i'm asking this for those people who followed my ill-fated trip last year... for those of you who did 'follow me', yes, that's right, i'm going back. i have many reasons (with which i will not bore you unless you REALLY want to know) so...for those of you who know who i am (the tracy who hated paris), what should i change? i can change EVERYTHING about the trip, other than the fact that i'll be going to the same places (london and, mainly, paris.) if there's no one who knows my paris story, or would like a refresher course, start here, and click forward in time (i wrote many posts): http://elbodans.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/bienvenue-a-paris/ or feel free to ask me specific questions, or request that i type out a summary here (which i'd be happy to do). i'm not going into detail because i'm assuming that there are people on here who remember me, as i was rather...loudly annoying about my last/first trip. i'd really, really like feedback, as i'm planning a re-do. i am at the 'booking lodging' point already, but have not gone through with said lodging booking. i wanted to ask this question first. thanks in advance. this is me bracing myself for the replies.
I didn't think your Paris trip sounded so terrible. The best tip is don't go in the middle of the summer, when everyone else goes. Certain destinations Paris, Rome, London, Prague comes with big crowds. The reason is that they are so great. We always go shoulder season to avoid the worst, and have had good luck with that approach. Second tip is always use the metro, but in Paris also consider the busses. There is nothing wrong with walking in neighborhoods as your entertainment. Last time we were in Paris (our fourth time) we did not even make it to the Louvre, but we went to the Cluny like you, the Carnavalet, the Orangerie, and the Conciergerie. A lot of second tier stuff which was great in its own way. Of course also the Orsay, we always go there. I think there was some mention that you are a teacher so you may be constrained on when you can travel. In that case, destinations that are not so universally popular might be your best bet. Portugal comes to mind, most underrated country in western Europe. Ireland is pretty easy too. You don't get caught in the tourist hoards outside of Dublin at least, because you are out in the country where the real fun is. The biggest thing to remember is that travel comes with frustrations like these. It will take longer than you think to get from place to place, the ticket machine will be broken, etc. Guaranteed the service will be slow.
wow. thanks both above! that was all great advice (for example, i didn't know you could buy paris metro tickets in london. that is DEFINITELY being done!) and i will take all of the other suggestions, too. we did love some of the 'smaller' places, and i wish i hadn't been in such a hurry to 'see everything' and spent more time at these places. i also very much think that the 'don't blog' suggestion is brilliant, and while i will have to do some blogging (due to the nature of my next year) it will be very, very different. most of the writing i do will wait until i come home to be shared. to answer some questions... yes, i am a teacher. but i'm taking the year off next year. which is part of the reason i have to slash should go back to paris. if i'm ever going to try a re-do, it needs to NOT be during the summer! and i will be traveling to (many) other places. that's the point of the year off. i'm planning this portion of my travels now in the interest of saving money in what will likely be my two most expensive destinations. i've found some great apartments at great rates in great locations, but they are already booked through january, so i need to grab them now! one additional thing i think i am changing is my location. we stayed in the 3rd last time, right next to the pompidou. this time i'm staying in the 5th, in between two metro stops (one on the 10 and one on the 7) for ease of transportation.
Hi Tracy - I sort of remember you from last year and skimmed your blog to refresh my memory. Having just returned from Paris & Sicily last month, I would say that one key thing is to not overload your expectations. I got the impression that you were expecting some magical 'fall in love with Paris' moment as soon as you stepped off the train, and reality smacked you in the face pretty hard. We had a rather bland and not very generous impression of Paris when we first arrived (stayed in the 7th) and left thinking that for supposedly being one of the greatest cities in the world, it was kinda boring and dull. Fortunately, we returned two weeks later and stayed in the 5th, and we really enjoyed ourselves. I think part of it was that the Latin Quarter and surroundings appealed more to our sensibilities, and part of it was that we gave up thinking that we had to fall in love with Paris and just let ourselves enjoy. I didn't expect much from the Orangerie and really liked it, while I did expect to enjoy the Orsay and didn't so much (mainly due to the layout being completely screwed up due to the renovations). If you decide to tackle Notre Dame again, and I'm not sure if you were referring to the church or the towers, definitely try to sacrifice sleeping in one morning if you can possibly stand it. We got to the Cathedral around 8am and it was practically deserted. The lines for the tower get long quickly, but with two of you, consider leaving DH to hold a spot in line and go do some shopping or wander around the park behind the church.
Tracy I'm really glad to see that you have plucked up the courage to have another bite of the cherry. Well done!!! As I remember you found many of the things which bothered you and now with time to calmly contemplate them you will be able to plan how to deal with them. Can I vote against the previous advice to drink less. Your body requires lots and lots of liquids (water is fine) all day. If you cut back you can become dehydrated and ill. You won't even know you are becoming dehydrated but your body will. You now know how to deal with the need for facilities - I'm sure it will be much better for you. As I remember it you really liked Amsterdam - I bet you'll be heading back there. Happy planning..
Nigel...thank you so much for the kind words of encouragement. And you hit the nail on the head; I am hoping to return with a calmer outlook. i will try to stay hydrated. honestly, i think that was part of my not feeling so great last time. by the end of the trip, i was limiting myself to half a bottle of water per day. not a good idea. Liz...your experience sounds very similar to mine, and again the nail is hit on the head. i absolutely went in with crazy high expectations, and i didn't even realize it. well, now i realize it, and i can change that. paris (and everywhere i visit) is a real place, not a magical city full of awesomeness (for lack of a much better term!) it's going to rain, there will be lines, and people will occasionally be rude (as they will ANYWHERE in the world). i sincerely hope that my new outlook will help me enjoy my stay the second time around. Oh, and the line for Notre Dame was for the church itself; the line for the towers was fifteen times worse. I will get up early one morning and attempt it, however. The line standing thing is a good idea, but this time I'm going without my husband (or anyone else, for that matter!) i hope that staying in a different part of the city will give me a different experience. i remember thinking, during our time in the latin quarter, that this is where i'd like to stay 'next time'...though then i didn't think there would ever BE a next time! it's good to know that others have done a re-do and had a great experience. thanks so much for sharing!
Tracy, Good for you for going back. I recommend scaling back the intensity of your itinerary. Plan one sight in the morning, another in the afternoon with plenty of time for relaxing, walking in the parks and sitting in a great cafe. Do you have any favorite movies that take place in Paris? It might be fun for you to find some of the places you've seen on film. Start with a big breakfast, it will help you to go with a lighter lunch and give you more energy throughout the day. Hope you a great time.
Got to give you props for being willing to give it another try. I read your blog last year and I get your intention to give it another try during your year off from work so you can write about a "re-do". I think you have been quite honest about your general dislike of very large cities (ie, New York, Paris) and you typically do much better in smaller cities (ie, Philadelphia, Amsterdam). The frantic pace of a large city can be overwhelming for some, now add the fact you are also a compulsive over-planner and often are a bit indecisive and second-guess yourself on your plans. The over-planning and 2nd guessing just add a whole lot more stress to what is an already stressful situation for you. If I could recommend some changes for you, they would be: 1) Don't plan every single minute of every single day. See where the day takes you. Sometimes, having no plan at all is the best plan and the experiences you open yourself up to can be priceless. 2) Don't constantly 2nd guess yourself. 3) Learn how to use public transit. The Metro & buses will save you lots of walking, waiting at taxi stands and energy which means you will be more relaxed which helps with stress levels. But expect public transit to be crazy at peak rush hours - try to avoid taking transit during these times. (continued)
(continued) 4) Whenever you see a public bathroom, use it. Even if you think you don't have to. Because when you desperately need to use one, is exactly when you won't be able to find one so readily available. 5) Study up on French food so you can make educated choices on foods that appeal to you. But don't force yourself to always eat French food for every single meal, every single day. Paris has lots of ethnic restaurants and take-aways - mix it up. Don't kick yourself because you chose the French restaurant serving calf brains when what you really wanted to eat was Thai If this year off from work involves continuous travel, re-think that. As someone who took a full year off to travel around the world, long term travel is not for everyone and can be very stressful, particularly if you are a Type A over-planner who hates big cities or wrenches thrown into what you see as the "perfect" itinerary. You really need to build in a lot of downtime when you are on the road so you can relax and take everything in. Being away from family and friends for long periods of time and travelling alone can also take its toll on you. The romantic notion that everything will be a bed of roses simply because you think you love to travel can be quite different from the reality of being on the go for months at a time. Not trying to discourage you from your plans, by all means, taking a year like that to travel is an amazing opportunity to see what you are made of and it changes the way you view the world and your life, but you strike me as the type of person that needs your family or friends to help emotionally support you, so for you I would recommend shorter trips where you return to the States and spend time with family and then go back out on the road again. Back to back months of travel will likely take a heavy toll on you. Best of luck with your travels!
marilyn...GREAT suggestion! i was actually thinking of 'one thing per day', but a morning activity and an afternoon activity sounds just about right. i look back on my plans for last year now and laugh (and shudder!) the big breakfast thing is a good idea, too, as i'll have an apartment and the ability to cook, so that's a money saver, too. ceidleh...what an amazing list. thank you so much! i will need to work on that whole 'see where the day takes me' thing all next year, so hopefully i'll master that before paris (or at least become a little better at it!) i love the paris metro, and now feel comfortable using it. i also picked an apartment that's on an east-west line and a north-south line, to make using the metro even more convenient. i do, however, need to learn the bus system, especially in london. studying up on french food...and where to get it...is DEFINITELY a good idea! i put zero effort into 'where we should eat' on my first trip, and suffered. this time, i will do it differently! as for my year of travel...it is NOT continuous. i've promised my husband i will only be gone for 3-4 weeks at a time, with at least as much time in between trips. additionally, i'm doing a lot of domestic travel, as that is what i'm writing about (educational travel guides for families) you are absolutely right...a year of solid travel (without my husband) would be a bad, bad, BAD idea for me! everyone...i'll be compiling a master list of these and posting them on my office cork board. seriously. thanks everyone!
Tracy, I didn't follow your posts last year, but I caught up on them last night. It's rare that someone will be as candid and open as you were last year, refreshing in its candor. I have my own Paris nightmares while riding the Metro on an early Sunday morning, I won't bore you with the details (unless you want!). You have received quite a few great suggestions, the only ones I wanted to pass along it looks like you've already considered, that is don't become a slave to your blog, enjoy it for what it is, don't feel obligated to write everyday. Also sometimes the best plan is no plan at all, kind of like, life is what happens while we're doing other things, have your list of things to see and do, if you feel like doing one of them on a particular day do it, if not, don't, as the old saying goes "go with the flow" go where the day takes you, not where a "have to list" takes you. On your journey up to Amsterdam, if I read it right you didn't have such a rigid schedule (I may be wrong) but that's where you had the most fun from what I read. I've often told people when I hear about their vacations that "you need a vacation to recover from your vacation!", I pretty sure you know what I mean by that. Life is a learning process, it sounds like you learned a lot last year, I often read on this message board where people want to go to Paris and live like a local, luckily you get to, so go, live locally and have a relaxing time!
barry...thanks! here's hoping it goes that well! and yes, i'd LOVE to hear your paris metro story. also, you are very right about the amsterdam part. that is definitely something i need to think on and realize. yes, i had the most fun there. a and yes, i had zero plans or expectations. i was going there because my husband wanted to go. that's actually a huge revelation. thanks for that!!!
Tracy, You've gotten a lot of good advice, so there isn't much to add. I have just a couple of thoughts. I remember you complaining about the prices in restaurants. It is really easy to eat inexpensively in Paris. You can get great food for a reasonable price at bakeries, take out creperies, the markets, etc. Paris is a big city, but it's also a series of neighborhoods. Approach it neighborhood by neighborhood and it might not be so overwhelming. I think you will like staying in the Latin Quarter. You might not like Paris even the second time. That's okay. Lot's of people don't. (I'm not one of them.) But there's got to be something about it you like. Focus on the things you like and try to ignore the rest. Don't expect it to be pristine. It isn't. But the architecture is beautiful. Just take it in and see what you think. I hope it turns out well for you.
I'm glad you have decided to go back to Paris, after all it is Paris!! Don't worry if you bombed your first trip there. There is one trip I took to Germany and France (solo in the summer of 1989) where I thought that everything that could go wrong went wrong in terms of occurences and expectations; at least my luggage was not lost by the airline. What's more important now is that you're going again. Bravo. Don't over plan, it doesn't pay. Reserve your first night in Paris. It's more reassuring, I've done it both ways, arriving with no reservations after 2230, going from hotel to hotel, and arriving with your room reserved, ready and available. Reserve as early as you can, ie, 120 days, for the Euro-Star.
Tracy, I didn't follow your trip last year but just read through your blog (very entertaining, btw). My first two thoughts (don't go in the summer if you hate crowds, and don't expect reality to match that perfect romantic image in your head) have already been addressed. A couple of other things that come to mind are: 1. Really make an attempt to learn a little of the language before you go. I have been to Paris twice, and I found the people lovely. But I speak enough French that I can at least greet people and start a conversation before switching to English. Both of my travel companions spoke barely any French and we found that they received a cooler reception. I realize that this is not an easy task, but a smile and a greeting in someone's native language goes a long way. 2. Take some time to just wander and soak up the atmosphere in a city. Paris has wonderful museums, churches, etc, but solely visiting tourist sites won't really show you a city. Leave yourself time to just sit in an outdoor cafe and watch the world go by :). It sounds like you were an inexperienced traveler the first time. Keep sticking with it and it will get easier!
How about getting lodging you are not locked into for too long so that if you are unhappy you can jump a train to somewhere else (i.e. somewhere on the Rhine, or Salzburg, AU)?
Great ideas from PP. I have given some specific recommendatoins for you to consider. You don't have to go far from the major cities to find lovely, small towns and villages. Loire Valley, 1 hr by train and rent a car. Orvieto, 1 hr by train from Rome to explore this town on foot. Wonderful areas with great small hotels. Can't remember if you stayed in an apartment or not. You will feel MUCH better if you stay in a hotel, where the front desk staff can give you suggestions on restaurants (be specific) or take away, or directions, etc. Language. check with foreign language teachers to see if they can give you some Travelers French lessons. 6 or 8 lessons will give you some confidence. Especially have her go over your favorite food items so you can recognize them on the menu. Food. Get Rick Steve's French, Italian, German Phrase Book, especially if you are going to any of these other countries. It is so frustrating when you are not sure what is on the menu. This book has a section on restaurants and menu items. Small enough to put in your tote. *Do not plan anything your first day in a new place! Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable and relaxed. Just walk around your hotel neighborhood and get the lay of the land.
Continued from Above Arrange a shuttle or private transport from the airport/train station in advance. Often the hotel can make these arrangments for you. Obviously, this is a very stressful part of the trip for you. And usually when you are feeling the most tired, frustrated and vulnerable. Check out in advance where some green space/parks are so you can go there for respite. If you are in the 5th AR, you can walk to Luxembourg Gardens and Jardins de Plante. Maybe you can make hotel reservations in large cities in central locations near green spaces. For instance, In Amsterdam, there is a large park south of the Museum Area which has hotels near it. twice a day sit in a non tourist cafe (or its equivalent) to watch the world go by. Must stay an hour at least. Best on a square (place, piazza, etc.) or in a park. This will also help you decompress and reduce your tiredness and stress. Just remember what you like and who you are and that Type A folks run themselves into the ground when they travel. You will have wonderful trips! Bobbie
Hi again, still some great advise coming in! Regarding my Paris Metro story, In 2005 I arrived on the overnight train from Madrid and had to travel from the Gare d' Austerlitz to Gare St Lazare. It was an early Sunday morning so the cars were almost empty, my car had me, a young woman and young man, they weren't together. He started making unwelcome and vulgar comments and facial espressions to her, I'm thinking, am I going to have to intervene? She got off soon afterward but while walking by were he was sitting, knocked on the window and gave him a one finger salute. Meanwhile a homeless man who also appeared to not have full mental capabilaties got on, he walked though the car and stopped directly in front of me, less than a a foot, I kept a constant eye on his hands till I could get out of the situation. Luckily I was going to the countryside, Bayeux, that place got my mind back in order.
continued... On my first trip to Europe I was originally part of a group, we went out separate ways in Frankfurt, that night I stayed in a very spartan room around people I didn't know, the next day I took the train to Amsterdam, all of a sudden I realized I hadn't seen my credit card for a while, I dug through my bag, no luck, needless to say I was in a mild panic thinking someone was on a buying frenzy somewhere in Germany, but when I got to Amsterdam I dumped my bag on the bed and there it was on the bottom. But with the combination of thinking I'd lost my card and the loneliness, certain situations can throw our thought process off kilter and it's difficult to recover, I never did and like you I decided to come home earlier. But I've gone back 3 times, last summer I walked 500 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, 33 days of nothing but beautiful days in the country with like minded new friends. So as others have mentioned maybe you'll enjoy the countryside too, it's so different than the cities. May be the antodote to the cities that you need! Oh, btw, like you Vancouver is my favorite North American city!
Hi Tracy Glad to hear your giving Paris another chance. I to have learned from my misstakes and have learned to sit back and relax more. Not pack in so much and remember to be flexable. By being flexable you might find something better then you planned. Here is a great tip I found years ago to enjoy things when dealing with summer crowds. Go earlie but most people think of that. Then there is either a late, or early lunch, and see things while most people are eating. My favorite is go later in the day. I found that if things are open after 5 it's a great time to see things. Most tour busses have left by then. And people are getting ready for dinner. The last museum I visited it was so crowded we had a hard time seeing anything. All of a sudden I noticed there was hardly anyone around. It was 5:15 and we had the place to ourself. With alittle planning you save yourself some hassles. And in the end get to see more and it's so much more relaxing without all the people. The Orsay is open until 9:45 on Thursday, The Louve 10PM on Wednesday. We happened to take a nap in the afternoon and were charged up before going. Some great tours I found in Paris are. Segway tours in the evening. Segway's are fun and easy. We saw the mounuments as the lights were going on. And the group we were with was fun.
Fat tire bikes to Versialles. All day, you stop and pick up supplies for a picnic. You get to see the whole grounds. Have not done this, but it sounds really fun, good reviews on Tripadvisor. Left Bank Scooter's. All day Versialles and the country side. I am planning on doing this on my next trip. Have fun Wendy
I have no advice on Paris and am just absorbing this thread. We'll be heading there this summer and quite honestly, I am not really looking forward to it at all. The family wants to go. I gave in. I am looking forward to the rest of our trip - London, the Cotswolds, South Wales, and most of all, Israel. Paris, to me ... I can take it or leave it. And I'd rather leave it. I wanted to go to Bruges, but no one else did. With regards to the drinking water/hydration issue: we live in a country with rather unpleasant public restrooms to say the least. My rule is: to stop drinking water 1 hour before leaving home/hotel/your home base. I might take sips throughout the day.
I do wake up early and drink a lot in the morning. But once I know that we have to leave the house at say 9 AM, I definitely stop drinking by 8, if not, sooner.
wow. thanks everyone. this is amazingly helpful, particularly in making me really think clearly on 'what i did wrong'. thank you so much. i am going to compile that 'master list' and post it on my wall. i'll also post it here.
wow. I just read your blog. when I just read your question my initial thought was that you should give Paris another chance, but after reading your tremendously detailed and insightful blog I think you should not go back. it is not a crime if you did not like Paris. You are entitled to your feelings. You might have seen that Seinfeld episode where Elaine did not like The English Patient movie even though she was in the minority. it is ok not to like a well reviewed movie and it is ok if you don't like Paris. the strong thoughts and feelings about Paris in your blog made me think that your planned return was like how some people in a bad relationship keep trying to make it work when it will never work. what happens if you again spend a lot of time and money and have the same unsatisfying experience? if big cities and lines are not your thing there are other travel experiences that might be better suited for you. I have never had to tell someone not to go to Paris but after reading your blog this is a first: Do not go to Paris. I said it. wow.
@Barry: You don't need to travel all the way to Paris to have such fun on the Metro! I had the not so rare opportunity to take the outbound Brooklyn 2 MTA at 2:30AM and have a homeless guy pop open his pill bottle and start counting out his meds at my feet, then there was the late night Chicago El from Midway with the crack whore propositioning potential johns in my car. But the absolute winner was the drunk guy on the Broad Street line in Philly who stuck his hand down his pants and started to pleasure himself.
Barry...that's one crazy story! My goodness! Greg...I fully realize it is quite possible that I will still not like Paris. I hope that going in with different plans and expectations will result in a different (and better) experience, but it may not. In that case, I will have given it two shots, and will officially give up! I am also going solo on this trip, so that will change things. I don't know if it will be for the better or for the worse. I'm thinking maybe a little of both. My husband is so accomodating, I think it is difficult for me to fully deal with and process negative experiences when I'm with him (because he allows me to freak out). Alone, I'll have to deal...right?
Ceidleh, the only times I've been to NYC and Philadelphia I was on a baseball park tour city to city on a bus, never had the opportunity to ride the transit there. Now I know what I've missed out on! You've got me thinking I must start planning a trip to experience these adventures in America, late night transiting! One positive story of riding transit, I was in London coming back from a walking tour, not many people in the car, a young man got on, he said something, realizing he was American I asked where is he from, he said San Diego, naturally I said me too! I told him I lived in the Pacific Beach area, he said he went to high school at Mission Bay High which is the school for that area, I told him my nieghbor went to school there (he looked about the same age as her), he asked her name, I said Tammy, he immediately says Tammy Bailey? Yes! It was funny and amazing to travel all that way and meet someone who knows ones neighbor, who needs Facebook?
I agree with Greg... I don't know why you would want to waste your time and money when there are so many beautiful villages and towns you might enjoy much more. My first time to Paris, I saw the sights, and felt I never needed to go back again. I have returned through circumstance and do now enjoy it, but when I long to go to France, that is not what comes to mind. I love the villages and the vineyards, the fields of lavendar.... I frankly do not want to be one of the hordes of people seeing the same sights...I want to find my own Europe and find my own surprises. That is what has kept me going back to Europe every chance I get. It's kind of like a good movie... when everyone tells me how much I will love it, and I already know the ending...its not quite as special. I would give Paris 3 days and then go somewhere that you know nothing about and see if you can discover your own France.
Tracy, I finally made it to Paris last summer, and when I have to describe what I think of it, the word disappointing comes to mind. However, we were only there for 2 whole days, and many, many people adore Paris. The first day we were in Paris, I just didn't get it. Didn't eat anything good, didn't see anything spectacular, didn't feel anything. The second day was a bit different, though because we went out at night, and that is when for the first time I understood why some love Paris. Did I love it? No, not love, but I wasn't ready to leave yet, either. Unfortunately, I had to, but I also believe that sometimes your experience is not THE CITY itself, but what you saw of it and did while there. If that doesn't make any sense, the only way I can explain it is that the first time I traveled to Dublin in 2007, I stayed a 20 minute walk away from the heart of the city by the bus station. And what I saw while there was nothing memorable. The next year I went back to Dublin, stayed in Temple Bar and did completely different things and absolutely fell in love with Dublin. So, I fully believe that you can go back to Paris and London you might have a different experience. Def. mix lazy meals at cafes and a pint at a pub throughout each day to relax and soak it in. That is always my favorite part. :) Put a lot of research into what area you pick for your hotel. Use google street view to see what it is like around there, and use maps to see how far of a walk it is to the subway. I love Bloomsbury in London.
Hi Tracy. I read this with interest as I LOVE Paris and will go back again and again. May I suggest some of the activities that I love, going to the food markets; one of my faves is the Grenelle, just underneath the Grenelle Metro. My last trip, I made a point of going to many different markets as it is a thing I enjoy. Some of the markets farther off the beaten track are so interesting, multicultural experiences. Another thing I really enjoy about Paris is just walking along the Seine; the bridges are so gorgeous. I have stayed at the hotel Londres Eiffel, suggested by Rick; the 7 day Paris city tour stayed at that hotel. A bit pricy, but I loved it. I felt very safe roaming around the 7th arr. by myself after dark, walking to the Eiffel tower to get the night pictures when the lights twinkle (from the hour to 10 mins after the hour). The last time I stayed, I did not take the expensive breakfast from the hotel, but chose to eat breakfast in a different cafe every day, depending on what I was doing that day; that was fun. I enjoyed the people watching in many different parts of the city. The Eiffel tower is my favorite sight; seeing it from the Montparnasse tower was really great. The view of the city from that tower was fantastic. I hope this is the type of advice you are looking for.
Tracy, I was here answering some of your good questions a year ago. I read your blog during your trip last year - stunned - while on our own trip to central Europe. I was here answering your questions about Bavaria a couple of months ago. I have to be honest and say that I now hesitate to devote much more time to your sincere questions. Like others here who enjoyed Paris, I would like you to somehow like it, too. But I cannot reconcile what I read in your blog with any potential for making it substantially better this time, particularly after witnessing how frequently your plans change. Like Terry Kathryn, I would like to see you introduce yourself to life OUTSIDE of the city. Leave the hoards of tourists checking museums and monuments off their must-do list and get to know some of where real life happens in any country. I don't just mean taking a day-trip to some place like Giverny. I mean spending a significant amount of time where it's quiet and the pleasures are more subtle, but ultimately more meaningful. But what strikes me most in all your blog writing about travel (and I admit I may have missed a few details because I was scanning things quickly) is that I don't remember reading anything explaining WHY you like to travel. Without a clear idea of why it appeals to you, I can't see much chance of success visiting a place that challenges the average person (unlike say, Vegas or Orlando). It would be a little bit like someone saying they like everything about marathons except for the running part. Visiting places where the main activities are not sitting, eating and drinking IS a little like a marathon, both physically and mentally. I don't mean that you have to work yourself to death. But when you put yourself through any stress, you need to have a firm grasp of WHY... Do you?
Tracy, if you think you've cornered the market on monotonous and routine lives...think again. Your morning exchange with the custodian at work can be looked at as a comforting ritual, not as a boring-ho-hum-every-single-day-this-is-my-Not-Exciting-Life exchange to be endured. Lots of people crave the mere idea of someone asking them 'how are you', so never take it for granted. Secondly, you can have a thoroughly authentic Parisian experience and completely forget that you're in a large, tourist-filled city. You can start with the many and varied parks... Thirdly, look at those long lines as prime people-watching opportunities! Get your camera out, jot a few observations/random thoughts down in a journal, or just quietly meditate - enjoy the breeze in your hair, the sounds of many languages being spoken all around you, smile every time you hear a 'funny-sounding' emergency vehicle's siren...Just make it a point to be THERE, not thinking about what you wanted dinner last night to have been, or worrying about that evening's meal (for instance). Lastly, there are always trains going somewhere OUT of Paris - even if for only one day! The day before, grab some simple (I'll repeat simple LOL) picnic goodies and check out train schedules for the next day then get up early and GO! Be back in time for dinner so you don't mess up your (sleep) schedule. And never be without that 'in case of emergency' vin rouge ;-)
Laurie...you absolutely have the right attitude! i was forced to go to disney world, and BOY was i not excited. i went in with what i called 'a childlike sense of wonder', and do you know what? i had fun! imagine, me, a disney hater (and hater of all things with LINES) able to have fun. yay for childlike sense of wonderment! i hope you have a GREAT trip! Eileen...i sincerely hope that no one read my custodian exchange thing in a way that meant i didn't like the custodian. i LOVE him! he's actually quite interesting and awesome! also, your approach to travel is exactly what i'm going to try to do. i think i'll be better standing in a line alone, as opposed to with my husband. i know that sounds strange, but people-watching is easier when you are alone, and it is easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger. though we did meet two great guys in line for the louvre last year. i fear i failed to blog about them...perhaps because i was in a 'this stinks' blog funk. i will also avoid THAT this time around.
randy's question really made me think. if anyone would like to read my response to the question 'why do i like to travel', check it out here: (warning: it is a bit long) http://elbodans.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/why-i-travel-the-long-answer/ and if you don't want to read it, don't! :-) thank you, randy, for offering up this question, and for allowing me to name you in the post. i felt you deserved the credit for being the person who inspired the it. thanks for that.
Tracy, I will pass along the best travel advice I ever heard. I was on American Airlines and it was one of the audio ions. The advice is: approach travel, and everyday life for that matter, "with the magic of genuine enthusiasm." I was sure I would not like Venice. My daughter really wanted to go. I complained and complained, then went and took my own advice. I now LOVE Venice. I got away from the tourist areas, I wandered the back streets, I went to the outdoor market everyday. I leave for Paris this Saturday. I was there many years ago, but this time I will be on my own. I plan to follow my advice and look for things to be enthusiastic about-the flower market near Notre Dame, the little cafes where I can sit outside, drink coffee or wine and watch people go by, wandering through the Marais, visiting the Marmottan Museum to see Monet's collection of his favorite paintings, etc., etc. I'll do some of the 'must sees' also, but I'll wake up every morning and enthusiastically look for something magical to make my day sparkle. Also, so I don't sound so much like Pollyanna, I figure every trip has at least one bad day where nothing goes right. After many trips with many of those days, I can now say, "Oh well, that was my bad day. Tomorrow will be so much better."
I didn't read your 'morning pleasantries' with your co-worker as something, or someone, you hated...but just as you said: "Is anyone getting bored reading this yet? You should be. It's so amazingly, eye-poking-out-ingly boring." No, it's a pleasant routine. It's a pleasant routine. It's a pleasant routine. Is this stuck in your head yet ;-) It's one of your new mantras - It's a pleasant routine. It's a pleasant routine. One of your other new mantras: If this isn't to my liking, then I need to change my liking...If this isn't to my liking, then I need to change my liking... I, too, think it'll be easier to 'go with the flow', immerse yourself better on this trip, and to let things go that need to be let go of by going alone. It makes things simpler. Hmmmm - 'simpler' - is there a theme in my posts?!? ;-)
My first two times in Paris were in July and August...peak season. To get the most out of your trip there this time, make a list of what you want to accomplish, see, visit for each day. Basically set your site priorities. Nothing wrong about going back to see the same sites last summer, be it the Eiffel Tower, Invalides, Opera House, etc. Put in time for walking and taking the Metro. If you have in mind to see Versailles in the summer, take the RER. Expect Versailles to be swamped with tourists (closed on Monday). See Fontainebleau if you're more interested more in Napoleon than Louis XIV. Take the train from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau. As for lodging I rather be close to the train station than to the sites, which I can walk to or take the Metro with out luggage. I've done it both ways. Decide on which you prefer.
If you say you like to travel I think you should think about those trips you loved...My frist trip to Europe it did not take me long to figure out my travel style...Big cities...okay, small villages, hilltop towns, love them. Traveling with a planned itinerary...boring. Spontaneity, love it. I am not that interested in what everyone else has seen, so hanging out with hordes of tourists in a hot city is truly torture for me. I can do it for a few days and thats it. There is nothing wrong with either way of travel, but I am not going to spend my money to take someone elses trip. I love to explore and love adventure. My favorite places are those that very few tourists have heard of, or they bypass for the 'big places'. If you hate Disney (sort of) and would choose Sedona, then why redo this disaster. Most of the people on this site would hate the way I travel. Little planning, looking for my own trip. Traveling Europe is about how it makes ME feel, not about a checklist. There is enough Europe for everyone...I just don't think you have found yours. If you like Sedona I would suggest going to the Gorges of Verdon and the charming little villages along the way. When I long for Europe it is ALWAYS 'the road less traveled.' Or the cities in off season (Venice in Feb. during Carnivale was amazing...and not as crowded as you would think...just make it your trip)
thank you so much everyone for your thoughtful responses. i really am compiling a list based on all of this, and i really am posting it on the wall in my office as i continue with my planning. i'll post it on here, too. it will likely be done sometime next week, as i'll be out of town this weekend...at a conference in NYC! ha! maybe a weekend in a major city is just what i need to determine how long i should be staying in paris (as that's one of the things that needs to be determined asap, as i'm booking my lodging asap) again, thanks everyone!
Hi Tracy. I followed your trip last summer while we were on our own trip. You may remember we PM'd enroute about a possible meet-up. I think it's a fantastic opportunity to go back and make a trip more to your own liking. I'm confident you will do it. More travel time will help a lot in reducing the forced-march pressure too. I have two specific suggestions to add to all the other great ones here. We loved our half day with a Paris Greeter. She took us to Bercy, which we never would have found on our own. Then through a lovely park, over a bridge to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (their Library of Congress). She had actually visited everything the day before to make sure her memory was correct and brought clippings of history and news of the area. Free! Fantastic! Just book ahead online. And, once again, check out Annabel Simms' book "An Hour from Paris" for great day trip ideas to places less travelled when you need a break from Paris. There are some wonderful ideas, including our home base in Crécy la Chapelle. Have fun! I'm jealous!
nelly...i just looked up paris greeter...what a fantastic idea...thanks!
sorry short and choppy typing on phone.
Well done - your writing style is so engaging and I am just sorry that you didn't have a better time. Your honesty and openess allows the rest of us to join in your experience. I read your blog and have tried to read through the replies so as not to be repetitive, but here goes.... Watch "Paris, Je t'aime" Watch Rick Steves' dvds on Paris. Watch dvds from places you intend to travel - in other words, visually orient yourself before you go. I think we tend to under-estimate the intense over-stimulation we get from travelling overseas. Are you staying in an apt. again? If you use an agency, generally they will arrange for a car transport if you ask. Yes, you can do it cheaper, but it makes the entry process less stressful. Once you've got your feet under you, then you can travel on your own. If you must travel during the busy time, consider skipping the popular spots. Sometimes you can access the gift shop without going through the venue. Just buy the guidebook, post card or look at it online. I got more out of a local exhibit of Michaelangelo's pencil sketches on the Sistine Chapel than I did crushed in the actual chapel with a zillion people chattering. Be aware of the cultural differences (you probably already know this stuff). Most of the French speak English, but if you immediately acknowledge them with eye contact and "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur" and end with "merci", they warm up. They will expect you to stay for an hour/hours at dinner and will not rush you. They assume you want the table for the evening. Bottom line: don't rush into your trip, ground yourself first.
Regarding your why I like to travel blog post .. I can completely identify with wanting to escape the humdrum of daily work life. Speaking as someone who overthinks travel to the nth degree, you may be overthinking things. How bad can it be, it's Paris? My wife and I have been four times. The first three times, it was pretty good. The fourth time .. magic. The difference was staying in Rue Cler (I know some folks do not like it), having five nights and four full days, and that the weather last May was very, very nice. Any way you slice it, the worst day in Paris beats the best day a lot of other places. I strongly advise to relax and enjoy. BTW good for you for getting back up on the horse.
There's no reason you have to do the "must-dos". I think you're an English teacher, right? Is there a French author you like? Or an author who lived in Paris? Or an author who writes about Paris? Why not go on a quest to see where that person lived/wrote/walked/ate dinner, or the places that person wrote about? Take the book with you and read the appropriate passages in that place. You'll be seeing a Paris that interests you, and you'll have a new perspective to take back to the classroom. I often take this approach when I go someplace new. I get to see things that interest me, and sometimes they're "must-sees" and sometimes they're not. I may not see all the "must-sees", but I usually end up seeing a lot of things that other people don't. And I'm happy with what I've seen and done, because it means something to me.
Hey Tracy, I enjoyed reading your blog about your last trip to Europe. My wife and I went to London, our first ever trip to Europe, and her second trip to Europe (she went with a girlfriend to Italy 5 years before we were married). We stayed in an apartment in London, which we loved. We had a list of places we wanted to see, but didn't plan anything for this day or that, just played it by ear. The first morning we took a bus from South Kensington to the British Museum, and then walked from there to Covent Garden and after that had lunch and spent the rest of the day just doing nothing other than hanging out, I guess, can't remember what we did after lunch that day! The next day we went back to Covent Garden because I couldn't decide what to buy at the Transportation Museum gift shop the first day, and had decided by the second day. Anyway, we just winged it for 9 days in London and it worked for us. Didn't get to see everything on the list, I think there were two places we didn't see, but that will be remedied when we go back this fall again to London!! Travel is a lot of work, and takes a lot of effort to enjoy. Certainly you learned that on your first trip! I never felt guilty taking it easy on vacation, and just randomly walking around or taking a break in the evening. This time I want to try to come home around 4pm and rest, and then dinner out and spend the evening OUT! We were in a pattern of NOT going out after dinner, and instead staying in our comfortable apartment. And I wanted to see London at night! So this time we'll plan to get home around 4pm and rest, and then dinner and then go out some more in the evening. Hope this works!
Wow. If I were you, I would change my attitude. I would change my expectations. I would walk if the lines were long, stop sobbing, and look around me at the incredible fact that I WAS IN PARIS. I would also take a Valium. A large one. Or I might just stay home. European travel might be wasted on you. Perhaps you can book in at Disney World?
Wow. If I were you, I'd change my attitude AND my expectations. I'd walk if the lines were long, stop sobbing, and look around me at the incredible fact that I WAS IN PARIS. I'd also take a Valium. A large one. Or I might just stay home. European travel seems wasted on you. Perhaps you can book in at Disney World? Yes, that sounds snarky, but having read your blog, it strikes me you aren't cut out for foreign travel. You seem to have a low threshhold for uncertainty, foreign experiences, irritations and inconvenience, waiting, and, well, a lot of the stuff that goes with European travel for the non-rich. And I'm serious about Disney. Or if not Disney, then maybe you can try easing your journey by booking a big plush American hotel, taking taxis (have the doorman flag them) and buying tickets to attractions ahead of time so you don't have to stand in line and have a meltdown. There are plenty of accessible, American-style restaurants in Paris. Try the ones with menus written in English. Honestly, I came back to edit my post because I thought I sounded nasty, and I cannot change my tone. Perhaps it's because you don't explain WHY you want to travel, or WHAT you want to get out of it, or give us a clue that you might have a PASSION for it. Europe's clogged with reluctant, cranky, privileged Americans dragged there by family, a spouse, or an unconsidered expectation. They generally behave badly, have meltdowns, torture waiters and hotel staff, and reflect badly on the rest of us. If you don't want to go to Paris - do everyone a favor (Parisians AND tourists) and DON'T GO. If it isn't for you, it isn't for you. Try a tourist resort. A spa. A cruise. If you DO choose to go back, plan well, stay hydrated, and try to thank your lucky stars that you are privileged to be able to afford foreign travel in these parlous times. Many of us cannot.
Well said Kira. You said what many of us thought but didn't say.
I think Tracy pretty much answered the why she wants to travel and what she hopes to get from her travels in her blog response of April 27th. Her answers may not be the answers that would be given by others on this board, but nonetheless, they are hers and hers alone, and can't be classified as "right" or "wrong" answers. I am still undecided on whether she has a passion for travel or a passion for planning. I tend to think it's that she loves to plan, but much to her detriment, as I think it was her compulsive over-planning of every minute of last year's Europe trip that caused it to be such a spectacular failure. I've seen those "Please Help with My Itinerary" questions on this board many times where the poster lays out each days (unrealistic) itinerary from the instant they get off the plane and think they will be in a taxi at 6:30AM heading towards Sight #1 of 25 scheduled for Day 1 before they check into their hotel at noon, eat lunch and then proceed with Sight #s 26 through 50 before dinner reservations at 8PM. I shake my head and think "Ugh! Relax or you will have a meltdown by 2:36PM on Day 2 and that is going to seriously screw up this ridiculous plan that you have typed into an Excel spreadsheet and placed in color coded folders and stored in your Pacsafe messenger bag!". (continued)
(continued) I had the same reaction last year when I saw Tracy's pre-Europe itinerary planning she posted. The only difference is... Tracy had enough balls to actually come back & admit she had the meltdown on a public forum. I suspect there are many other people who over-planned and had a similar meltdown, but then crept away never to be heard from again. Kira, I think Tracy is fully aware her attitude and expectations certainly had a lot to do with the failure of last year's Paris trip. She even posts on her blog: I'd like to give Paris another shot, mainly to prove to myself that by adjusting my attitude, I can change my experience. Last year she also hated NYC, she just went back and loved it. Different attitude. Different expectations. Different outcome.
Ceidleh...well said, right on, and thank you. I am trying to change my expectations and attitudes. Travel is about learning, and for me, I've learned more about myself than I have about any of the places I've visited (or will visit). Also...ironically, when the suggestion to visit Disney was made, that's exactly where I was. I took my mom there as a mother's day present. She had a great time despite the fact that when she took me there when I was ten, I had a total meltdown (the trip was a payback trip to make up for that awful trip 21 years ago). I've changed a lot since then, and I hope to change even more (for the better) throughout the rest of my life. Actually, on my last week Disney trip, I was thinking about how people who visit Disney are much more prepared for visiting Europe than are people who, say, go to beach resorts or spas (both of which I'd love to visit some day, too. I'm an equal opportunity vacationer/traveler!) Disney vacations and European vacations have a surprising amount in common: lots of walking, crowds, lines, getting up early and staying up late, trying to fit too many things into one trip (cough...me...cough.) The list goes on and on (...and I feel a blog post coming on. I love comparison posts...I am such a nerd!)
".... Disney vacations and European vacations have a surprising amount in common: lots of walking, crowds, lines, getting up early and staying up late, trying to fit too many things into one trip..." I think this is a matter of perspective. I don't think of travel in those terms. That sounds like work to me. Your "lots of walking" is my "strolling around getting (intentionally) lost." Your "crowds" are my "areas to avoid." Your "lines" are my "places I am going to hit early, late or maybe just avoid." Your "getting up early and staying up late" are my "getting up when I feel like it and staying out as late as I like." Your "trying to fit too many things into one trip" is my "let's see where the day takes us." Just a different approach, but I think your expectations may lend themselves to potential disappointment. If that's how I felt about traveling anywhere, I'd never travel anywhere. I work too many hours and too hard in my job to go on vacation and feel all stressed out.