A Travellerspoint blog

France

Paris - Being a Novice Traveler in 2000

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Sacre Couer

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

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Arc de Triomphe

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

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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 Comments (9)

Paris 2000 - First impressions of a novice tourist

Learning to travel at the age of 48


View First trip to Europe - France 2000 on littlesam1's travel map.

Bel Kaufman in her novel Up The Down Staircase tells the story of a young teacher's first year at an inner city school. The novel opens with the teacher in her first day with her home room class. She has planned to read them a brief essay she prepared on first impressions. In the hectic and chaotic first hour of teaching with a room full of unruly students doing their best to distract the new teacher she never gets the opportunity to share with them her thoughts on first impressions. Much like Sylvia Barrett in the novel I have unsuccessfully wanted to share a series of travel blogs on my first impressions of places I have visited. And much like Sylvia Barrett I have found myself distracted and never had the time to finish my thoughts on first impressions. I thought I would start out with my first travel experience in Europe, a trip to Paris. However my introduction here of the novel and memories of reading the adventures of Sylvia Barrett have already distracted me and unless I use some discipline I will never start this series on first impressions. I will just have to put Bel Kaufman, her creation Sylvia Barrett, the novel and the movie starring Sandy Dennis on the back burner and return to them some time in the future for another blog. So let me get focused and start this blog on first impressions with the words of the character Sylvia Barrett from the novel. "First impressions are very important"

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This photo is the best representation of my first impression of Paris. It was chilly, damp and rainy. The skies were overcast for three days. I took this photo from the top of the Arc De Triomphe. I did not have a digital camera so the photo was taken with film. After having the photos developed I had them also digitized on a disc. So they look faded and are of poor quality but they held all my memories of that visit. When I returned home and back to work this photo became my background on my home and work computer. I looked at it over and over and could never get over the thrill of seeing Paris for the first time. On bad days at work I looked at the photo and had an escape. After a long day I could return home and once again there was the photo. I joined a web site called Virtual Tourist not long after the trip. I had been bitten by the travel bug and was planning a second trip to Europe, this time to Italy. In my research photos from Virtual Tourist popped up so I decided to take a look at the site. . There was no Facebook at this time. Virtual Tourist became my very first social media web experience. This photo was my introductory photo on Virtual Tourist. And Paris was my first place I wrote about as a new Virtual Tourist member. Although Virtual Tourist has long since disappeared this photo remained on my page until the last day of that site. A chilly,damp, rainy day in the city of Lights.

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We booked a hotel on the internet which was a first for us. We basically went into Yahoo and searched on hotels in Paris. We found one that was affordable near Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It was named "Hotel Modern". I learned my first travel lesson with this hotel. Don't believe the name or what they say on their web page. If it's inexpensive there is a reason it's inexpensive.

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The room was not great. It was not even just OK. It was pretty nasty. But look at my face in the photo. I was so thrilled to be in Paris. The room did not ruin the experience. I learned my second travel lesson also from this hotel. You don't spend a lot of time in the room. So don't over pay and don't fret if it's not beautiful. The city awaits you. Get out and experience it.

I will never forget my first impression of Paris. It was magical and beautiful even on a rainy day. I had my first taste of true French Vanilla Ice Cream. It was the best ice cream I had ever tasted. I had a scoop every day. I had my first rump steak in peppercorn sauce, a taste I will never forget. I knew very little about wine before going to Paris. I drank very little wine and when I did drink wine it was usually White Zinfandel. So you can imagine my shock and delight when I had my first true French wines. I was surrounded with people speaking a foreign language. I remembered from high school how to say hello, good bye, thank you and Where is the library. I could also say I fell down in the street. So basically I spent four days saying hello, goodbye, or thank you as often as possible so I could feel like I was speaking the language I got to use my last phrase, I fell down in the street, on my second to visit to Paris in 2008. But that is another story for another blog.

Since that time I have traveled a lot. I have learned a lot. I now consider myself a seasoned traveler. I have been to many of the worlds great cities. But nothing compares to that first moment in Paris. I thought the magic might have been because it was my first trip overseas. I returned eight years later and was a bit concerned. I was afraid I would be let down this time. I thought it might be different the second time around. It might not as wonderful as my memory had made it. But I had nothing to worry about it. It wasn't me. It wasn't because it was my first time to be in Europe. It was magical because it was Paris. I took the photo below when I returned in 2008. It's the Eiffel Tower once again and taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe once more. And it was still a chilly, gray, rainy day. And it's still Paris. And it's still my favorite city of all.

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My first visit was in 2000. I returned in 2008. It will soon be 2020 and the beginning of a new decade. I think it's time for another visit.

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Posted by littlesam1 06:55 Archived in France Tagged paris france eiffel_tower first_impressions 2000 virtual_tourist modern_hotel Comments (6)

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