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Falling in Love with Travel in Paris

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“You look super Zen.”

I peel my eyes away from the million dollar view and smile at the Dutch guy beside me. We’re on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, surrounded by fellow tourists and typical European ‘scammers’ throwing cheap light-up toys in the air in an effort to attract attention and make some quick cash. The stone is cold beneath my jeans but I can’t be bothered to move.  The view is worth a little discomfort.

“Yeah” I smile, gesturing at the skyline of Paris in front of me; picture perfect against a backdrop of a snowy December sky, disturbed only by the occasional flashing neon toys. “It’s kind of amazing”. He smiles back at me in agreement and we return to our comfortable silence, watching as Paris comes alive at night.

Despite the scammers, tourists taking ‘selfies’, and African men below yelling “Hakuna Matata” while trying to tie string bracelets around unsuspecting visitor’s wrists, my new Dutch friend is right. I am feeling pretty ‘zen’. Which is honestly a huge surprise considering the state I was in only a few hours ago.

Several Hours Earlier

“Hey quick question” I ask the guy behind the reception desk at my hostel in the Montmartre neighbourhood, “What’s the easiest way to get to the airport?”

“Which one?” is his reply.

That’s when I know I’m in a world of trouble. It never even occurred to me that there would be more than one airport in Paris. Why would a city need more than one airport?

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“Errr…” I look at the departure airport on my printed Ryanair ticket, noticing for the first time that it is not Orly airport as I assumed, but rather one called Beauvais.

The guy behind the counter glances down at my ticket and then asks the all- important question, “When is your flight?”

“Two thirty?” I ask it as a question, not because I’m unsure of when it departs but because I have this awful feeling in my stomach that I’m not going to make it.

“You’re not going to make it.”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t swear.

Noting my distress the receptionist calls his manager, and moments later the owner is on the phone with Ryanair trying to see if I can switch my ticket for tomorrow. No luck; I didn’t take out any insurance so I lose everything. I’ll need to buy a new ticket for tomorrow, and it will cost me about 4 times the price I paid for the original. Praying that, after three months of travel, I still have room on my credit card I pass over my Visa. Within a few minutes I have my new flight booked, and clear instructions of what time I need to leave the hostel and where to catch the airport bus.

Love locks on the Seine

Love locks on the Seine

After booking a bed for the night I put my bag back into luggage storage and step outside onto the streets. Wandering blindly past the tourist shops and cafes I chastise myself for being such an idiot; I only have a week before I go home but money is tight, and I can’t afford stupid mistakes like missed planes.  I stop for a moment, forking out a couple precious euro for a Nutella crepe, and grab a seat on a nearby wooden bench. I’m definitely upset, even angry at myself, but I need to suck it up and get over it. After all, there are way worse places to spend an extra day than Paris.

I spend the remainder of my day ticking off the cheaper of the incomplete boxes on my Paris to-do list. I descend into what seems to be the underworld to hang out with the ghosts in the Catacombs, walk along the frigid Seine, wander through a market, and roam the cobblestone alleys and artisan shops of Rue Des Abbesses. I even get drawn in to some sort of happy jig by an elderly music-loving gentleman after stopping to listen to some enthusiastic buskers. It’s not long before my cloudy mood fades away, and despite still feeling like a complete idiot, I can’t help but smile at everything around me.

The Paris catacombs

The Paris catacombs

As the sun sets, and the crowds thin out I find myself in front of a café across from the Moulin Rouge, signing up for a night tour of the infamous Montmartre area.

“Hey! I thought you were going home today?” the guide says as I hand him some euros. It’s the same guy I had for the free tour a couple of days ago. I smile sheepishly and admit to my stupid mistake.  He laughs, along with a couple other bystanders, but assures me he will make sure I have a good evening. “There are worse places to be stuck than Paris!”

Over the next couple of hours I learn about the supposed ‘pink light district’ of Paris. Behind the Moulin Rouge and sketchy sex shops are decades of history. From the sites of the movie Amelie, to the favourite hang outs of famous artists. We take goofy photos of each other holding statue’s hands and, in one case, rubbing one’s breasts for good luck. And after winding our way up the hill to the stunning Sacre Coeur we watch the Eiffel Tower light up like a disco ball before relaxing against the steps to take in the panoramic view.

It’s here that, after three months of backpacking around Europe, I realize how insanely incredible this is. I’ve just had the best few months of my life; exploring new cultures, seeing new things, and of course meeting amazing people along the way. So what if I screwed up and missed a flight; I’m living the dream right now.

“Ok guys!” Our guide shouts above the noise, “who’s ready to hit the bar?” With one last look at the skyline I join the others as we head down the steps and back into the city centre.  I can’t help but think that even though it cost me an extra couple hundred euro, my day here in Paris sure beat an afternoon of busses and planes; and I’d take a glass of French wine over 3 euro bottle of airport water any day.


30 thoughts on “Falling in Love with Travel in Paris

  1. Samantha

    Great story – shows how sometimes mishaps and accidents can actually turn out well while traveling. Glad you were able to enjoy the night in Paris and your guide is right, there’s worse places to be stuck in that Paris! Love the last picture, Paris seems to certainly have that effect on everyone, you can’t help but smile and be in love with it! Hope I get to experience it for myself one day.

  2. Alexandra C.

    It’s fun how things work out like that, huh? So glad it ended up being a good experience. I get so tense anytime my plans change. Flights are delayed…. hotel vouchers are given by the airline… the hotel is actually full… will we ever make it in time? It’s so nice when it all works itself out.

    Side note: at first I thought you meant the Dutch guy’s smile was a million dollar view… 🙂 haha took on a little different meaning.


    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  3. Anu @ Country Hopping Couple

    Visiting Paris is always a good idea! The familiar sites and tourist spots also seem to welcome us, and one could not stop but fall in love with this city again and again! I am a lover of Paris, and despite being there a few times, I keep planning to visit the city again 🙂

  4. Jessica (Barcelona Blonde)

    Ah, a fellow Ryanair victim! I recently had a less-than-optimal experience with them too, but I didn’t get a day out of Paris along with my depleted bank account. 🙂 I think almost everyone has had a Ryanair experience haha.

    It sounds like you had an awesome extra day though!

  5. Nicole

    Paris, my favorite city in the world (okay, maybe tie first with New York!). We are back there later in the year. Can’t wait 🙂

    We actually had the exact same experience with the airports. We realized the night before though, which wasn’t too bad, just had to get up extra early!

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  7. Elaine J. Masters

    Wonderful how you surrendered to the moment and made such fun discoveries. Life can be absurd sometimes and the money may cause pain for its loss, but soon forgotten in place of what emerged.

  8. Beth at Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere

    I love this! I don’t think i could bounce back from a financial hit like that so easily. But truly it IS just money, and when you think about all you got to do as a result of that missed flight…man. I wish I was in Paris right now, is what I’m really saying. I love how you described Sacre Coeur, too. A lot of people, myself included, focus on how worthwhile it was to reach the top of this beautiful hill, but you really described how crazy it can be with all the scammers and tourists. I laughed out loud at the men weaving bracelets, because it’s all so true! Great post, and so relatable!

  9. solosophie

    I absolutely LOVED reading this.. sometimes the best travel moments happen when you least expect them. I’m glad that everything worked out well for you in the end and now you have a great story to tell!!

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