We arrived at the airport, exactly according to plan at 4:20 in the afternoon, our flight, with Icelandair was scheduled to depart at 7:20 p.m. However, the volcanic eruption that occurred in Iceland earlier in the week was still delaying flights. The flight didn’t leave until almost 8:30 p.m. We settled in for our 5 1/2 hour flight that we were hoping to sleep right through. Sadly, the best laid plans are often disrupted. We dozed off now and again for the first 2-3 hours of the flight but then something happened that we didn’t exactly expect… The sun was suddenly out! Neither one of us had ever experienced such a short night!
We arrived in Iceland a little behind schedule and our expected hour and 20 minute layover was cut a little short. This was mainly due to the fact that Icelandic Air has you exit the plane you were on and in order to board your connecting flight you have to go through security again and customs! Going through security again proved difficult for many because of the beverages they had purchased before the first flight. We had filled up our water bottle after going through security at MSP and still had a lot left in the bottle. There was no place for us to dump it out! We ended up dumping the water into a recycling bin, it was our only option. Having successfully made it through security and customs without incident we headed to our gate and found people were already lining up to board, mainly because there was no real place to sit and wait at the gate. Luckily we both cherished the opportunity to stand for awhile and it proved to be a short wait of only about 10 minutes before they started the boarding.
I experienced my first strange cultural experience in the women’s room in Iceland. The bathroom was unlike anything I’d seen before. You entered the bathroom only to be faced with a dozen closed doors. Upon opening one, I discovered that they were stall doors! Each toilet was completely enclosed in a tiny room. I must say, this made me a little claustrophobic, not to mention a little nervous when my door was stuck shut for a brief instant! But I made it out safely in the end!
The second flight proved to be much shorter than we had anticipated! We were both under the impression that we had another 4-5 hour flight ahead of us and it ended up only being a 3 hour flight! This flight went much better because we were lucky enough to have the row of seats to ourselves! We were able to stretch out much more and sleep better! I was surprised at how refreshed I felt after only a few hours of sleep on that flight. I knew it wouldn’t last…
We had been warned by other travelers that the CDG International Airport can be exhausting with long taxies to the terminal, and long rides on the tram to and from the three different terminals. Thankfully, this was not our experience at all! We were taxied within minutes to our gate and were exiting quickly! We easily found baggage claim, a cash machine, and the RER station. However, this is where things began to go downhill.
We stopped at the information desk for help on figuring out which train we should board. We acquired the appropriate train ticket to take us into Paris. We easily found the train and boarded it. Fifteen minutes later we were still sitting there, the train was unmoved… Other trains were coming and going, but not us 🙁 People began leaving the train we were on and boarding other trains but we were wary of moving. Announcements were being made (in French only) and we were closely watching a French-speaking couple, planing on doing whatever they did seeing as how they could understand the announcements. This proved to be a bad idea… The couple came over speaking to Bobby, in what we believe was French. When Bobby responded by saying, “Sorry I only speak English.” They began to clearly mock us. It was rather disheartening. Although, it did make me feel somewhat better that we didn’t look completely out of place! When another train came along we decided that was the time to switch! We found seats and settled in. Moments later the train we had been sitting in left. And we sat. Our train finally left, going in the wrong direction and we were forced to get off at the next stop and board another train. This one, luckily, left promptly AND was going in the right direction!
We were taking the B train to the Chalet Les Halles Station and were planning on walking from there to our apartment. That station is HUGE and turns into a mall that doubles as a maze! We kept walking with the flow of traffic following the Sortie (exit) signs for at least five minutes with no sign of daylight. We went up and down escalators and made many turns. We were also looking for a bathroom, we kept seeing signs, but never successfully found one… Finally daylight streamed in from a door and we headed out into the streets of Paris and the blazing sun! That’s when terror struck me. Where were we? What road were we on? What direction were we going in? We didn’t know the answers to any of these questions. Hundreds of people were passing us by as we stood looking at our Rick Steve’s Map with a giant 51lb red rolling suitcase, a 40 lb backpack with climbing gear, a smaller backpack, a large handbag, and two climbing helmets the whole time wondering where do we go now? We spotted a street map and headed towards it and finally knew where we were, but with still very little clue as to how to get where we needed to be. So we set off blind thinking we were headed in the right direction. We were wrong. We ended up at the Lourve, where a protest was going on and heavily armed men were carefully watching. Bobby wouldn’t let me ask the man in full body armor where Rue des Vielle Temple was for some strange reason. We started back in the direction we had originally come from. An hour later we finally made our way to the apartment and the man we were meeting just happened to be checking to see if we were down there when we arrived!
The apartment is tiny and adorable and a rather steep two floors up! Our host didn’t speak much English and was also mostly deaf but we were able to communicate all the important aspects of the apartment with a little help from google translate at times!
What is the first thing we did upon arrival you might ask? We got the WiFi working on the iPad and called our Mothers on Skype! We may be married and 25 years old but we still understand the importance of letting our Mommies know that we are safe. Needless to say, both were extremely grateful for the calls! Next we brushed our teeth and cleaned up and realized that Bobby hadn’t eaten in almost 12 hours. I had gotten hungry and bought a $7 sandwich on the second flight. It was 5:30 and we set out to find dinner! We found a pizzeria that looked tasty and sat down. We were brought a drink menu. Nothing else. We looked around and nobody was eating. Nobody. When the waiter came back I asked when they started serving food, not until 7:00pm. We left. We found a falafel stand just a few doors down from our apartment and took them to go and sat in our small kitchenette munching on the deliciousness! During our short outing we realized that we were extremely unprepared when it came to speaking French so, we got out our French phrase book and tried to study up! It was a little after 6:00 and I was ready for bed! Bobby told me not to but I laid down and was soon fast asleep. He woke me up and convinced me to watch an episode of the Unit on the iPad just to try to keep me awake for as long as possible! Now he is fast asleep beside me and my eyes are beginning to droop again. Luckily it’s almost 9:00 and it’s a little more appropriate to go to bed now.
Just briefly, our first impressions of Paris. The number of people strolling the streets is overwhelming and feels like the Minnesota State Fair. The fashion is fabulous and strange all at the same time. We find ourselves surprised by how difficult the language barrier is and how it makes us feel somehow inferior. We both had assumed that many people would speak English and while they speak some, communication is difficult. But for now, we are safely tucked into our apartment in the Marais Neighborhood of Paris and are definitely ready for some sleep!