Friday, April 1, 2011

"Non Je Ne Regrette Rien" (No Regrets): Just Do It!

"How could anyone choose Paris over ME!?"
I haven't posted for over a month because I was in Paris, France.  So ok, I was only there 9 days and 10 nights, but you could say I've been there mentally for two months...and it's so hard to come back despite the fact that I live in paradise!

In early January, my friend Susan asked if I was free in early March to dogsit her lovable dog, Lola, while she and her husband Charlie went to Paris.  As much as I love Lola, I replied in essence, "What are you crazy?!  I'd much rather go to Paris than dogsit!"  Through their kindness and ignorance, they agreed to let me and Jordan tag along with them.

"Non Je Ne Regrette Rien" travelling 8000 miles to see a grave.

I've been wanting to travel beyond Las Vegas and use my passport for many years, but the mere thought of making the arrangements was too daunting.  I'd turn on the Travel Channel instead.  Instant gratification! The only problem was that I wanted to give Jordan that "foreign experience" that I'd been lucky enough to have had when I was around her age.  Paris wasn't at the top of my wish list, but Charlie and Susan weren't going to Turkey or China, and besides, Jordan wanted to visit Edith Piaf's grave. 

If you read my last blogpost, you'll see that I did go to France before--just 35 years ago.  We spent 2 or 3 days in Paris as part of one of those "7 countries in 21 days" escorted tours, and all I really remember of Paris was looking at the Eiffel Tower from the bus, riding past the Yves St. Laurent boutique (I had just graduated from the UH majoring in Fashion Design), a topless mermaid swimming in a plexiglass tank at Moulin Rouge, and delicious rolls for breakfast each morning. We'd had no time for visiting Mona Lisa at the Louvre, walking up the Champs Elysee, or exploring the Latin Quarter.

This time I went up, under, in front of, and
behind La Tour Eiffel
This time it would be different, I vowed: we're going up the Eiffel Tower, into the Louvre, and no naked girls!  The only thing that I assumed would be the same would be eating delicious rolls for breakfast.  (More on this next time!)

I'm not going to blog about everything we saw and did in Paris, but I do want to inspire those of you who have even the smallest urge to travel to Europe.  I myself became more motivated when my sister-in-law Cynthia and her husband Jack went to Italy and Greece this past October.  If you're like me and feeling timid about making your own travel arrangements versus going with a tour group, I assure you that the wonderful internet has revolutionized traveling for the do-it-yourselfer. 

Cynthia recommended and oh my goodness, I quickly became obssessed with finding the perfect hotel.  That's almost simple to do on because you can see the user review ratings and read what visitors had to say, view photos of the rooms, see the hotel's distance from major attractions, available services, etc.  The trick is to look not only for a high rating score, but it should also have a high number of reviews--so consider a hotel with a 8.0 rating with 100 reviews instead of one with a 8.2 rating but only 20 reviews.  Most hotels also offer special rates and you can reserve rooms and cancel up to a day or two before the reservation date.  Be considerate, however, and don't book too many hotels and cancel the "extras" as soon as you've decided on one. 

By the way, did you notice that I said "almost simple"?  Well in theory it should be simple with all these tools online, but it actually results in too many great options--enough to make your head spin in indecision!  It helped to have friends who'd been to Paris and offered suggestions...except when we couldn't decided which advice to take.  They were all good because Paris is filled with good hotels.  Ultimately after weeks of agonizing and emailing across two oceans, we decided to abandon our original intention of staying 5 nights at a hotel then 5 nights at an apartment, and instead booked 5 nights at one apartment and 5 nights at another--both owned by Marie and Diran Loris--which I found on TripAdvisor.  Because there were four of us, the 2-bedroom apartments were perfect and the rate was less than renting two three-star hotelrooms, not to mention we had more space, a fully-equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, etc. 

Livingroom and dining area of our Montorguiel apartment
We had earlier figured that because we'd never been to Paris unescorted, we would benefit from staying at a hotel and getting advice from the hotel desk regarding transportation and sightseeing.  I didn't regret giving that up to stay in an apartment the whole time, especially since we were fortunate to find the Loris' exceptional apartments, and they were extremely helpful over the phone.  We had very few problems getting around, especially after learning how to use the Metro. [Both Jordan and I suffer from flat feet and our feet lasted 4 days of walking before being forced to use the Metro.]  Many more people speak English now as compared to 30 years ago, so we rarely had to reference our travel dictionaries (my high school French did help, though!).  I'd recommend buying Rick Steve's book on Paris.  It helped a lot and would've helped even more if I had read it more thoroughly before the trip!  Two months to plan a trip to a place as rich in history and culture as Paris is way too short for procrastinators like me.  
Livingroom of St. Honore apartment, just a block
 from the Louvre!

Now that I've read the book almost completely, I'm even more determined to return to Paris, something I never thought I'd want to do when planning this trip.  I now realize that we missed seeing so many sights, even though 9 days is considered a long stay.  Paris is tourist-friendly, easy to explore, and offers so much to see--and eat--in a relatively safe, clean (more on that later) and concentrated area.

I would urge anyone who's never been out of the U.S. to make the commitment to visit another country.  Despite the illusion that the world is becoming homogenized by western (read "U.S.") culture--yes, there are McDonald's and Starbucks cafes in Paris--you'll find you're "not in Kansas anymore" and the experience will surely have a profound effect on your consciousness.  Vive la difference!

Stay tuned for more!


  1. High school French! I remember the class, just not any of the content.


  2. Remember when Miss Pua became Mrs. Cook?

    I couldn't understand if someone spoke to me nor could I speak more than the simplest phrases ("Pitchet d'eau, s'il vous plait"); but high school French helps to read signs and menus *LOL* Dictionary helped more!

  3. I was thinking of Mrs. Tseu?, I never had Pua/Cook. I only remember Ouvre la port. (or maybe not)


  4. What about fermez la bouche? *LOL* Oh yes of course I remember Mrs. Tseu. She was my tap dance teacher when I was in elementary school! She also danced ballet.

  5. Ou est la salle de bain? I have to go! I studied French in Jr. high school, a couple of years after you, I think ... but I never get to use it. I will put Paris on the travel list, given your positive experience. I will try to follow more closely, now that I rediscovered the lost link.

  6. Hi Dan! I haven't forgotten you, but keep forgetting to email you! Hope you and the family are well.
    AND I hope I'll have time soon to write my blog! I've been neglecting it. Feedback inspires me to continue, so thanks for the comment!


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