tried her cell 3 times, each call costing my phone $4 (Even without her answering). Her phone appeared to be off and she hadn't responded to any of my text messages. To a person with mild anxiety issues this was really bad. I quickly made my way to an information counter to ask where a flight from Philadelphia had arrived. The kind employee told me that it was at Terminal 1. I then started walking off quickly until I realized I had no idea which terminal I was in or where terminal 1 was. After turning around, the information employee had already started writing me directions to terminal 1. I quickly thanked her and started a run towards the airport metro line.

I was already on the verge of tears when I made it to terminal 1 and still had no idea where to look for my sister. She had now been at the airport for almost 2 hours. I quickly circled around the food and shopping area then made it to the next floor where I asked another information employee where the flight from Philadelphia was in a very shaky voice, "Excuse me... I'm looking for my sister, she came in on a flight from Philadelphia... and I don't know where she is." She just looked at me and bluntly told me to go to Arrivals. Well, yea of course it would be in arrivals... I knew that. Then I tried to find the elevator that went to arrivals but not before running around, my eyes damp with the coming tears, and visiting the Information counter one more time. Eventually I found the elevator and went up to where I prayed my sister still was. As soon as I got off the elevator I saw here, standing in the middle of arrivals with two bags looking as if she had no cares in the world. I ran over to her dropped my bags, hugged her as the tears, hyperventilating and poor attempts to say how relieved I was to find her began. Most people were looking over at the scene I had just caused. My sister just stood there asking me why I was freaking out? Since I was having difficulty breathing we decided to get in line to change our money.

That was how our trip began.

Our next task was to find my friends Jenna and Rachel at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower. Finding their location proved much easier with the use of a cell phone and knowledge of Paris. My sister, having never traveled in Europe before now got to experience how big a pain it is to travel somewhere without a car, using public transportation carrying all of your luggage. Add on top of that multiple metro stairs, metro changes, multiple suitcases and a very tired, hungry and jet-lagged sister and we were both extremely relieved to find the cafe my friends were at. Our moods were both lifted once we had some food and coffee.

After we paid our bill we all went outside to go and see the Eiffel Tower! It's the first thing anyone wants to see when they go to Paris and I knew it would be no different for my sister. We then had an impromptu photo shoot before deciding to go find our hotel. Again we boarded the metro with all of our things.

We headed towards our stop in hopes of finding an easy way to our hotel/apartment. After all, the directions said it was only a "7 minute walk". Once we were at our stop we found our way above ground and tried to find our bearings. The next two hours would then be filled with much walking, asking people, frustrated words, "Let's just take a taxi" and many breaks to sit on our luggage. No matter where we went we could not find any roads that matched our directions or anyone who seemed to know where our hotel was. Eventually, we all decided to just take a taxi that could get us where we needed to go. It was then that the taxi driver told us "it's just a short walk over there". Off we went towards our hotel which had we actually been able to find the road would have only been a "7 minute walk."

We decided that Rachel would stake out the local grocery store while we checked in since we had a 3 person apartment and 4 people staying there. Check in went smoothly and we went up to our apartment. After seeing that there was a double bed, couch and pull out bed Jenna went and got Rachel. Our apartment also had a bathroom and kitchen complete with supplies and a dishwasher!

Once we had unpacked and relaxed we decided to go see the Moulin Rouge at night and find a bar to get some drinks. After the best White Russians I have ever had we went back to our apartment to hang out and go to bed early.

The next day was full of shopping on Champs Elysees, hair cuts, more food and a finale of a pub crawl in the Mont Martre District. That was quite possibly the highlight of the day and we met a lot of nice people and had hopefully my final night out until we can take the morning metro "home". Fortunately, we met some charming Texans who were nice enough to even walk us back to our apartment. I won't go into to many details but the night was filled with lots of laughs, dancing and talking and lead to a pretty tired / hungover New Year's Eve.

So, since it happened to be New Year's Eve we had to find something that would be ultra-chic to do for the evening so we had made reservations at a small restaurant just off of Champs-Elysees during our afore mentioned shopping spree on the famous avenue. As soon as we all were awake and showered we shot over to the Louvre to do some art viewing / crowd passing / "well, I think an hour in the Louvre is long enough, let's get a quick photo and peace out". After our epic trip to the Louvre we headed on over to Musée Dorsay and did precisely the same thing, went over to the most famous painting then sat and decided we all would rather go back to bed and left. That is precisely what we ended up doing actually. We didn't want to be tired for our dinner and Champagne toast to 2011 in Paris might I add!

So after a power nap and some showers we got all dolled up in our Parisian finest and went to town in our heels and party dresses ready to impress! We had a delicious dinner with wine and dessert and then around 9pm decided to go look for a bar to hang out in until around midnight when we'd walk over to the Eiffle Tower give a toast and head back to a bar somewhere!
Well, what actually happened was far less glamourous... :-( At 9pm we did indeed leave the restaurant but we ended up walking over to the Eiffle Tower, meeting some other Americans on the way and finding a cold Mexican beer in our hands. We still had a good 2 hours until midnight and not a bar in sight. Well, like anyone with freezing peep toe heels we crowded together near a tree and tried to keep warm as we disparagingly waiting until midnight. By the time it actually was midnight we were so cold that the champagne was not cheers worthy and we quickly bolted to the nearest metro (umm train) station.

Here was another block in our far from perfect evening, the amount of other people who were cold and wanting to go somewhere else was so huge that we had to wait in a near mosh pit experience for the train, the train which happened to take us farther from our apartment and meant we had to be shuttled towards a metro and then another metro to get back. But wait! We had wanted to go to a bar afterwards to continue the celebrating right? Ha, well after our super cold not so fun evening we decided (minus Rachel) to call it quits for the night. It only took us 2 hours to get back to the apartment so by that time we were fully ready to crawl back into bed. New Years Eve 2011, done.

The next day we slept in and then went to both Mont Martre (our third trip, I love that area) and then Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter. Besides freezing on New Year's Eve I think that our Parisian experience was quite fulfilling, eh?

But wait... there's more!

Our train had been scheduled to leave at 8:15am. I woke up at 8:13am. There was certainly a problem with that. Apparently, there was some glitch with the itouch and iphone that the alarm did not work on January 1st or 2nd. Our train was on the 2nd. So, due to that malfunction we missed our train and after freaking our made it to the train station and explained the situation. Well, the was no sympathy for us and we were told that the next train had seats in business for the low price of.... get this... $350... each. Business class! Free food! Score! Umm... no. That is not what we were thinking. Actually I remember the feeling of dread and immobility as being close to swallowing a large rock.

So after finding no other options we sucked it up and purchased the most expensive one way train ticket I've even purchased. However, we were fortunately able to get to London! Although, that is another story.