Two years ago I decided to embark on a 1-month-and-1-week journey (initially 1.5 month but I had to cut a week off due to chicken pox. Yes, you read it right! Got chicken pox in my 30s – ain’t that cool?) around Europe. The itinerary was: Paris – Prague – Rome/Vatican – Florence/Pisa – Venice – Milan – Nice/Monaco – Barcelona – Madrid – London – Paris. It was a trip of a lifetime, I must tell you. As I was backpacking (even though I also brought a luggage – not really a light packer), I stayed in hostels or used Airbnb and Couchsurfing for accommodation. I will share a more elaborate story about my experiences with Couchsurfing in my other post 🙂
This trip made me fell in love with Europe. Although I only had the chance to visit two French cities, I fell in love with France the most – especially Paris! But I must be honest, my first impression of the city wasn’t that good. I arrived on a sunny day and found myself a bit surprised to see the view from Charles De Gaulle airport to the city center from the shuttle bus. It’s dirty, messy, dusty and somewhat reminded me of Jakarta. It didn’t get better when I got off in Gare du Montparnasse. I could smell some unpleasant aroma.
A bit tired after almost 20 hours flight, I dragged my luggage to Hotel Innova – the only hotel I stayed in during this trip as I was still recovering from chicken pox (didn’t want to scare other guests sharing the same hostel room!). I picked this hotel because it had good reviews, quite affordable (around 70€ for one night with air conditioner) and is in a walking distance from the Eiffel tower!
After taking a nap, I went out to see the famous tower. I wandered the city on my own, listening to John Legend’s “All of Me“. The song kinda suited my mood on that warm sunny afternoon in Paris.
Having bad sense of direction and no internet connection (wasn’t aware with the app Ulmon at the time), I was a bit worried that I would get lost even though I had a map with me. Luckily on my way I met a Syrian mother and her daughter who were also going there. I tagged along with them until I could see the tower from afar and we parted. I was excited when I entered Champ de Mars and saw the tower in front of me.
After spending some time around the tower taking loads of pics and enjoying several Pierre Hermé macaroons (I like Ladureé’s better), I took the metro to Gobelins L’École de L’Image. My late brother Gede really wanted to take summer course in that school and one of the reasons I went to Europe was that so I could go there even though I could only took pics in front of it.
Then I went back to my hotel to rest before flying over to Prague the day after. My thought on Paris after spending half a day there? Still not impressed to be honest. But that would change after 6 nights in the city of light before I headed back to Jakarta.
The second city in France that I visited was Nice. After 5 hours in the train from Milan, I arrived in this nice French city (yes, pun intended). Using Hostel Room, I booked a bed in a 8-bed room in Antares Hostel located right in front of the train station where I got off. That was my trick – find an affordable accommodation not far from the station and city center so I didn’t have to drag my heavy luggage (a nice man in the train looked at it and said, “why do women have to bring the whole house when they travel?”) for too long. When I got into the room, I met two sweet Dutch teenagers who seemed excited when I told them I came from Indonesia. We chatted a bit before they went out to explore the city and I took a nap. After a few hours of resting, I went out to see the city and took loads of picture.
During my three day stay there, I also went on a day trip to Monaco and Èze Village with my kind Taiwanese roomie in Nice, Holly. Èze Village is a medieval French village with hotels, cafes and restaurants. It’s really clean and lovely and it reminded me of those villages in Belgian comics (remember Johan & Peewit?) that I used to read. It’s really beautiful! I recommend you to visit it when you’re staying in Nice or Monaco. You can go to Monaco from Nice by taking bus or train (bus is cheaper) and from Monaco you can take the bus to go to the village. Click here and here for more info on this.
On the last day before I headed to Barcelona, with her and two other sweet Taiwanese girls who also shared the same room with us, Poca and Angel, I went museum-hopping, trying out local dish and ended the day on the beach. Too bad I didn’t bring my bathing suit. But it was still nice enjoying the warm sun on the beach while listening to some summer tunes like Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” which was put on repeat.
After weeks of exploring Europe, the train took me back from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. This time, I didn’t explore the city alone. My good friend Bram who’s at the time studying and working in German flew over to Paris. We stayed in this tiny apartment we found on Airbnb. We were happy with our stay there because it’s very strategic (located near two metro stops) and had everything that we needed (kitchen, hot water, internet, etc). Paris was different this time. It wasn’t sunny and warm like the first time I set my foot there; it was raining and a bit cold. But we still had a good time! I actually was kinda happy with the change of weather as the summer sun was getting too much for me (got loads of it back home!).
And I finally got why everybody fell in love with Paris. The city is stunningly beautiful! There are loads of things to see and loads of things do like spending the afternoon in the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, exploring Musée du Louvre (I could spend days there!), taking a day trip to Château de Versailles, enjoying ice cream while strolling along Avenue des Champs-Élysées, enjoying the night with cool live jazz music, joining the crowd taking photos of and with the beautiful Eiffel, and the list goes on and on and on…
I loved my stay in Paris so much that I remember I posted a photo of me in front of the Eiffel on our last night in the city with the caption “Last night in Paris…I’ll be back!” on Facebook.
And gues what…
…I did come back! Less than a year after the trip, my parents, my cousin and I went on a trip to Dubai and Europe. Even though it’s not the first time for them to be in Europe, my parents wanted to do a similar thing that I did so I made a quite similar itinerary for us. We stayed there for 4 nights and although the weather was quite bad for spring, we had a blast nevertheless. My parents were happy to be back in the city of light, especially my mom (shopping!). I also took them to La Crêperie Bretonne that Bram and I visited before (and loooved so much!), and my dad said the crêpes were really good! Phew, such a relief since he’s hard to please when it comes to food.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect Parisians to be nice and friendly. I heard so many stories about them being cold and arrogant that I was prepared to have a hard time asking for directions since I only know basic French. But boy, luckily that wasn’t the case! Everybody I met was nice and helpful. Some people I asked help from kindly explained the direction with sign language because they couldn’t speak English. There’s even one time when a guy in front of me suddenly stopped walking, turned his back, and pointed me the way to the right metro line without me asking! Maybe he could read my mind or something?
So, answering the question of the blog – did I speak French at the time? Well, just a tiny teeeny bit (thanks to Duolingo!). But I will tell you how I finally can speak more than just “Bonjour” or “Au revoir” after enrolling myself in a French course a couple of months after my family trip. So stay tuned for my next post: “Parlez-vous français? (Part 2)”! 🙂