Then I took a sightseeing cruise. I started outside and couldn’t make it the entire way through. I was frozen solid. I got some pictures before I quit:
Afterwards I walked to the Love Lock Bridge, which is when I realize/remember that I forgot my lock! The whole idea of this is that you write the name of you and your love on a lock, attach it to the bridge, then throw the key in the water and your love lasts forever. I had bought a lock before leaving and wrote “jennifer <3 life” on it. But I forgot my lock! I hope this doesn’t mean I am going to die some day. That just doesn’t feel like it would be my fate. Sigh.
By this point, it is starting to rain. Hard. To the point I am now sporting a yellow plastic poncho.
I wanted to take good close up pictures of the Pont Alexandre III Bridge but the rain wouldn’t let me.
Even worse is my picture of Invalides:
I didn’t bother trying to get closer.
I then went to the Eiffel Tower. I already wrote about my experience here:
Here are some pictures that came out horribly because of the rain:
Tomorrow morning, I am being picked up at 3:30 am by Supershuttle to go to the airport to fly to Naples. Spoiler alert: my day starts out with me first falling and then second, me getting locked inside my hotel.
Today I wake up really early. I go to McDonalds for breakfast and wifi. One of the breakfast options is a croissant and coffee. This is what I want. This is what I try to order. No one behind the counter seemed to understand me. Pointing gets me nowhere. I get annoyed and leave. Around the corner is a Quick, which is like McDonalds only not like McDonalds. I get a coffee and croissant no problem here. They advertise WiFi. Guess what, it doesn’t work. The WiFi. Guess what else? I spilled my entire coffee all over myself. I want to cry, I really do. I go back to my room and decide that if this is what today is going to be like, then I am not going to try a combo of Versailles and Catacombs. I will go just to the Catacombs to be safe. Good thing I did since the line was way over two hours.
I walk inside and slip twice. The first time was no big deal. The second time, I now fear that the rest of my time in here will be me trying to not fall. The third time I slipped, I went to grab the wall to stop myself. Only now, we are at the skulls. So I am grabbing human skulls and bones to balance myself, it was awful.
Later on, we get to where water is dripping and the floor is now wet. I start walking like a 397 year old woman because I am deathly afraid of falling.
The Catacombs are incredible. When I look around at everyone else inside, I can’t help but wonder what thoughts they are having. These aren’t props. These are actual skeletons. These are real dead people. It will never not be amazing to me that someone can propose to create this and not be institutionalized.
Leaving the Catacombs, it is 83 steps back outside. I knew this, and 83 steps isn’t that big of a deal, right? Well they are when they are steep and spiral and narrow. I had to stop and catch my breath around step 60. Luckily the couple that was trapped behind me since the steps are too narrow for anyone to pass, were really nice about it. They were also much older so I am sure whoever was stuck behind them thought it was them causing the traffic jam, despite that they seemed absolutely physically fine at this point.
After the Catacombs, I wandered around Paris a bit taking pictures and just looking at everything. I took random breaks and sat on benches and did that thing that I love to do so much. Just look around and think of how great it feels to be so independent and to end up anywhere in the world all by myself.
By this point in my trip, I was an expert at the Metro. The Metro smells horrible. The entire system needs a power wash. I also loved the station announcements. The automated voice announces each stop two times. The first announcement was in a tone that ends in a question mark, the second in a tone that seemed to have an exclamation point at the end of it. The more syllables the station had, the funnier it was to me. St. Germain De Pres? ST. GERMAIN DE PRES! It totally sounded like there was a silent “asshole” at the end of it. St. Germain De Pres? ST GERMAIN DE PRES, ASSHOLE. At one point I started to make noises while trying to conceal my laughter. I am so twelve years old.
Bed time. The night time weather was perfect sleeping weather. It was so cold outside but in my room the fresh cool air made my sleep so perfect.
I woke up in Brussels, Belgium about thirteen minutes before my alarm went off. I was still tired but it’s getting better. Shower, repack, head to Brussels Midi train station to take a Thalys train to Paris. I board the train and someone is in my seat. Not only is she in my seat, she is completely settled in. It looked like she had some manual, a lot of paper, a calculator, highlighter, pen and phone all out. She appeared to be working very hard. I’m not sure how she had the time to get all of that out since the doors had opened two minutes earlier, but there it was.
I stand over her, she doesn’t look up. I say “You are in my seat.” Nothing. Again, louder “YOU ARE IN MY SEAT!” She looks up and says something in a language I don’t understand. I put my ticket in her face and point to the seat number. She repeats whatever she had originally said that I didn’t understand the first time. Someone trying to pass by tells me “She is willing to exchange seats with you.” Oh here we go again. No. I have the window seat. I chose the window seat. You could have done so just as easily. But no, you decided to take my seat. This is so obnoxious. Not even the part about wanting to switch seats. The part about getting all settled before even asking. This is disgusting human behavior. So I make it clear, NO. She then has to gather up all her stuff and get out of my seat. Ugh.
I passed out as soon as the conductor checked my ticket. I woke up in Paris. Today’s walk to the hotel is three minutes. Get this. I do not get lost not even one time. Not even for one block. I found it no problem. I am psyched!
My hotel is Nord du Champagne. I booked it last minute. I had a hotel originally booked. That hotel was right on Luxembourg Gardens, with a balcony and a DOG. It did have a shared bathroom but the room had its own shower. I figured I could tough it out. Well one week before I was supposed to check in, I get an email that they are renovating the hotel and that they will upgrade me to a new hotel. I look up reviews of the new hotel. It does have its own bathroom but the reviews were really bleak. There is a loud bar across the street that keeps people up. I still thought I would be okay and kept it. Then I had to redo all the directions I had leaving from my hotel and I discovered that the new hotel wasn’t exactly near any sort of useful transportation. So I am faced with sucking it up or getting a last minute hotel. Have you ever tried to book a last minute hotel in Paris? Don’t.
I lucked out I suppose. This hotel isn’t that bad at all. Keep in mind that I am a 2-star hotel kinda gal, at best. I do love that it has a bathtub rather than a claustrophobic shower.
My only gripe so far is that upon arriving, I asked to leave my luggage because it was too early to check in. They have a common room where you can leave it. But there is no staff in there. I was worried something might be stolen. But I guess I wasn’t that worried because I did leave my bag in there, complete with the keys to my apartment which no one, not even the landlord, has a copy of.
With my fingers crossed that nothing went missing, I went out to see Paris. Today is Monday so just about everything is closed. Sacre Coeur is open though so I go here. Have you ever seen pictures of Sacre Coeur? Here is what it looks like in pictures:
Here is what it looked like when I saw it:
It was just so overcast outside that it made it look nothing like I was expecting. Even the grass didn’t look green. I actually thought I was at the wrong place for a second. But it is okay because there is a funicular. I LOVE FUNICULARS.
I take it to the top and have my first sighting of the Eiffel Tower. I loved this view.
Other views from the top:
Close up of Sacre Coeur:
I went into the church. There are signs everywhere, no pictures. Lots of people were ignoring that rule. One idiot was actually taking pictures with a LAPTOP. I kept hoping he would get kicked out. I am sorry but if anyone reading this takes vacation pictures with a laptop….oh wait, forget that. If you are stupid enough to be taking pictures with a laptop, then you probably haven’t mastered the fine art of READING so the point I was about to make is moot. Moving on…
After wandering around up here for a bit and then having lunch, it was time to check into my hotel. I had booked a single, got what I believe is a triple.
Once I am all settled, I go back out. I went to Notre Dame, which was open.
And the line…because really nothing else is open:
I walked around here a bit and the exhaustion just got the best of me so back to my room I went.
My hotel doesn’t have free wifi. Wifi is 5€ per day and once you pay that, you still don’t have wifi in your room. Only in the common areas. For 5€, I can go across the street to McDonalds and have free wifi and food. So this is what I do.
I end up going to bed early. Tomorrow I still haven’t decided what I am going to do. I want to go to Versailles, but I also want to go to the Catacombs. Neither were open today, neither are open Wednesday. Both are only open tomorrow. I do not know if I will have time to go to both. I am here on really bad days.
So I consider myself to be a bit more street wise than the average human being. So when planning a trip to Paris, I had the whole security thing to consider. Yes, the internet is full of people who have been pick pocketed in Paris. But surely that would never happen to me. But then I keep thinking about my sister. She was obsessed with the Eiffel Tower. I mean OBSESSED. It is all she ever talked about. Every trip I took to Las Vegas would have her begging me to bring back something Eiffel Tower related. She talked about this stupid tower ALL THE TIME.
Finally, she is going to Paris. She is going to the Eiffel Tower. She is so excited. Flash forward about an hour after she gets to Paris, and I get a voicemail I can barely understand because she is crying and choking. She tells me to call her back, does not leave a number or a hotel name. I had to break into her email to find the confirmation. Turns out, she did get to the Eiffel Tower. As soon as she got off the plane. And she got pick pocketed and was now broke in Paris.
I know my sister pretty well. She doesn’t like to pay attention to anything. She carries ginormous purses that are never closed. I don’t necessarily want to blame the victim here, but these things did cross my mind. She swears that she was super careful.
So now my turn to go to Paris comes. I don’t want to do things like carry a money belt or whatever. I want to just go. I am street savvy, I can do this. But in the back of my mind, I can’t stop thinking about how stupid I will feel if I am robbed. I picture the conversations. My sister saying “I told you so”. So I buy a money belt. But I still don’t want to use it. So I compromise. I head for the Eiffel Tower with only 5 euro on me, in a change purse. I leave my wallet back at my hotel.
It was pouring so hard in Paris. Absolutely insane. I took the Metro to Invalides to take pictures of the Pont Alexandre Bridge. This was not the best idea. I had a huge yellow plastic poncho over me. I don’t mind the rain, I hate when everything in my bag gets ruined.
I walk from Invalides to the tower. Sort of nearby the tower, there is a covered bench area. I sit there for a while. I am really early as I had planned to take pictures and sight see, but that was now not happening because of the rain. After about half an hour, it starts to die down. Of course it does NOW, it is too late for me to go back and retrace my steps going nutso with my camera.
I walk the rest of the way to the tower. I still have half an hour. I walk around, I kill time. I stop in a souvenir shop I have no intention of spending a cent in. Still early. Okay I will sit on this bench here. It has stopped raining but the bench is soaked. That’s okay, I have a poncho. I take it off, turn it inside out and sit down. Then I look down and my bag is open. What the FUCK. How is my bag open? It was UNDER the poncho. Not only that, hello, I am street smart. How the fuck did someone get my bag open?
Now I start freaking out. I start second guessing if I did in fact leave my wallet behind or if I just think I did because it’s most certainly not in my bag, in the pocket I keep it in, that is now OPEN. Maybe I left it open? That doesn’t sound like me. I’m freaking out.
I go up in the tower just because I am already here and I have already paid for my ticket. I was miserable, rushed through it. I just wanted to get back to my hotel and make sure my wallet is there.
I had made a 7:30 reservation thinking I could go up in the tower before the sun set, then stick around until after dark and get cool pictures of it lit up. I no longer care about seeing it lit up. I just want to see my wallet.
Partially because I am freaked out, mostly because I cannot read a map, I get lost looking for the Metro. I did not take the Metro directly here so I have no clue where it is. Now mind you, if you look at the amount of times I have been lost in places because I cannot read a map, you might want to question my self assessment of being street smart. I will allow it.
An HOUR later, full hour later, I am still in the vicinity of this stupid freaking tower. I ask a cop where the Metro is. I had walked a mile in every direction except for the one direction I needed to. Great. Mind you, I am still freaking out about my wallet.
As I am now finally walking the right way to the Metro, the Eiffel Tower starts to light up. I stop and take some pictures. So not everything was lost.
I finally get back to my hotel. Open my door. Run to my wallet. MY WALLET. I RAN TO MY WALLET BECAUSE OF COURSE MY WALLET IS IN MY ROOM IT IS RIGHT THERE SEE???
As an added bonus to my departure from Paris, I also fell in my bathtub and got locked INSIDE my hotel when trying to leave this morning. But more on that later.
So after close to two months, I have FINALLY cemented the itinerary for my next trip. This one was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Being that I’m going to be in countries that don’t have useful train service, and bus schedules that are impossible to find online, it was so hard to plan.
For example, I could not figure “Okay I need this amount of time so let me see when the bus leaves……” because I can’t find any information on the bus other than finding someone’s blog from 2009 where they barely mention having taken that bus…..
I also wanted to cry after I worked out the first leg of my trip and then realized that the night I had planned to take an overnight ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik was the one night of the week that the ferry simply does not run.
But as of right now, my itinerary should be:
Brussels – Paris via Eurostar
Paris – Naples via flight. Naples will feature a side trip to Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius and Capri
Naples – Rome/Vatican City
Rome – Sarajevo via flight. There were two flight options for this, one had a long layover in Belgrade. I wanted to book this one, so I could spend ten hours in Belgrade. But that schedule was only available through a third party website that Google tells me is unreliable. The airlines own website never offered this option. So now I’m just in Belgrade for 3.5 hours.
Sarajevo – Mostar, with a side trip to Dubrovnik
Mostar to Nis (this will be an annoying travel day for sure)
Nis – Sofia with a side trip to Belogradchik and another one to Rila Monastery
Sofia – Veliko Tarnovo with a stopover in Plovdiv
Veliko Tarnovo – Istanbul
Istanbul – home
Although my trips are way more hectic than the average Europe vacationer can stand, they start off even more crazy. Then once I get deep into reading travel guides and looking at specific train schedules, I end up having to adjust down in order to see everything I want to see. For this trip I have already cut out Switzerland, due to me deciding that while in Italy, I want to spend a day at Capri. This cut out my night in Bern.
I had also wanted to visit Chamonix-Mont Blanc, but after reading a guide book, I realized it would be better to visit in a month that is not May, so that more lifts would be open and I could see more. So that’s on the back burner for now.
This is the second trip where I am spending a lot of time in Italy, which was never on my “must see” list. It just works out that it’s convenient along the way. Once I started looking into it, it just seemed a shame to pass by so many things without stopping. So once again, I have a bunch of time in a country I never had on my list of “places I need to see before I die”. It works like that. It’s all part of the planning process. You never know where you are going to end up once you start working out the minute details of your itinerary.
I keep a diary of my travels. For my last trip, I went to Target to buy a fresh book to write in. I was so excited to find one with the leaning tower of Pisa on it, since I was going to be in Pisa. How cool would it be to take a picture of my diary in front of its front cover in real life??? That was one of the top highlights of my trip, as you can tell by the picture on top of this page!
I also fell in love with Florence. I never in my life had any desire to go to Florence. It just worked out to be along my route so I went. I’m so glad I went and got to stare lovingly at the Ponte Vecchio.
When you start to get deeper into booking, you will find that any mental plans you had before you started really planning, can easily turn into the exact opposite of what you thought you were going to be doing. For me this is exactly what happens and I have fallen in love with everything I have done, even if it wasn’t on my life long “to do” list.
Now I get to spend the next 77 days formulating more specific itineraries for each place I’m visiting. The more I do this, the more I realize just how ignorant I am to everything that planet earth has to offer. I love learning and more importantly, I love seeing everything I’ve learned about.