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Paris - Being a Novice Traveler in 2000


People who know me from Facebook or other online sites just assume I have always been a traveler. I have posted hundreds of travel photos. I talk about travel a lot. If you look up my hobbies it will say photography and travel. But to many friends surprise I never traveled abroad until the year 2000 when I was 48 years old. I grew up with fantasies of travel. It was always something I wanted to do but it was always of my reach. I traveled through the movies. At the age of ten I saw my first James Bond, Dr No movie and was amazed at all of the exotic locations that were thousands of miles from my small town in Maryland.

Yes, that's me in the photo above standing spell bound at my first look at the Eiffel Tower in 2000. I was so enthralled I was not even aware my photo was being taken. I had to keep reminding myself I was really in Paris. I was really in France. It did not seem possible. If anyone had asked me where would you like to travel I would have said Paris. It was always a dream destination. We were offered French or Spanish in high school. There was no choice for me. It had to be French. If a movie was about France I wanted to see it. If you asked me what was my favorite childhood movie starring Judy Garland was my answer would have been Gay Purr-ee. Never would I have said The Wizard of Oz. It was set in Kansas not Paris. And the Wizard of Oz co starred Ray Bolger not Robert Goulet as in Gay Purr-ee. But that's another story.


So how did I get to Paris this first time? That's an interesting question. I was in a relationship with someone at the time who was a scientist. He was scheduled to attend a medical convention in Marseille. Paris was not even part of his itinerary. He asked if I would like to travel with him to Marseille. My immediate answer was YES of course. Marseille sounded much more exotic and exciting than Catonsville, Maryland where we lived. Who would say no? So we started to plan the trip. Keep in mind this was in 2000. There was no Google yet. We were still using Yahoo and Alta Vista for search engines. There was no Facebook. We were using AOL to "surf the web". Trip Advisor was just being founded in 2000. So it was a different world planning a European trip in 2000. We booked our airfare using Cheap Tickets.com. We searched for hotels through Yahoo and Alta Vista. But I agreed to go on one condition. We had to stop and see Paris. This did not go over well immediately. It was much cheaper to buy tickets to Marseille and fly home from Marseille. There was no time or reason to stop in Paris. But there was a reason. I said firmly I am not going to France and not see Paris. That was reason enough. So it was reluctantly agreed we would spend three days in Paris before moving on to Marseille.

I had no idea about traveling, I didn't even have a passport. I didn't know what to pack. How much to pack. Did I need to buy maps? A guide book? Should I use traveler's check or trust my credit card? There were so many decisions to make. And I was excited about all of it. We had purchased the airline tickets. We looked at hotels but no decisions were made yet. Then he came home from work the next afternoon looking very sad. He said he had some bad news. The trip was cancelled. The woman who was sponsoring the medical convention had died and they were cancelling the meeting. We could get the tickets refunded with no problems. I was speechless. And I must have had the saddest expression ever. He went to work the next day and sent me an email to my my job. It said to not cancel my time off. We were still going! I asked how was this possible. The answer was I could not come home and look at that sad expression of yours again tonight. We are going. He had arranged the airline tickets so we agreed I would work on finding our accommodations. I had a lot to learn.

Searching Yahoo I found the Modern Hotel in Paris. Great name I thought. And it was in the Pere Lachaise neighborhood which I thought was a plus as I wanted to see Jim Morrison's grave in the cemetery located there.


The sign said Modern Hotel. But novice traveler here had no idea what the two stars meant. I thought it was just a decoration on the sign. Nope. It was a two star rated hotel on a kind of run down street. This my was my view from the hotel window. There was no Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe any where in site. But there was a rather ratty looking bed in a dismal room that I planned to be in as little as possible so it did not really matter. And yes if you look closely I was wearing some really ugly glasses in 2000.


I did not have a cell phone at this time. I did not have a digital camera. No computer. I had no way to make contact other than a phone in case of an emergency. And this was not a bad thing. My photos were awful. I really had a lot to learn about travel photography. My photos were developed when I got home and were also digitized on a disc for me. But the photo quality was terrible on the digital disc. But looking back at the photos now the memories are very vivid and that's what it's all about really. Traveling. Making memories. Writing a travel diary. And reliving it years later.

I got to see a lot. I was a true tourist.

I saw the Statue of Liberty in Paris.


The Sacre Couer


And the Venus de Milo of course. I felt just like Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.


Arc de Triomphe


If you could pose by it I have a photo of it.



I learned to take better photos. In 2002 I joined the Virtual Tourist online group. I learned to write travel advice there. And I learned a lot about taking travel photos from the many great photographer there. But there is something special about being a first time novice traveler. I learned a lot from that experience also.

I guess you noticed there are no photos of my ex included here. And that is by choice. As Bogart said in Casablance "We'll always have Paris." but in this blog in my best Bogart voice it should be "I'll always have Paris."

I never got to Jim Morrison's grave on this visit. That had to wait for my next visit this time with my husband Mark. And I can say this time, he and I will always have Paris.

Posted by littlesam1 02:14 Archived in France Tagged paris france 2000 novice_tourist bogart

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I love Paris, too! I had the same feeling of awe at seeing the Eiffel Tower.

by Barbara S.

And the Katie had that experience with you Barb.

by littlesam1

I guess I have to pay a visit to Paris some day! Thanks for your story!

by Vic_IV

I never knew you hadn't travelled until that relatively ripe age, but I guess for Americans it's more usual? I was fortunate to see Paris on a school exchange programme in 1970, aged 14 - staying with a girl in a tiny village in rural France but within reach of the capital on a day trip by train. We went three times and I fell in love with the city! I was there again in 1981 for my honeymoon, staying in a hotel of probably around the same quality as the Modern, but in a great location on the Ile de la Cite.

Interesting too to read about your first experiences of arranging travel in the early days of the internet. When we did our first road trip in California, in 1991, I planned it all by post, pre-booking motels and sending international money orders for the deposits!!

by ToonSarah

Thanks for your story, i could feel your excitement.My travels nearly always include Paris ,as a stop over or travel change. I.ll have to take a closer look next,as i take it for granted now. Thanks again Alec

by alectrevor

We were a blue collar family growing up Sarah. Travel just was not a part of our budget. Then when I became an adult I went to night school for many years working on my degree. Then the children came along...and then suddenly I was 48...lol

by littlesam1

You are quite welcome Alec. I enjoy all of your photos also

by littlesam1

Your excitement is palpable even after these years! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Like you, the first time I ever went abroad I just couldn't believe I was actually there. It seemed incredible, but like Sarah I was on a school trip so I was still very young -14 and I was in Rome.

by irenevt

Beautifultravel diary! I especially like the photo ...you are lying on the bed in the room of Hotel Modern.Your smiling face looks happy :-)

by Ayuri Yuasa

My first visit to Paris was in 1961 but I didn't see anything, just slept for one night in a dingy two-star hotel between trains, as I was on my way to study in Switzerland.

by Nemorino

reading this I can only say that memories are the best there are and pictures the next best thing, even if they didn't turn out like you like them to be ... they still remain proof of the best thing there is ... traveling!

by Ils1976

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