Paris to Athens D1: Lost in Paris

Inspired by the idea that it’s the journey, not the destination, I’ve launched my first travel journal series on The Wanderbug. In 2013 I travelled from Paris to Athens, via Italy & Turkey, a trip of a lifetime that I took with my best friend. I feel lucky literally every single day that I got to take this trip and it inspires me to keep travelling, in pursuit of times just as good as these ones.  I’ll share the highlights, occasional chaos & many surprises that we experienced during our trip, as well as plenty of useful tips for travellers undertaking a similar adventure. You can read our full itinerary here.

Paris To Athens Travel Journal | www.thewanderbug.com

My first preference after spending 24 hours on a flight is to walk around with a paper bag on my head. Unfortunately, I’m often in the mood for a shower and a nap, not a four-hour interrogation with airport security, so when I landed in Paris I opted for the second best solution and found a bathroom, armed with concealer and a tooth brush.

Feeling somewhat refreshed and more ready to face a sea of judgemental French people, we set off for the RER B train. After two attempts, we were on the right platform. The hard part was over, and we were on our way to a bed.

Or so I thought.

Not at our sharpest after 24 hours in transit, we got lost finding our train platform. After a few trips in the same poky elevator and dragging our suitcases up and down the same stairs, we found our train. Even better, we got seats!

Things were going swimmingly, until we got to our interchange. We’d survived the motley crew of the RER B, AKA Paris #1 train line for thefts and assault and we were about to get on a zippy, clean Metro.

Unfortunately, our interchange was at a labyrinth. The signs for our Metro led us in circles. Most of the time the Metro is super easy to navigate, but I remembered this station from when I was studying in Paris. It is the one of the inner circles of hell.

After walking for what felt like miles, we’d find ourselves at another perplexing dead end. This cavernous chamber of doom also had a penchant for staircases.  Pairs of rising and descending staircases had been dotted along an otherwise flat tunnel. Why?! Were they speedbumps for speedy walkers?  I can only assume they were to keep the French in shape, and the envy of the world, and to make tourists work up a sweat and destroy the bottom of their suitcases.

I imagined a paper-thin French architect, in head to toe black, standing at the top of the final set of stairs, hissing “Welcome to Paris, beeetch.”

Frustrated, jet-lagged and groggy, I was relieved when a young Frenchman offered to carry my suitcase for me.

I recalled my grandmother’s warning about thieves who  would offer to carry my luggage and run off with it.

It took me nearly half a second to dismiss this advice, as I happily handed over my 25 kilogram suitcase.

“If he can run with it, he can have it!” became my motto in train stations with my suitcase for the rest of the trip.

He was genuine, as were many other French and Italians throughout the trip. In fact, performing random acts of kindness, is a big part of French culture. It’s not unusual for the French to go out of their way to help someone.

There was one man in Milan who grabbed my suitcase,  shoved it onto an  overhead locker on the train and asked for money .  He’d put it nowhere near my seat, so I took it back and pretended I didn’t understand the universal gesture for money as I scurried away. Apart from that, I took up almost everyone’s offer to carry my bags for me.

This is one perk of being a young, female traveller, and I embrace it with open arms. If I have to put up with catcalling and handsy Italians in nightclubs, I’m at least going to get my suitcase carried up the stairs every now and then.

Once we arrived at the Segur Metro stop, the plan was simple. All we had to do was turn left at the small park filled with neat little trees, which I’d found on Google Maps.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t arrived at the Metro station I’d planned on. I also learned that “ a small park with lots of little neat trees” is too vague to use as an orientation tool. We walked for almost an hour, completely lost.

We even walked right past our hotel, and tried to check-in to a different one. Plane brain strikes again.

An embarrassing moment at the check in desk ensued. I pulled out my booking confirmation when the concierge couldn’t find our booking.  He immediately pointed out the name of a different hotel  at the top.  Who tries to check in to the wrong hotel?!

www.thewanderbug.com

We checked into Hotel Eiffel Segur two hours after leaving Charles de Gaulle airport. My spirits skyrocketed as I walked into the right hotel lobby. I was mere minutes from a shower.

We took the elevator to our floor. Each floor has a small landing which sprouts a few small staircases to each room. I felt guilty as I dragged my suitcase up the wooden steps, the thud echoing down the spiral staircase.

As I write this, it has dawned on me why my trusty suitcase is now splitting at the seams. It took a bit of a beating on Europe’s many staircases.

The room was small but perfect. I cracked open the windows and took a minute to appreciate my humble view. It was of the cobblestone courtyard and across the gray Parisian rooftops I love so much.

After a shower, feeling and looking more human, we went in search of dinner. The wide, tree-lined streets of Montparnasse were quiet. When I was studying in Paris in 2012, I stayed in the neighbourhood and fell in love with the area. It’s everyday Paris. There are hardly any tourists, but it’s not so modern that you forget you’re in Paris. It feels authentic and peaceful.

We wandered around for a while, enjoying the chance to stretch our legs and take in our surroundings.

Pharmacy in Paris | www.thewanderbug.com

pretty hotel in paris

Autumn in Paris

A quintessential Parisian vista smacked us into silence as we turned onto Avenue Segur. The Eiffel Tower, an old-fashioned street lamp and the Ecole Militaire made a striking silhouette you won’t find anywhere else. We could only be in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most photographed monuments in the world. Despite a lifetime of Eiffel Tower photos, I’d never seen it like this.

It remains one of my favourites.

It goes to show that no matter how much you think you know a place, there are always surprises

Montparnasse see the eiffel tower Paris

We continued walking, with the luminous gold dome of Hotel Les Invalides peeking out through the trees and apartment buildings as we walked.

Invalides, Paris

We ate at Bistrot Le Champ de Mars, in the 7th arrondissement. Montparnasse is the 14th & 15th, but Paris’ neighbourhoods are arranged in a spiral. Like the shell of an escargot!

We both ordered chicken with salad, chicken, baked potatoes and a side of escargots. I don’t see how you can’t love snails when they’re drowned in garlic butter. Chloe didn’t seem to enjoy them, which is understandable – it’s easy to be squeamish about eating snails. My affinity for garlic butter trumps my squeamishness, so I got most of them to myself.

Dinner in Paris

Escargot at a Parisian bistro

The food was nice enough. It was exactly what you expect from a bistro so close to the Eiffel Tower. The food and service were decent, but not particularly memorable or worth returning for. We were just happy to be on solid ground in the fresh air, eating our first meal in Paris.

Paris

The evening breeze made it a little chilly as we walked back to the apartment. We were there in the last week of August, and some of the trees had got a headstart on the start of Autumn.  Some streets were covered in a carpet of golden in autumn leaves, but most of the trees still reflected summer. I could hardly believe that I was finally back in Paris.

{Next Post} Day Two: A Busy Day in Le Marais

Want more like this in your inbox? Subscribe for updates.

7 thoughts on “Paris to Athens D1: Lost in Paris

  1. Hi Genevieve! I wanted to let you know I nominated you for a Liebster award. If you’d like to accept and pass along the love, here’s all the information: http://www.amoderngirlstravels…. It’s been great getting to know you through your blog!

    It looks like you had some fun traveling around Europe, I wish I was there right now!

    1. Thanks so much Alexandria! 🙂 Looking forward to reading more of your blog 🙂 – haha I wish I was back in Europe too!!!! Writing this series makes me especially nostalgic haha

Leave a Reply