Category Archives: Travel

Paris, cosmopolitan delight

Jazz managed all the travel planning; air fares, travel dates and other factors making sense to the gods of air travel were key influencers that solidified a few days in France prior to Spain. Jazz had not been to France, but of course, I had been, recently, like 35 years ago so loads of it was fresh still. Paris was clear when considering price and the fact that we were both void of great red wine, cheese, bread. European beer was another decision, really far off, maybe secondary. Of course, the methods in which a French Brasserie can prepare pork. Oui, we were going to France.

This trip was going to be simple. Jazz had the awesome idea of using AirBnB for much of our trip, spoiler alert, we used AirBnB for each of our bookings and we could not be happier with that decision. Getting away from the typical high expense of a hotel made sense and the potential to pick locations in each city within neighborhoods was exciting to us both.

Our trip from Vancouver to Toronto was uneventful but we were bothered by two facts; airports are ridiculously expensive and we hate pretentious people, or at least those that try to be. Toronto to Paris was good, movies and fine airline cuisine were the highlights, Jazz was able to sleep a fair amount, and I did not manage any sleep.

Day one in Paris was nice, we arrived early and used a taxi from the airport to our BnB. In retrospect, we should have taken public transit. The bus system in Paris is simply amazing and very easy to navigate. A taxi cost 50 Euro and the Metro about 20, that’s a six beer savings! We had not bothered with a cellular plan since we assumed wifi would be plentiful in Paris, our assumption uncovered a challenge contacting the BnB. Wifi is extremely popular, just not as available as we had assumed. The taxi dropped us in front of the AirBnB owners house.

A secure front door with four buttons on a panel, no labels, we were temporarily stumped. Amazingly the owners came to their front door as if through some kind of magic or osmosis, not bad as we soon to learn they lived on the third floor. A warm welcome and person by person trip to the third floor in an insanely small elevator, this is where the magic of our trip started.

The BnB owners were amazing. Since we arrived in Paris early, the BnB was still occupied and we had no place for our bags, they offered to keep our bags in their house while we toured the city. Our new friends referred to what we drink as “American dirty water”, a couple real cups of coffee later, some great conversation and play time with their children, we were on our own in the streets of Paris. They provided maps of places to see, additional direction to use the Metro and personally took me to purchase two-day passes. Such genuine and helpful people, we are really thankful to have met. If you ever travel through Paris, we highly recommend their place in Charmont.

We were on our own in Paris. A quick walk to Eiffel Tower then a walk & Metro to Notre Dame, we were exhausted. I was 30+ hours of no sleep and while Jazz had some, she was ready to rest. Our hosts met us at the BnB and had already transferred our luggage inside. We had first experiences of France and potentially essences of Europe;

  • Strangers are outwardly happy and respectful of one another. Not that everyone is doing high-fives in the street but they do not use any reason to snear, make negative comments or just be untoward when walking in front of each other on the street. Pedestrians, bikes, and cars seem to simply coexist.
  • As compared to back home, stuff is really old. We became aware of how (un)important ‘new’ was to us in North America through homes and other infrastructure. We also came to the realisation of how we are North Americans are fairly wasteful consumers, reuse is not generally how we work. How many would prefer to build a new home than re-do an existing? In my opinion, we should feel good that in many cities we do a good job recycling, but there is definitely room for us to improve.
  • Public transit works well when there is great way-finding and the right population density. Two non-French speaking Canadians were able to get all over Paris with no issues at all, for a very reasonable price. This fact alone provided more positive vibe for the work I do each day.
  • People here seem to make time for enjoying life. Its obvious that they work and take pride in appearance through clothing but they seem to put an equal effort into making time for talking with friends and family. Cafés are on every street corner, restaurants serving great food are fairly priced, we enjoyed many of both.

Our BnB was small and simple but had all things required to stay in the city, toilet, shower, a clean bed, couch, simple kitchen and a wonderful window that could be opened wide to let us watch the city. While we stayed in our room we could hear the city below, people walking in their leather heeled shoes set a rhythm for the time of day, a little faster in the morning and slowing as the day progressed.

With only two days in Paris, we did a few typical things, visited old stuff, walked more than we have walked in a long time and simply enjoyed slowing down.

Traveling to together within Europe was the goal and so far we are really enjoying ourselves, meeting the boys was an unintended bonus. I had two items on my hitlist that I would like to experience.

Next stop, a train ride to Barcelona where we would meet Jake and his awesome friend Daniel.

Discombobulation’

Jazz works at a year-round school (goes 12 months) versus the other cycle having the whole summer off. Her schedule overlaps the other systems schedules but allows for taking a vacation during the non-peak times. There was some question as to whether she would be back to work; cut-backs, less children etc so we needed some confirmation from the school itself. After confirmation, we had fewer than four months to get organized.

Planning started as a Hawaii discussion, renting a VW bus and boondocking on beaches for three weeks. We reflected on how nice the islands were during our previous vacation and that things could be really simplified as it was just the two of us, that’s right, no kids. Getting fresh food each day and moving every 2-3 days to a new beach or location would be fun. Conversations then morphed from Hawaii to Indian destinations and but research on various areas and the weather had us doubting India for the time being. Hot is good for us, however, enough heat to cook your food was probably a little more than we could handle. Hawaii and India slipped from the conversation if only to rest on the shelf of another time.

We have friends in Canada who have friends in England who have a place in Spain. A simple email to the friends of friends with a place in Spain came back with the house up for sale soon and not available for the dates we needed. I am sworn to ensure they get lite beer, American, on their next visit to Canada. We are going to Spain!

I perceived Spain to be the European equivalent of Mexico for North America. More on this in a later post, it’s okay to speak as one with absolute ignorance, for a short time.

So our trip was born. Due to flight costs, we decided to start in Paris France then move onto Spain.

Off we go!

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Jake has also been a travel’n, check out his blog.