Impulse Buy

Pont Alexandre III

Paris. I've been told it is a unique city. A city with its own character—a distinct feeling. Love it or hate it, Paris will be a new experience and I am eager to surrender to it.

Admittedly, I am inclined toward the ways of Europe. I don't like everything about Europe, but I do love how they preserve their way of life, be it the purity and quality of their food, the pace of the day, or their "work to live" attitude. One would be hard-pressed to find the downsides of a culture whose values include good food and wine.

This past April, Mel received his citizenship after living in the U.S. for twenty years. We've been dreaming about traveling overseas together, but he did not have a valid passport. After getting his citizenship, he applied for his U.S. passport. The passport arrived in the mail in late September and, it was on that day that we decided to use it.

I've never planned a trip of this magnitude at the last minute. I like a comfortable lead time to buy my plane tickets, research my Lonely Planet, and learn the language, at least at a kindergarden level. With eighteen days before we board our flight, this was not ample time to absorb the city or its language.

On October 18, we headed to JFK with our bags packed and our minds filled with French. Our flight was due to depart at 9:10 p.m. and arrive in Paris around 10 a.m. We boarded on time, but once we were all buckled up, the plane did not push back. After some time, we were told the plane was broken—a hydraulic leak in the tail.

About every forty-five minutes, the captain would come on and let us know it would be another thirty to sixty minutes. This went on for some time, and at some point people started asking about free cocktails. Eventually, after four hours, the plane was fixed, the paperwork was signed off, and we pushed back from the gate. It was now about 1 a.m., so we will not be in Paris until about 2 p.m. tomorrow.

Strangely, I was not too worried about the plane, nor was I too upset about the delay. It will cut into our first day in Paris, but there was talk of canceling the flight, which would ultimately be more disruptive, and might jeopardize the trip altogether.

We landed at deGaulle just before 2 p.m. It was a gray, cloudy day. We arrived at the farthest gate from the train, a circular, podlike mini terminal off one of the main terminals which extends out, allowing three extra gates. The walk to the train was lengthy, but after a seven-hour flight, that was okay.

We got on the RER B train to the Paris Nord station. The train went through the small towns and pastures that surround Paris. In America, they'd be called suburbs, but Europe has superior urban planning, negating the need for suburbs.

Paris Nord is the Penn Station of Paris—a warren of dirty, smelly subterranian passageways and platforms. No, this place was worse than Penn Station. I was surprised to see this, usually things are cleaner in Europe. We took the 2 metro line from La Chapelle to Rome, where our Hotel awaited.

We are staying at the Hôtel du Théatre, a three-star hotel between the Rome and Villiers stops on the Metro. The hotel was not in the center of things, but everything is walkable, and there are a few metro options in the neighborhood. It is located just east of the Pigalle and northwest of the Arc de Triomphe. It turned out to be a nice neighborhood, filled with locals rather than tourists.

We settled in, then went out to explore.