It’s An Adventure, Right?

We’re in Paris! The view from our kitchen window.

We wondered at times though if we were ever going to make it to Paris or in what condition. Starting two days before we traveled our plans and budget seemed to be unraveling, but thankfully it all worked out and here we are. We’re sore and jet-lagged, but all in one piece with an intact budget, ready to get out and explore the City of Lights, our first stop in France.

Our first indication that things might not be going as planned was when we tried to check in online for our flight to Paris 48 hours in advance (as requested), and got a notification that Air Europa was unable to complete our check-in and would we please see someone at the airport? We also learned for the first time that we had somehow purchased “lite” fares on Air Europa, meaning the cost of checking our bags was going to cost an additional $300 at the airport. When I booked the tickets the price included one checked bag each, up to 50 pounds, but now we were being told something different.

Minor panic set in.

We spent our last day in Uruguay packing and resting because we knew we would be facing a long, long flight on Thursday, and we worried most of the day that something was wrong with our tickets. But that evening we tried checking in again and were successful, although apparently not for the second leg of the trip, from Madrid to Paris. As that flight would be on Air France versus Air Europa, Brett decided to check the Air France site and discovered we had also been checked in for that flight. Yeah! We also decided to pay 40€ at check-in to make sure we sat together rather than let Air Europa randomly pick seats for us. However, we still had that $300 luggage fee hanging over our heads. We had read if we could pre-check the bags online it would only cost $100 per bag instead of $150 for airport check-in, but the Air Europa baggage check site did not work for us.

We were feeling a little less panicked, but still  . . . .

Thursday morning we were up bright and early and outside at 8:00 a.m. waiting for our driver to pick us up for the drive to Carrasco airport (remises are the recommended way to get to the airport in Montevideo – $36US for a private driver versus around $55US for a taxi). He finally showed up a little before 9:00 – the transport company had supposedly given him the wrong time. Whatever – he was a very pleasant man, and we had a lovely drive along the Rambla out to the airport, a nice way to say good-bye to Uruguay. We went straight to check in and learned our bags would be checked through to Paris and there would be no baggage fees! It turned out our entire flight was booked with Air France, with the flight to Madrid operated by Air Europa, and not the reverse as we had thought. Air France did not charge for the first checked bag, so no fees for us! We relaxed a little and went for coffee, and I enjoyed a couple of last empanada before boarding begin.

Every (cramped) seat on the plane was taken, but boarding went well and we began our taxi on time only to stop after a couple of minutes. Eventually the pilot announced there was a mechanical problem and we would be returning to the gate. Sigh. About 30 minutes later though the problem was fixed, we taxied out to the runway and took off for Madrid around an hour later than scheduled, meaning we would miss our connecting flight to Paris. Sigh again.

The flight was, to put it nicely, brutal. We spent 12 and a half hours in very, very cramped seats. The two middle-aged women in front of us fully reclined their seats almost immediately after take-off and left them that way the entire flight giving us about six inches of space. When I would recline my seat, the woman in back of me would tap me on the shoulder to put it back up (she also kicked my seat repeatedly). Brett sat on the aisle and was hit on the head or pushed and had water spilled on him among other indignities. The movies advertised were not the movies available, which were old and uninteresting. Thankfully the food was OK. I was able to sleep for a while thanks to my TRTL neck pillow, but for most of the flight I kept reminding myself “it’s an adventure, right?” We had paid for cheap seats and we got what we paid for.

Sunrise at the Madrid airport – we arrived at 6:20 a.m., right as our original flight to Paris was taking off.

A couple of hours before we landed, gates were announced for new flight connections. However, a flight attendant came to us personally with information about our connection. And, when we landed in Madrid a representative from Air France was at the gate to personally greet us and hand us our new boarding passes! Apparently we had been the only passengers ticketed by Air France versus Air Europa, and who were flying to Charles de Gaulle versus Orly airport.

Looking out over Spain on our way to Paris.

Our big concern had become whether our luggage would make it to Paris or not because of the changes, but there it was in Paris and so off we went to catch a taxi to our Airbnb rental. The taxi was a flat-rate 50€, well worth it because in our exhausted condition we did not have to haul luggage up or down stairs or on and off a bus or train, or try to figure out the Metro, and because our driver turned out to be a lovely man originally from the Ivory Coast who had lived in Paris for 50 years. He spoke a little English and his taxi was a Mercedes(!) so we had a very comfortable ride over to Montmartre. Although neither of us is particularly suspicious, we figured out during the drive that our flight to Europe had been on the 13th of the month, and wondered if that was why everything had been off a bit.

Our Montmartre apartment was built in 1908; it sits across the street from a small park.

Our Airbnb is fantastic! The apartment building was constructed in 1908, so the rooms all have 12-14 foot ceilings with original, ornate moldings, and tall windows that overlook a small park across the street. We have every modern convenience though, including a dishwasher and induction stove, and the bed is extremely comfortable. Our hosts are a lovely older couple, around the same ages we are, and they left us some treats including a very nice bottle of Bordeaux! Before we collapsed, Brett and I walked down the street a bit and purchased a quiche Lorraine, a baguette and two croissant from a boulangerie, and found a small supermarket and bought a few supplies (cheese, butter, jam, fruit, soup, and a bottle of Chardonnay). We fell asleep around 5:00 p.m. but woke up again at 2:00 a.m. and enjoyed a slice of the extremely delicious quiche before falling asleep again. We awoke about 10:00 a.m. this morning, and both of us have our fingers crossed that the jet lag won’t be too bad this time.

Original moldings adorn the ceilings throughout the apartment.

But, we are in Paris! We’re moving slowly this morning – we enjoyed coffee and croissants for breakfast, and will go out later this afternoon to figure out the Metro. There’s a station just down the street, and we plan to buy a book of passes. We’re very happy too that we will have no more flights for another five weeks – all our travel throughout France will be by train and car.

So, the adventure continues!

30 thoughts on “It’s An Adventure, Right?

  1. Carole says:

    Hi Laura! Thanks so much for your wonderful blog. I so enjoy following your travels! So excited and happy for you and Brett as you go forward on your big adventure. My life circumstances are such that I cannot travel now, but in the future I look forward to doing so. Your blog is an inspiration to me!

    Like

    • Laura says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment, and I’m so happy you’re reading the blog!

      Brett and I never thought this sort of travel was possible for us either, but here we are. The planning was fun, but so was reading lots of travel information and figuring out the best and most cost effective ways of seeing and doing the things we wanted. Then it all came down to saving, saving, saving for a long while to make it possible.

      So far we are having a lot of fun. I’m still pinching myself that we’re in Paris!

      Like

  2. BethC. says:

    You are leaving my retirement dream! What a wonderful trip you have planned! Will AirBnB allow you to post links to the listings for the places you are staying?
    I am headed to Paris with my son next month. When my daughter turned 30 and I turned 60 2 years ago, she suggested that we take a trip to Paris using our airline miles and hotel points. We had an amazing time. I am repeating the process with my son next month-can’t wait!
    If you want to splurge and go on a great food tour-sign up for a tour with Paris By Mouth. My daughter and I took their Left Bank tour and it was a highlight of our trip. I am doing the afternoon Marais tour with my son next month. Ample food (and some wine, too)-you get to meet with the food purveyors. You won’t need dinner after taking a tour.

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    • Laura says:

      Thank you for the tip about the Paris by Mouth tour – if we can keep our budget under control then we might be able to fit it in. Tomorrow we are taking two free walking tours (Marais and Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter), and on Tuesday we are doing a free walking tour through Montmarte with a private guide (reserved through Paris Greeters). We will go to other sites on our own on either Monday or Wednesday. Today we’ve had fun strolling through our neighborhood, and picking up a few more supplies (plus some absolutely delicious macaron to go with our afternoon coffee).

      Here is the link for our Paris apartment. We’re enjoying this place because it feels like we’re actually in a home versus a travel rental – plus is feels very “French” to us versus some sort of universal design. The location is fabulous as well.

      I really can’t believe we are here in Paris – truly a dream come true for us.

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  3. UnwrittenLifeBlog says:

    I still can’t believe that you’re not in Kauai! I’m so glad you made it to Paris, and the view is simply amazing. And don’t you love your Trtl neck wrap? I know it probably didn’t help much with those ladies in your lap, but at least you got a little sleep.

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    • Laura says:

      That TRTL neck wrap was a life-saver! I don’t think I could have slept without it because it kept my head from drooping and snapping me back awake. The whole flight was pretty miserable though beyond the seats. The air was so dry too and we arrived in Madrid feeling completely dehydrated. Brett and I both sucked down a bottle of water in seconds!

      I honestly try to look at how people behaved on the flight through the lens of a different culture. It didn’t improve things, but it kept me from getting upset. Americans would have most likely been at each others’ throats with things getting ugly very fast!

      Like

  4. Barb says:

    Hi Laura, I met you and Brett in Kauai with Denise for breakfast in April. I want to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. You inspire me to continue exploring this world. Thank you! Barb

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  5. Anne says:

    I’m also enjoying your travel blog. But I’m quite surprised that you would even think of contributing the blame of an awful trans Atlantic flight to it being Friday the 13th. As a long time frequent traveler I find most flights are pretty awful and trans Atlantic flights are so bad in economy class that we won’t take them any more.

    Husband and I firmly believe that seats should not be allowed to recline. It only gives the advantage to the more selfish. I can’t believe the woman behind you insisted that you not recline your seat. I wish you had ignored her. Our new motto is no more trips to Europe until we can afford Business class, which will probably never happen. 😀

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    • Laura says:

      It was a joke – so many little things connected with the flight had been “off” outside of the actual miserable flight so when we realized the flight had been the 13th we joked that maybe that had been the reason for all these little things (couldn’t check in, couldn’t check our bags online, late driver to the airport, possible baggage fees, plane having to return to the gate, late arrival in Madrid, etc.) happening. We actually had good luck with our plane tickets in a way – what we paid for two seats was less than the usual cost for one!

      Thankfully our next cross-Atlantic flight won’t be as long as this one (just five hours, which is doable). We do have an even longer trans-Pacific flight coming up in January though when we fly to Delhi via Taipei. That flight though is on a regular airline versus the discount airline we just flew on so hopefully the seats will be slightly less cramped. I will be more psychologically prepared as well because the business fare for that flight is out of the question and apparently they don’t do upgrades unless you pay full fare.

      I’m with you on not allowing seats to recline when they are so close together!

      Like

  6. Jen says:

    Have a marvelous time in Paris- what a great city! We stayed in an apartment when we were there this spring and I loved it. If you go back and are feeling braver, it’s not at all difficult to take the RER train from CDG into Paris, and the price is 10€.

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    • Laura says:

      I think if we had been less tired than we were coming off our flights this time we could have managed the trains/buses. But, the taxi was very easy and comfortable and the taxi driver such a lovely person that it was the perfect way to get to our apartment this time. We stayed enough under budget in Buenos Aires and Montevideo that we could afford it too.

      We are loving our apartment – it’s very cozy and the location is wonderful!

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  7. Bob says:

    Glad you made it with little trouble and are having a great time in Paris. I love the city – been there several times both business and pleasure.

    We travel quite a bit and have discovered at 70 the extra $$ for better seats is well worth it. We go to Japan 2x a year and on a 12 hour flight better seats make it soooo much more enjoyable. We cut back in other areas to afford it.

    When I traveled on business I also learned that taxies and hire cars can make the trip much more enjoyable. I have had a few trips more or less ruined by opting for trains and buses – the hassle was just not worth the lower cost. You get there even more tired and frustrated.

    Enjoy Paris it is a great city.

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    • Laura says:

      We ALWAYS book “economy plus” when we fly to Japan, but that option wasn’t available on our flight from Montevideo and business/first class was w-a-y out of our price range. Lesson learned though – no more “discount’ airlines if at all possible. Our experience so far has been that economy seats on regular flights (like our Air France flight up from Madrid or our flight from Miami to Buenos Aires) is doable, but not on discount airlines where space is at a minimum.

      Considering how tired we were, we thought the taxi ride over to our apartment in Paris was money well spent. Same for the ride with a private driver out to the airport in Montevideo. I am so grateful to the many travel bloggers who have written about these aspects of travel, and for their tips.

      We’ve been in Paris for just 24 hours now and we are in love with the city. And we haven’t even gotten out of Montmartre!

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      • Bob says:

        oh I meant to mention… you may know this but … if you go to a restaurant with outside seating they will often times [always] charge you more if you get a table outside than if you eat inside. I know you are on a budget and may not be eating out as much but this is something to remember. Also, always make reservations even if only a few minutes before you plan to go. Restaurants think it is rude to just show up – esp at dinner. You may be treated accordingly.

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      • Laura says:

        We knew about the extra charge for sitting outside but we’ve got some built into the budget for that – the weather will be in the high 70s – low 80s while we’re here so we feel sitting outside is something we should experience. Nice to hear from you about the reservations too – we asked our hosts and they said we didn’t need one, but everything I’ve read and your note says that we should make reservations so that’s what we’re going to do. There are lots of nice restaurants in our neighborhood and we want to go out for dinner at least once while we’re here. Otherwise, we found food to be quite affordable (along with high quality) in the supermarket so mostly we’re planning to eat “at home.”

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      • Bob says:

        Further about reservations…
        If you want the “royal treatment” stop by the restaurant a day or 2 before you want to have dinner (don’t go Saturday if you can help it as you will complete with the locals) and make the reservations in person. say something like this. we have heard really good things about your restaurant and your wine list (or whatever) and we are looking for a relaxing evening over a great meal. What do you have available the next couple of days or maybe even this evening?
        Realize dinner will be ~ 8pm or so usually so don’t expect a 6 pm reservation.

        American are typically disliked but tolerated as they want dinner early and want to eat fast. If you indicate you want a longer relaxing evening you will be surprised at the more positive reception you may get. And you might get a better table and better service if you treat dinner as an event vs just a meal. a 2 – 3 hour meal is not unusual in Paris.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tamara R / My Retirement Project says:

        Laura, you can also request free tapwater – Google how to say it in French as I can’t remember – instead of bottled, which is what Parisians do as well. I read this in my Rick Steves book, and noted it to be true amongst Parisians before doing so ourselves, More money for ordering wine instead!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Laura says:

      We’re still sort of tired from our long trip here, but we spent our first day wandering the streets near to our apartment (which we are greatly enjoying). We bought some macaron to have with our afternoon coffee, and also some fruit, pastries for tomorrow morning, and some much-needed lotion, but otherwise we just sort of wandered about and looked at what was in our neighborhood.

      Tomorrow we are taking two short walking tours: Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter followed by a walk through the Marais area. Monday we plan to visit the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and walk the Champs Elyssee. Tuesday we are scheduled for a walking tour through “our” neighborhood, Montmarte, and Wednesday – ????.

      We are so happy to be here! People have been very patient with us and our either non-existent or atrocious French.

      I am also finding the (white) wine too delicious, so much better than anything else I have ever tasted.

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  8. Laurel Hill says:

    Catching up on your posts this morning, and great to see you in Paris! That apt looks amazing, and I know exactly where you are! We walked through that neighborhood and I remember the school and the street picture from the AirBnB link. Wow…what a find! Makes me want to go back to Paris. Fall is such a beautiful time to be there!

    The flight sounds hellish, so glad that’s over. People can be so rude. And the reclining seats are the worst. I had that experience flying from Rome to Amsterdam last fall and the guy behind was really rude when I tried to recline. The people in front of me had no problem jamming themselves into my lap, so I was glad it was one of our shorter legs. Can’t imagine that for a long flight…I really feel for you.

    I am loving following along on your trip, and DH and I were chatting about your adventures on our (long) car ride back from visiting my mom up north. Can’t wait to see more pics of Paris and Normandy. Enjoy!!!

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    • Laura says:

      We are directly across Rue de Caulincourt from the Lamark-Calincourt station – so convenient! The apartment is a gem – it’s like living in a real house versus an obvious rental. The owners have collected items over the years and keep them in this apartment. The shelves are lined with books, there are statues, lamps, etc. It’s very comfortable too – easy to relax here too. The bed is the most comfortable yet, and the two in South America were very comfortable. I would stay here again in a heartbeat! The neighborhood is wonderful too – this evening after dinner we walked to the end of Caulincourt to see the top of the Eiffel Tower all lit up (we’re visiting it tomorrow).

      I kept reminding myself during that horrid flight that even if I was miserable, it wasn’t going to last forever, that at the end of the journey I would be in Paris. That helped . . . a little.

      We have become painfully aware that we didn’t schedule enough time in Paris -I guess we’re just going to have to come back!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rowena says:

    If money grew on the trees in my yard I’d hand over a suitcase of bills so that you both could do all the traveling while I get to chill out and enjoy your travel escapes. Your calmness and cool-head vibes are incredible. I would be freaking out on that plane from Uruguay. Hope you’ll seek out pain, vin, et fromage!

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    • Laura says:

      Free money? For travel? Oh my – I’d go and go and go and write you a book about our adventures! So far we are having a lot of fun, but we’re still learning to pace ourselves. We’ve found that now and again we push ourselves a little harder than we should but we’re getting better at telling ourselves “it’s time to stop for today.” And of course we have pain, vin et fromage (wonderful pain, vin et fromage!) to reward ourselves. So many boulangeries in our neighborhood! And the wine and cheese are, we say, to die for.

      My thoughts now about the flight is that it’s sort of like childbirth – the further away we get from it, the less I remember! But no planes for another month – we’re crisscrossing France by train.

      Today it was hotter in Paris than it was on Kaua’i, and tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter! Back out come the summer clothes I thought we had put away for a while.

      Like

  10. Bob says:

    I want to leave another “travel tip”.

    Always remember where you left your pants when you go to bed and be sure you have your travel documents (passport and ID, credit cards, cash, room key etc.) someplace where you can easily grab them in an emergency.

    Last month in our London hotel the fire alarm went off at 3am. Of course, you panic as you have no idea what is really going on and you also may not be the sharpest at that time of night.

    First I had trouble remembering where I left my pants (especially important if you do not sleep in full pajama attire) so I had to grab a new pair from the suitcase. For some reason, I hung them in the closet which I never do in a hotel room. And we had walked out to dinner that evening and put our passports in the safe – where they were all night- bad idea to leave them in there.

    When we finally got out on the street I realized we had no travel documents or ID. Had there been a real fire or other reason we could not return to the room we would have been in serious trouble. Fortunately, it was a false alarm that was cleared quickly and my wife grabbed her purse which had the room key. Otherwise, we would have had to go to the front desk and get a new key to get into the room after the alarm was cleared.

    After this, I was sure that everything was in my pants pockets and wife’s purse and they were hung over the back of a chair for easy access.

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    • Laura says:

      Bob – I appreciate your travel tips! I always going to bed knowing where my clothes are, and my purse with everything we need is right beside the bed. Brett – not so organized, but this is a good reminder.

      Thanks too for the advice about receiving the “royal treatment” at a restaurant in France – we’re not really dining out here in Paris because of time and costs (well, we did go out for Japanese food last night at a restaurant down the street from us – it was affordable and delicious) but we plan to dine out when we’re in Strasbourg and Bordeaux, so this is good to know.

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      • Bob says:

        Basically, the restaurant advice works almost anyplace in Europe. Dinner is an event (as sometimes is lunch) so expect it to be leisurely and reservations are expected. We had a great meal and good service one time in Holland (Delft) but we were told quite pointedly (not rudely though) as we just showed up that it is customary to make a reservation even if you only do it shortly before you plan to arrive.

        You will enjoy Strasbourg – spent a weekend there a few years ago. Be sure to visit the cathedral (especially at night when it is lighted on the outside – there are restaurants and bars in the square where you can sit with a glass of wine and enjoy the lighting) the decoration is actually all filigree and the lighting is pretty cool. Take the canal ride as well if your budget allows – going up and down in the locks is rather fun.

        Also be sure to have flam kuchen or tarte flambee (as Strasbourg is right on the border you might see these in both German and French on the menu). Kind of like a flatbread thin crust pizza but not pizza – cheese and onions on top usually but maybe other toppings as well and a fruit variety for dessert. They are inexpensive (as I remember) and delicious – they can be shared.

        I traveled a lot on business when I was working and had opportunities to visit a lot of places as we usually managed to squeeze in some sightseeing as part of the business trips.

        We are off to Japan (Kyoto) for the month of October as our son and granddaughter (almost 3) live there. We are hoping the Osaka airport will be fully open by then. Glad about Airbnb as it makes the stay much more affordable.

        Enjoy your trip – sounds exciting.

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  11. M'Shell says:

    I am so excited to hear about your time in Paris! It truly is one of my favorite cities! Not sure if you’ve looked into Rick Steves but he offers free walking tours of Paris. Very interesting and a great way to explore at your own pace with a ‘guide’. We did the one by Notre Dame.

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    • Laura says:

      I did not know Rick Steves did free tours! I would have loved to do one of those. We did a free tour yesterday of Notre-Dame and the Latin Quarter, and today did a self tour of the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, The Louvre courtyard, and the Eiffel Tower. Tomorrow we are taking a free walking tour of Montmartre, a private tour, through Paris Greeters. I am going to check out whether Rick Steves does free tours in Florence or Rome though – we’d definitely do one if they’re available.

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      • M'Shell says:

        I should clarify that the walking tours are like a podcast. You can download them to your phone/ipod and then listen to them at your own pace. I can’t remember but I think we downloaded it from his website. That would be great to get for some for those other cities!

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