**This is part two of our Europe trip, which happened in February, but I am just now getting around to writing it!**
Originally, we were supposed to fly out of Exeter really early on Tuesday morning — like 6:30am early. After the fiasco of losing the blue backpack, I changed our flight to Tuesday afternoon so we’d have extra time if we still needed to get the backpack (and our passports) back. This turned out to be a good thing because Kevin woke up not feeling so great on Tuesday and ended up sleeping until about 11am.
Exeter was probably our best airport experience as it was such a small airport and the people were very nice. Unfortunately for Kevin, it was also a small plane. I like the smaller planes because there are only two seats in a row so I only have to sit next to Kevin and not some stranger, but they’re not as comfortable for someone with a 6’4″ frame.
I think our flight was barely an hour, maybe a little longer, and it was fairly smooth. When we landed, we entered an entirely different experience in the Paris airport. The airport is huge. I haven’t flown to many big cities so this might be the biggest airport I’ve ever been to. It was really crowded when we landed so we had to wait for a space for our plane. We walked out of the plane and followed the passengers in front of us into the airport building.
Immediately we felt like we were in the wrong place. It was like we had somehow gone through a door marked “unauthorized” and we were in this hallway that seemed completely separate from the rest of the airport. It was completely empty except everyone else who had just gotten off our plane. We could also see through the glass window another hallway mirroring ours, with the normal amount of activity you’d expect to see in an airport terminal. It was like we were trapped in some sort of airport alternate universe and couldn’t get back over to where we were supposed to be. We also kept passing doors with caution tape and KEEP OUT signs in various languages, furthering our suspicions that they had told us to go the wrong way when getting off this plane.
But, after about ten or fifteen minutes of walking, we finally made it out of the silo hallway and back into the regular airport traffic. We discovered that we had to take a train to the baggage claim. Not a short train ride, like a train ride that makes you feel as though you are actually leaving the airport and entering the city and you’re 99% sure you made a bad decision and must have gotten on the wrong train.
Eventually we got ahold of our bags and were trying to figure out how to get an Uber or Lyft because Kevin was still not feeling great and we didn’t want to navigate the public transit system. Unfortunately, the airport wifi was not great and we also couldn’t figure out where we would need to go to wait for an Uber or Lyft to pick us up, so we ended up getting in an actual taxi, which was a very pleasant experience aside from the cab reeking of cigarette smoke.
It took about an hour for us to get to our hotel from the airport, so we really got to immerse ourselves in the Paris driving experience. It was around rush hour traffic time, so the motorcyclists were weaving through cars and there was a lot of honking, lane changing, and general chaos. Our cab driver did not seem to want to partake in this sort of aggressive driving — which Kevin said was likely because he wanted to get as much money as he could from us — but I was thankful because it seemed as though many people driving past us were minutes away from getting in a car accident.
We arrived at our hotel and paid about $80 for our cab. Because the buildings were so old in this area of town, our hotel did not look like much but we were stuck with it at least for one night. It was definitely a “don’t judge a book by the cover” moment though, because they had given us the ADA accessible room on the first floor so it was actually much bigger than all of the other rooms and it was very clean.
We did find out that it wasn’t exactly in a central area of the city when we embarked on our quest for dinner. Unfortunately that is probably the one thing I really did not do “well” when planning this trip. I could have done a better job of planning our hotel stays in areas that were closer to the places we wanted to see. In the case of Paris, I had avoided hotels really close to the Eiffel Tower because they were way more expensive, but it probably would have been worth it.
We found a pizza place on google maps that seemed promising for dinner (because Kevin wasn’t feeling well, neither of us wanted to go to an actual restaurant). The pizza place was even better than expected because it had a touch screen menu that you could use to order instead of trying to talk to someone! Paris was definitely the culture-shock, wow no one speaks English here, place for us. We secured our pizzas and walked back to our hotel room. The streets were incredibly crowded — with both cars, motorcycles and people — and everyone seemed to be in a huge hurry. Although our hotel was a little off the beaten path, it was nice that it was not on a busy street because I think that made it much quieter at night and in the early morning.
The next morning, Kevin accepted the fact that he really was sick and it wasn’t just the jet lag or lack of sleep. But we only had one full day in Paris so he had no choice but to suck it up. We decided to avoid public transit and expensive taxis and walk to the Eiffel Tower, and then if we were tired we could Uber back. We walked to a little bakery first and bought some delicious pastries and a baguette sandwich. This was the highlight of the Paris trip for us — the desserts. I think we could have spent an entire day walking around and buying desserts from different shops.
The Eiffel Tower turned out to be about a four mile walk, but it was a nice day and it was fun to walk through the city. Fun for me, tolerable for sick Kevin. When we got to the Eiffel Tower, it was super crowded and also partially under construction which was triggering to Kevin since Big Ben had also been under construction in London. We decided that we didn’t need to pay to ride the elevator up inside the Eiffel Tower so we ate the rest of our desserts on a park bench and enjoyed a few minutes of people-watching. Kevin didn’t want to continue walking around the city so we debated doing one of the bus tours, or one of the ferry tours. Ferry tours won out and we got on one of the boats. Luckily I think the tour only cost like $15 because it was incredibly lame and the bus would have been the better choice.
It started raining when we got back from the boat tour so we had to walk in the rain back to our hotel, which was fine for me because I had brought my raincoat but Kevin had left his at the hotel. We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to get some snacks and opted for a long afternoon nap when we got back to the hotel. We had planned on going back to the Eiffel Tower in the evening to see it lit up at night, but with Kevin not feeling well we decided not to do that. And we went back to the same pizza place again because we are creatures of habit and did not want to have any social interactions, plus I wanted to try a Nutella Milkshake.
If Kevin had been feeling better, I think we would have gone to at least one restaurant in Paris but we weren’t really there for the cuisine and neither of us drink wine. I think our biggest regret was not buying thousands and thousands of desserts from the bakery and packing them into our suitcases.
We had an early-ish flight to Dublin the next day so we were out of our hotel by 8am and took an Uber to the airport. Unlike the taxi driver, our Uber driver was all about speed and efficiency and I have never feared more for my life than I did on that drive, but in a thrilling sort of way. We made record time getting to the airport and had plenty of time to get through security (where an airport employee called us “funny Americans”) and hang out and grab some coffee while we waited for our flight. At this point, COVID was on the news and was becoming a bigger deal, although it still seemed to be isolated to China. Still, it was starting to become a bit nerve-wracking to be flying so much during this trip.
A few hours later, we landed in Dublin for the last portion of our trip!
To be continued…