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We're Going To Paris, Dammit!

Updated on December 8, 2014

In Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France

Old and new worlds coexist in the French capital.
Old and new worlds coexist in the French capital. | Source

The Problem In Going To Paris: Getting Out Of Rochester.

My wife still laughs when she tells the story. We met Paris at a AAA travel office after work on a damp, chilly winter day, to make reservations.

Maybe you can relate.

We'd moved upstate to Rochester from New York City. The change had been unsettling, a sort of step down, especially for my wife who was finding it close to impossible to continue her art education. Both of us were eager to get out of town on vacation, this one to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary in April.

April In Paris, Ella Fitzgeralds's rich voice singing Vernon Duke and E. Y. Harburg's song, made an elegant soundtrack for our plans.

Because this would be the first time we'd travel where English isn't the everyday language, we'd studied French, gearing up. As I feared, my skills expanded in only a tiny way, just enough to avoid offending the natives.

The comic results to come, however, I hadn't expected. Fortunately, my wife learned French well enough that she did never generated the puzzled expressions I'd soon be getting. In Paris, she saved us from cultural wreckage.

Anyway, we met with the AAA agent, easily finding a hotel, but then, we had to deal with living in a city not favored by any airline as a hub.

"Getting you a flight to Paris is easy," the agent told us. "Your problem is getting out of Rochester."

My wife laughed. She still does every time she tells the story. She couldn't have agreed more.

All images on Going to Paris are mine, unless otherwise indicated, and may not be reused without permission. All rights reserved.

How To Get Out Of Rochester

Go In Reverse

Since the travel agent would never be able get us out of Rochester in the way my wife really wanted, he had to figure the best way out for just a week.

My apologies to Rochester. I liked the area much better than my wife did. I'd found a job with a brand new career direction and the best boss, Larry Reeves, I'd ever work for.

My wife, on the other hand, after graduating from Manhattan Marymount College with a degree in Art History and enough awards to make marching up and down the aisle to collect them an Olympic event, had gotten stuck on the evening shift at a desktop publishing outfit specializing in Church newsletters.

It took only a few months, if that long, in Rochester to understand that the city was a dead end for the skills she'd worked so hard to learn. In the end, my job got us out of Rochester. But for now, we were going to Paris, and that was a thrill to anticipate.

On The Fly, Going To Paris, France

The Shortest Way Possible

April came, and my wife and I got to the Rochester Airport in plenty of time to catch our first flight. Going to Paris - that is, getting out of Rochester - required that we fly hundreds of miles west first, in a direction directly away from our destination.

To get to Paris, we had to fly to O'Hare in Chicago, then connect with an international flight that would reverse our first flight, taking us back out over Canada to Europe on a redeye. Whatever trouble we had sleeping on the plane - at 6'2", I had plenty to deal with - our arrival in Paris would be exciting enough to overcome it. That turned out to be true. With conditions.

Even accepting the idea of flying backward to Paris didn't prepare us for the risks of, well, getting out of Rochester.

First, we weren't as ready as we should have been for the well-known fact that any flight even tangentially related to Chicago is inherently perilous. A light, spring shower in Peoria, say, can delay flights into and out of Chicago for hours, even days.

So, on a sunny spring day in Rochester, we were unprepared for a band of storms in the Midwest that rippled delays all the way to the East Coast. As we idled, waiting for our flight to get clearance in Rochester, we consoled ourselves with the four hour buffer our planned connection layover would give us in Chicago.

That layover had been designated as dinnertime at whatever cool restaurant we could find in the International Terminal at O’Hare. We’d eat slow and have enough wine to lull us into semi-sleep over the Atlantic. Dreamers, we were.

Instead of a quiet meal and an excited discussion of all the things we would do in Paris, starting the next morning, out brief passage through O’Hare amounted to a sprint through the terminal, carryon luggage in hand, desperate to make our connecting flight before it soared off without us.

We'll always be grateful to the flight attendant who reopened the jetway door to let us be the final passengers to board. We were hungry and rattled, and she took pity on us.

It seemed we were on the Air France jet for only minutes before the pilot began taxiing to the runway, safety instructions sailing by us in both French, which I didn’t understand at all, and English, of which I retained a slight grasp.

As we passed the rows of parked planes in rows of bays, I said, "Goodbye," to Chicago and to our luggage.

"Any chance our suitcases made it to this plane in time?"

This afforded my wife another chance to laugh.

"Have you," she asked, "ever seen a baggage handler run?"

Paris, Je T'Aime (Paris, I Love You)
Paris, Je T'Aime (Paris, I Love You)

This great film is a series of short episodes showing the filmmakers' love for Paris.

 

Travel Trip #1

And only.

Here's a tip.

Always keep one full change of clothes and essential toiletries in your carryon bags. If you travel much, delays and baggage-handling snafus will give you one or more chances to use them.

That is, don’t do what we did.

Paris When It Sizzles
Paris When It Sizzles

Sex is sizzlin' in Paris.

 

Arriving In Paris Without Your Clothes

We were tired and disoriented when we found our way to the baggage area at Charles De Gaulle, on a necessary but, we knew, hopeless wait for our flight to cough up the contents of it's underbelly. You have to do this, just to be sure, before you can go to the airline and fill out a lost baggage claim.

So, our first hour in France was spent watching others gleefully collect their luggage and head off for Paris. I began to question the wisdom of this trip, but not in those words, around the time we got lost looking for the lost luggage claim office or whatever it was they called it in French.

I was reminded of Steve Martin's hilarious monologue about traveling to France. "It's like they have a different word for everything," he protested.

They did too, and I didn't usually know what it was.

Anyway, thanks to my wife’s language skills, honed at college, we were promised that the airline would deliver our bags at our hotel as soon as they arrived, and off we went by train into Paris.

Paris, I can tell you, is every bit as wonderful as its reputation, maybe more, and despite our lack of sleep and clean underwear, we came alive was we walked through Montparnasse to our hotel.

A confession: tyros that we were, we’d made accommodations at a Best Western, thinking it would be just like the places we liked back home. The sign out front was. But after a fruitless search for a shower head, I determined there wasn't much else.

What the heck! A country boy, I'd grown up taking baths. I could sit in tepid water again.

With nothing to unpack or fresh clothes to change into, we were back on the street quickly and hunting down a place to eat. We found a quiet place, something like a diner in America, and grabbed a table.

I was really hungry. I was really unable to read the menu. For the first time, I was reduced to a baby. My wife had to help me order. It was embarrassing but, I hoped, maybe only in English.

Walking In Paris

Talk About A Movable Feast

I was soon deluded by illusions of confidence.

Days before we got out of Rochester, I'd figured out a cool stroll for our first day, one that would take us by most of the really exciting spot in Paris in a big circle.

If you're in shape, Paris is a walk around city, best appreciated slowly and savored. Soon, we were approaching the Eiffel Tower through Champ de Mars. The structure just sweeps up, like nothing we'd ever seen.

We crossed the Seine and took the first leafy street to L'Arc de Triomphe, under which victorious American soldiers marched at the end of World War II, and followed their path down the Champs Elysees, passing elegant stores, sidewalk cafes, McDonalds and Chinese takeouts. Fears of the Americanization of Paris were well-grounded.

The Tuileries may be the most pleasant gardens on Earth. They were especially appreciated after risking our lives getting across the traffic circle at Place de la Concorde, which was anything but.

After the Tuileries, the love and, then, into the gut of Paris and Les Marais. Before night gathered, walked through Luxembourg Gardens, and back near our hotel, feeling the evening chill, we bought sweatshirts from a kiosk along the Seine to use as pajamas.

Walking With Your Difficulties In Paris

One thing I neglected to tell you. I was just getting over a bad cold when we got out of Rochester, and as much as I needed something warm to wear until our luggage arrived, I needed a handkerchief.

My nose was still running, accelerating the chill actually, and to top that off, I was getting nosebleeds. You had to see me cowering in corners to disguise the effects of my lingering cold.

Another thing I forgot to tell you is that my wife is eight years younger than me and, blessed with her mother’s genes, she looks younger. On our honeymoon, we had to carry our freshly signed wedding license as we travelled to New Orleans, fearing I’d be detained for violating the Mann Act.

Oh, and an over-eager New York City subway conductor had torn the pocket on my coat, trying to get out of the station too fast.

So, with my sniffles, lousy French and our accented age difference, I believed the Parisians thought my wife an angel for bringing her dimwitted older brother to Paris.

Learning To Speak French At My Own Risk

Restaurant Calamity and Other Events

I’m happy to say our luggage was waiting for us at the Best Western the next day, and we spent one of the best weeks we’ve ever had, going from museum to museum, walking through the neighborhoods, appreciating the beauty of Paris and eating great food.

One day, we decided to take Rick Steves advice and get off the beaten track. We wandered into an unfamiliar, untouristed neighborhood and picked out a pizzeria, confident we couldn’t go wrong.

The pizza was great, but when the salad we ordered did not arrive before it was done, I spoke up. It was the first time my French language skills worked. "Ou est la salade?" I asked.

I knew I scored because my question began echoing around the nearby kitchen, the tones getting more agitated. It was a little like Monty Python, and I expected the waiter to be fired and, then, killed.

My wife thought I was overreacting. More likely, she thought they were alarmed that the dumb American actually knew enough French to point out an error.

We had one other small incident like that. Determined to exercise my French skills and a little disoriented near Les Halles, I approached a serious looking woman with this question. "Ou est la louv?"

Although a little shocked, she tilted her glasses and responded, "Le louvre?"

"We," I said.

In perfect English, she instructed me to "walk two blocks south and, then go right."

Guess who laughed. Again.

The Kind and Polite People of Paris

Ready To Help

Because I keep hearing how rude Parisians are supposed to be, I want to be very clear that, to us, they were unfailingly kind and helpful, even if a little amused at my language. Friends in Rochester referred to Parisians as "New Yorkers with an accent."

They seemed to think New Yorkers were rude too. And they might be right, if you and your whole family are consuming an entire sidewalk in Times Square, looking up and walking slowly in that way only out of towners have mastered. New Yorkers are kind and helpful, but like the Parisians, we expect visitors respect our hometown and remember that we have lives to live here and places to go.

But I digress.

What I wanted to do was tell you about the night we jumped on a subway near L'Arc de Triomphe on a Sunday night, thinking it would take us as it usually did to our transfer toward Montparnasse. Instead, somewhere in a station under the Tuileries, it stopped and everyone got off.

Everyone but us. We sat on the train, trying to comprehend the rapid fire announcement crackling out of the public address system.

Just before panic set in, several people who’d boarded a train across the platform quietly began signaling us to follow them. We did and got to Montparnasse without delay.

First Paris, Then The World

Then, Paris Again

It may be that getting out of Rochester made going to Paris even more exciting. For my wife, I'm sure it did. But it did something more. It made traveling to Europe seem just as easy as traveling to Los Angeles (with better food.)

In the years that followed, we got into a twice a year habit of seeing Europe. We explored my wife’s family’s roots in Naples, sipped hot chocolate in a cafe beside the Rialto Bridge, toured Amsterdam in a canal boat, hiked in the Vienna Woods and much more. That first trip to Paris opened doors to our curiosity and imagination.

And, yes, we went back to Paris again for our twenty-fifth anniversary. The truth is, you can scratch Paris off your bucket list, but it will keep finding its way back on.

Where would you rather be? - Places of Preference

If you had a choice, where would you be right now?

See results

Are Parisians Rude or Is It The Tourists?

Are Parisians Rude, i.e., New Yorkers With An Accent

Conclusion

Paris really does make it worth getting out of Rochester, no matter what trials await you.


© 2014 David Stone

What do you think?

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    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @gottaloveit2: In general, I think you're right. We get what we're looking for and expecting.Thanks, Lori.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 3 years ago

      I believe very strongly that we get what we give, in life in general. Those who expect the French to be rude, see them as rude. Those of us who believe in the general good of mankind tend to see the same. Great article, David. Very entertaining.

    • David Stone1 profile image
      Author

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @flycatcherrr: Permission to laugh. I did.Thanks.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 3 years ago

      What fun to read, Dave, and what an adventure you had! Sorry to laugh at your strife, but then it seems your wife was laughing... so, maybe it's okay to get a few chuckles over here too? I love your last line, about Paris finding its way back onto your bucket list even after it's been scratched off. So true.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @smine27: You're young. Hopefully, it'll be more than once.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @Corrinna-Johnson: I hope you get to do that, Corrinna.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I thoroughly enjoyed this trip to Paris. I haven't been back there in ages and hopefully, will make it back there one more time.

    • Corrinna-Johnson profile image

      Corrinna Johnson 3 years ago from BC, Canada

      Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I would love to go back and visit again some day!

    • David Stone1 profile image
      Author

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @JohnCumbow: You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it, and maybe it'll help you get a good start on your own trip.

    • JohnCumbow profile image

      JohnCumbow 3 years ago

      Thank you for a very entertaining lens. I can't wait 'til my wife and travel to France this year.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      I enjoyed my visit through your eyes. : )

    • David Stone1 profile image
      Author

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @OhMe: Thanks, Nancy.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 3 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Since I probably won't ever get to Paris, I enjoyed being able to virtually experience your interesting trip. You have a fun way of telling a story.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @teelover: You are absolutely right there.

    • David Stone1 profile image
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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @Pat Goltz: I'm glad that came across, Pat.

    • teelover profile image

      teelover 3 years ago

      Great story! Paris is definitely worth to suffer small disorders!

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 3 years ago

      I enjoyed the good humor in this lens. It was my therapy for the day. :)

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 3 years ago

      If I ever get to Europe (a big IF), I will try to go to Paris, though it would not be the first destination on my list. Maybe if I have enough time, I'll stay a few days.

    • David Stone1 profile image
      Author

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      @Margaret Schindel: Thank you, Margaret.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      What a wonderful and delightful story, Dave! I could listen to you tell stories for hours at a time. Thanks for sharing, my friend!

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      Maybe next time you should get some help from your namesake, Rosetta Stone, DaveStone13 with the language part :)

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Thoroughly enjoyed your adventure. Thank you for sharing it with us. Your lenses are always a pleasure to read.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 3 years ago

      It's amazing that the journey can be more memorable than the destination. Wait! Does that sound familiar? I think this applies to everything in life.

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      Love Paris, love Europe, love seeing lots of different things.

    • Max Globe profile image

      Max Globe 3 years ago

      Cool lens, I miss Paris now. Would love to see it this spring!

    • Dave Lynch profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Enjoyed reading your take on Paris, I've never been there but would love to.

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Dave, Just a wonderful read, I'm from Western New York so I know what you mean about getting out. Thanks for a great story :)

    • Lynn Klobuchar profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      I remember eating ham sandwiches on glorious baguettes with unsalted butter and mustard while wandering. Best lunch I have ever had.

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 3 years ago from Kentucky

      What a great lens, I felt like I was almost right there with you as well. I would love to visit Paris someday!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      What an entertaining lens! You took us right along with you, without any jet lag that is. I'm so glad it inspired you to do more touring too. Still smiling!

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 3 years ago from Columbia Mo

      Fabulous!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 3 years ago

      I loved every paragraph of this page! You have such a witty and clever way of describing all your mishaps.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 3 years ago

      What a gorgeous and very entertaining article. So well done.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      "I love Paris in the springtime, I love Paris in the fall, I love Paris in the winter when it shivers, I love Paris in the Summer when it quivers." Well you get the idea!

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I loved Paris - a famous movie line, can you guess it? 'Paris is always a good idea' :)