A Brown Girl in Paris: Part 1

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By: Andrea

There’s always a place on your bucket list that you’ve been dying to visit. Someplace on earth that if you had the time and the funds you would go. That place for me was Paris France. Ever since I studied French in high school, I had this fascination with it; the food, the culture, the fashion, the language, and the people. I even studied French in college because my love for it had broaden and I wanted to have the chance to have another language I could speak.

For my birthday this year, the chance of a lifetime came when I was able to travel to Paris with my fiancé. Talk about the best birthday ever! It wasn’t a gift, per se, but the day we set off in the air and midnight struck I was a brown girl traveling to her dream destination of Paris France. We traveled through Delta One, luxury style. There was no other way to travel 6-7 hours in the air but first class on a luxury airplane where they gave you slippers, blankets, space for your personal items, your own personal space to recline to watch tv, read or sleep, toiletry bags, lavish food and the alcohol was plentiful; I haven’t had so much champagne in my life!

 

Once we landed, I knew I was beyond jet lagged—Paris is 6 hours ahead of EST—but my excitement was trying to win things over because it was my birthday and I was in freaking Paris, baby! I looked around Charles de Gaulle airport and tried to read the signs. Some words I could make out with my 6/7 years of French lessons, but the majority were just letters. It didn’t deter me. I was prepared with a French translation book I bought in Portland and Google; I was unstoppable. We walked out of the airport and while they do have Uber there we noticed the taxis were readily available and on hand. There’s a line that you stand in to wait for the taxis as they park, one next to the other, and you’re ushered through by an airport attendant. There English is minimal, but they know the basics, so we were on the same page language-wise. I managed to introduce myself to our taxi driver, who initially thought his 4-door sedan wouldn’t fit 6 bags of luggage. “Bonjour!” I said confidently and proud. My first French word I spoke in Paris LOL! He asked about my French to which I quickly replied “un peu”, meaning a little. That was also translation not to speak too fast nor too much as it would take me a little while to catch up. So we were all on the same page that we needed to help one another out.

We traveled through the beautiful streets of Paris to our hotel, Hyatt Park Paris Vendôme. I looked around at the streets and noticed everyone had a moped. Granted, we have them in the states but when I say people were on these out here by the boatloads! I’m exaggerating but not by much. I looked at all the cafés, the boulangeries, the flower shops, and I couldn’t help but think about all the things my high school French teacher taught me. I was in awe. Sleepy and in awe. Once we got to the hotel, we thanked our driver “merci beaucoup!” and were greeted at the door of one of the most luxurious and beautiful hotels I had ever seen. It was something out of a movie, for real. We walked in and our bags were promptly taken from us and loaded on a cart. Our room wasn’t ready so we decided to take advantage and hit the streets.

We were given the address of a flea market, St-Ouen. You could get lost in this place! You think you’re at just an ordinary flea market, but you’re not. This place stretches for miles and goes through many different streets and curves. You could be out there for hours. The sheer history and culture that is dripping from all those fine collectibles had us drooling. We were like kids in the candy story, but making sure we didn’t break anything, because the language is clear anywhere that if you break you buy! One shop yielded an antique purse from the 1930s, a baby shoe that might be from the 20s, some theatre binoculars maybe from the 1940s, a Dupont lighter and an African cigarette holder. We turned another corner and found a vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase that the seller was gracious to come down in price because it was my birthday and threw in a mirror as well. To say we racked up is an understatement, and I’m probably leaving out a lot of other purchases, but you get the idea.

The next adventure was dinner at a restaurant in front of the glorious Eiffel Tower and a walk around La Seineriver. We were the epitome of pooped at this point so the hotel was the final destination of the night. It was a great way to cap the day off. The next day, Sunday, we decided we wanted to maximize our time and go to London. We felt like we couldn’t travel all the way to France and not at least see London. We bought our tickets and hopped on the Eurostar to London. It’s the train that cuts down your trip to a few hours due to traveling at high speeds. Even though we slept the whole way, the trip was indescribable. I woke up a few times to gaze out the window and see parts of France that I had never thought I’d see. Once we got to London it was another world, totally different from Paris. Paris was fast but it seemed like London was going a million times faster. The cars whizzed by on, what we consider, the wrong side of the road and are so close to each other you can literally have a full conversation with the other car, crazy!

We got to Big Ben and saw that it was being renovated so we decided to walk to Buckingham palace to see what the Queen was up to (LOL). We watched the Changing of the Guards in front of the gates as we pushed past crowds of people. We quickly grew tired of that and knew we only had a few hours before we had to make it back to the Eurostar. If you’re not back at the station at least 45 minutes before your departure time you could be stuck. We found a place to eat authentic fish and chips, walked through the streets where designer shops were in abundance and watched as people hurled insults at each other, drove wildly, and shopped endlessly. It was all fascinating! We returned to the station as we saw everyone seated, waiting for the time to be called to get on the train to back to Paris and we followed suit.

In two days, we managed to take in so much, but there was so much more to do. Stay tuned for the next chapter of this Paris adventure!

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