I landed in Paris, France mid-afternoon and grabbed a quick lunch at the airport cafe just outside of luggage claim. If you have never traveled to France, please prep yourself with basic French, seriously. This is one country where many of the locals do not speak English well. The cab driver was so frustrated with me when I tried to ask him questions in English. Roma is another city where I struggled to communicate except they speak Italian so if I speak Spanish, we figure it out.
- Hi, my name is _____....Salut je m'appelle _____.
- I don't speak French, do you speak English?...Je ne parle pas français, parlez-vous anglais?
- Where is the restroom? ....Où sont les toilettes?
- Where can I find the best desserts?.....Où puis-je trouver les meilleurs desserts?
- Where is the nearest shopping boutique? .....Où se trouve la boutique la plus proche?
- Where can I get a taxi?...Où puis-je trouver un taxi?
- A capuccino please...Un cappuccino s'il vous plaît.
- Yes, I am single, and you?...Oui je suis célibataire et toi? ;)
Ok just practice. Basics. Google them.
I stayed right near the Eiffel Tower at the Hotel Pullman Paris. A dream - I recommend this hotel. The staff is young and very cool. The bartender at the hotel's restaurant made a drink and named it after me in honor of my birthday trip to Paris, the 'Aris in Paris martini'. Ingredients included crushed red jalapeno and raspberries. Ooooo-la-la!
1. Send your family your travel itinerary, with hotel names, addresses and phone numbers. No matter how old you are, tell them what you plan to do each day and check in with at least one friend or family member each evening or morning. This way, if anything happens they know to look for you and know what your plans were each day.
2. Call your cell phone company and your bank and understand any fees for using your data abroad or your bank card. I love T-Mobile, they have a great option for travel with minimal fees. You can also find out which type of banks you can go to that would keep your bank withdrawl fees at a minimum. But when in doubt, always ask for the wifi password for your cell, and use your credit card as opposed to your debit card. Because if there is fraud, it's just easier with credit cards.
3. Get acquainted with the area near your hotel. Save your hotel's reception and concierge number on your cell. Be nice to the hotel staff and say hi to them daily! That way they remember you in case you ever need anything, they will be most willing to help.
4. Save the local emergency number to call police - in case you ever need to. Parisien men were very flirty. Don't tell anyone where you are staying, just be safe especially if you are traveling with other chic friends or alone.
5. Ask about transportation including train and taxi. I highly recommend taking the Hop on and Off bus "L'Open Tour", you can get passes here. It's the best way to take the main highlight tour of the city. Take a cross body backpack handbag. It stays close to you and you can fill it up with a good amount of items without feeling tired at the end of the day. Wear short heel booties or comfortable tennis shoes for all the walking you may do.
6. Research local small restaurants and boutiques. Not only will you have a more true local Parisian experience (and problems understanding staff who only speak French but it's worth it), you will also save money.
7. Book your tickets to tourist places online and plan ahead. Touring the Eiffel Tour is CRAZY. Plan it a few days ahead, go super early or else you will be in line FOREVER, or the whole day which is basically forever. Book a boat tour of the Sienne river, so beautiful! Night time tour is very romantic, to see the city lights glisten on the water. Here is a link to book packages.
8. Plan a day to venture off to the nearby artist and historical town of Montmarte. Montmartre is a large hill in Paris. You'll find the original Moulin Rouge there and a few spots where artists vacationed. You can see a lovely view of Paris from the hill. I took the train from the hotel to the city, then the trolley tour they offer to see it all. I stopped by a local restaurant to have lunch. Grabbed dessert. It's such a charming town! Click here for info on this town.
TRAVEL TIP: Taxi Driver is Your Friend
Take a taxi day 1. Talk to the Taxi driver and ask him or her a couple of personal questions - ex: "Where are you from?", "How long have you lived here?" or "What's your favorite food original to this area?", and compliment them genuinely. Then ask them for the best places in town, best shopping, best food, local destinations, tips... and where NOT to go. Trust me. I do this in every country. They know a lot. Be sure to tip well.
SHOULD I PAY IN EURO OR IN DOLLAR?
So you're having dinner or paying for a taxi ride, when the merchant asks you, "would you like to pay in EURO or US DOLLAR? Answer EURO. This is called "dynamic currency conversion," and it is not your friend. It works this way: the merchant could keep a little extra on the fact that you may not know the exchange rate with the option to pay in USD. Read more here.
Click on image to scroll through gallery.
TAKE THE LIFE SOAK CHALLENGE
So here is a challenge for you. I made it up after I read a story in the Ronda Rousey book, My Fight, Your Fight. I do this when I travel since I learned it, but try and practice it often outside of traveling.
This short story is a good one told to Ronda by an ex-boyfriend. It’s so good, I figured it was best conveyed verbatim:
Say you’re sitting in a cubicle and you hate your job. It’s terrible. Everyone around you is an asshole. Your boss is a dick. All of your work is just mind-numbingly soul-sucking. But in five minutes you are about to leave for your first vacation you’ve had in five years. You’re going to be gone for two weeks at this beautiful Bora Bora seaside bungalow. It’s literally the most lavish thing you’ve ever done in your entire life.
How would you feel? You would feel great.
Now imagine that you are in Bora Bora. You’re on this beautiful beach with amazing people, and you’ve had so much fun. In five minutes, you’re going to have to put down the piña colada with the little umbrella in it. You have to say goodbye to these people. You will go back to your terrible job and won’t take another vacation for five years.
How would you feel? You would feel terrible.
Now, think about it. You’re sitting in the cubicle at the job that you hate and you feel awesome. And you’re sitting on the beach with a drink in your hand and you feel terrible. How you feel is entirely in your mind. Your mind has nothing to do with your environment. It has nothing to do with anyone around you. It is entirely your decision.
Making a change in your life is as easy as making a decision and acting on it. That’s it.
This is the Life Soak Challenge:
In your travel time, do something minimal and subtle by yourself that does not involve another person or you doing something complex. For example, go to the cafe alone and have 1 drink, sit on the beach and stare at the ocean, go to the park and observe the environment. The challenge is in two parts.
Part 1: consciously just enjoy the moment. Try not to wander in thought or think about what you have to do tomorrow, etc. Don't get distracted, breathe and relax.
Part 2. Thank God for the moment. Begin to give thanks for who you are at this moment, what you have and DON'T have and anything in between. Just be thankful.
You can be happy where you are. Many of us take vacations to "get away" from the stresses of life, the grind...and doing this helps bring things into perspective. Whether you're on vacation or not - it's good to stop and take a sec to do a quick life soak.