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🇫🇷 Trip to Paris 1
This was our family's first (and my second) visit to one of the most iconic places in the world, which has been on our bucket list since the beginning of time.
The toll road from Luxembourg to Paris is pretty good (and faster), but it adds a noticeable cost.
Driving from Luxembourg to Paris wasn't a good decision.
Driving inside Paris wasn't a good decision.
Not all food in France is good.
Eifel tower is bigger than we thought.
(Lots of) architecture is unbelievable.
Customer service is bad.
Everybody smokes cigarettes.
Google Maps sucks (more often than in Canada).
(Probably) the worst hotel stay ever.
📖 The story
Our friends from Vancouver were coming to France for vacation and we decided to make a short 1-night trip. We thought it would be an easy stroll through the beautiful plains of eastern France. Boy! Were we mistaken...
Road to Paris
The first surprise was when the time to the destination changed from ~3.5 to 4+. Then, just after Metz 🇫🇷 we got surprised by a toll booth. Honestly, this was my bad on the research part =) but on the other hand, the non-paid options were 1-2 hours slower, so I don't think it would make a lot of sense.
In total, we passed 3 😯 toll booths, adding up to €15.2, 9.45€, and 2.30€. Not too shabby 😑
(Probably) the worst breakfast
We decided to stop for a breakfast somewhere in-between, and Reims 🇫🇷 was right in the middle of the route. We got to the city centre and saw a bistro that looked like a decent authentic place to experience - Le QG.
We had no luck with croissants as they stopped serving them at 9 o'clock, and we decided to go for an omelette (the only thing we recognized on the menu 😆). This was a mistake. The omelette had greyish colour, a rare steak-like texture, with several old lettuce leaves sprinkled with some sauce: €10 😱.
We left very unsatisfied and got hungry again 10 minutes later 🤦♂️ Later, we checked the ratings and it was actually a pretty good place. Lesson learned: not all ratings are the same =)
Driving in Paris
Feels like one of the worst decisions of this trip =) Tried once, but don't want to do it again. Traffic is pretty bad, lots of scooters and motorbikes that swivel and change lanes barely scratching the cars. No wonder we saw so many cars with scratches and dents on the sides.
This was not an enjoyable drive. My recommendation: skip driving in Paris and get a taxi (previously, I would say get an Uber, but Uber seriously disappointed this time and I am not a loyal customer any more, keep reading 👇)
(Probably) the worst hotel stay
We decided to stay at the same hotel where our friends were staying - Residhome Appart Hotel Courbevoie la Défense. Good ratings, great location, etc. Almost €200 for the booking, an extra €5 for the Paris fee, extra €15 for the parking.
We arrived about 2 hours earlier than our check-in time and asked if it was possible to check in right away. No luck. We went to a (pretty good) children's playground outside and came back 20 min before the check-in time.
The receptionist said they were going to check if our room was ready and started making some calls. 15 minutes later, we were still sitting in the lobby and they hadn't said anything to us 😑
It's already 5 minutes past the check-in time and I am asking them what's going on with our room - still nothing. Apparently, the previous guest left later than the check-out time and they were still cleaning the room.
30 minutes after the check-in time, they told us that our room was finally ready. Their communication style was screaming that they didn't give any f**** about this situation. As a nice gesture, they said they would pre-authorize my credit card for incidentals for €150 instead of €250. After customer service in North America, this was a shocker. And this is not all...
When we got to our room, we couldn't help but notice a distinct smell of urine in the bathroom 🤯 This was some new hotel room experience. It looked clean, but the smell was obvious. There were many other questions about the quality of the room, including torn sofabed pillows without a zipper, messy untucked bed linens, and sofa bed mechanism almost falling apart.
After we brought this to the attention of the reception, they said they would clean the bathroom again. We went for a walk around Paris, and when we came back later - nothing really changed. Over the course of my travel-rich life, I have stayed in 80+ hotels around the world. This was probably the worst.
The next chapter of Paris's warm welcome was trying to get Uber. We are a family of 5 and the needed to get a Van, as a standard car fits maximum 4 people. After trying 5 times to request a van with Uber unsuccessfully, I tried doing the same with a local competitor (called Free Now) - no luck. Half an hour wasted.
Next, I tried booking 2 separate regular cars with Uber from 2 different accounts/phones. All good, both cars were coming in 8-10 minutes, we went downstairs to wait outside. A couple of minutes before the estimated arrival time, one driver cancels the trip. A minute later, the second driver cancels the trip. What is happening?
Trying to request new rides from both accounts - no luck. Finally, 1 driver is coming. When he arrived a few minutes later, he saw that there were 5 of us and mumbled something about "police" and "not allowed". I looked back to my wife to tell her to go first with the kids (and I would wait for the next car). I turn my head back to the driver and he is already gone driving away down the road 🤯 And Uber charged me €7 for the cancelled trip.
At this point, I was close to cancelling all plans and going back to our luxurious room. The universe was sending clear signals.
Eventually, after battling with taxi services I managed to book 2 separate cars with "Free Now" app and we finally got to see the Eifel tower 😥
Eifel tower is magnificent
After a pretty rough start, we arrived at Trocadero Square, which has a fabulous view of the Eifel tower. I recommend starting here. Good angles of the tower and is not too crowded. The tower feels much more grand in person than in all the photos I've seen before. It is epic.
A dream come true for people who appreciate beautiful architecture soaked in history. Truly gorgeous! Highly recommend witnessing it in person. Photos/videos miss depth and scale.
Customer service is bad
.. compared to North America. You have probably heard this already. It is true. In restaurants, you almost have to stand up and go grab the server by the hand so he takes your order or brings it. Pretty bad, even in decent restaurants.
Many servers didn't speak (or didn't want to? 🤔) English. Some of my friends shared stories when they felt that the servers in cafes and restaurants clearly favoured French-speaking customers and ignored English-speaking ones.
So much smoking
Feels like everyone is smoking (tobacco). When sitting, standing, eating, drinking, driving, walking, running - all the time. Big culture of smoking. A big mystery to me is why Europe, which prioritizes people's health, ignores (or promotes 🤔) the obviously harmful culture of smoking.
Big contrast after Vancouver, which has a lot of infrastructure making life more accessible. This video tells it all 🤦♂️
On the way back, we decided to stop at a gas station with a cafe that I found along the way (literally, next to the highway). It turned out that in order to get there we had to exit the toll highway and drive 4 km around.
The way out of the cafe was even worse. We had to drive on the highway in the opposite direction for 18 minutes 🤯 before we could make a U-turn. An unexpected twist that added 30+ minutes to our driving time. Be careful with stops and double-check on and off points.
We noticed several times that Google Maps was sending us the wrong way adding problems to our driving. Be careful.
Traffic fine surprise
And to wrap it up, a couple of days after we came back, I received an email from the car rental company saying that I violated some traffic rules in Paris. No details on the fine reason or amount, but with an invoice for €29 for the administration fee because I got fined while on their rental car 🤦♂️
2 days after this I received an email from French traffic authorities that I exceeded the speed limit by 14 km/h and that I have to pay €45. Not the worst, but adds up to the total cost of this 2-day trip =)
There were a lot of negative experiences, especially at the beginning. However, we still covered the main points we wanted, including the Eifel tower, the Arch, and spending quality time and friends (and ourselves 😉).
But a lot of lessons learned 😜
Next time, we will go to Paris by train and spend more and less-rushed time there.
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