first time traveller – reviewing Paris

2019, travel

Hello!

Yes, I promise, after this post I’ll stop with the Paris spam (or at least, maybe stop mentioning it as often!) but I thought I’d do a little review post talking about the city from a travellers perspective, a tourists perspective and the perspective of my first trip abroad as a lead traveller!

Going from just going on a holiday and my only responsibilities being making sure I bring enough pairs of socks, to being the one booking the train tickets, finding a suitable hotel, planning a sort of itinerary is quite a big leap and it’s daunting when someone turns to you in a foreign country!

It was a weirdly adult feeling and on the one hand, it was cool because I proved to myself that I had the freedom to go anywhere but on the other hand ew does that mean I’m an adult?

I’ve picked a few key things that I was nervous about or felt were a barrier whilst I was there and I’ll just have a little natter about each one, if you have any tips or advice for any of these let me know in the comments below or send me a message on Instagram!

t h e   m e t r o

I was worried about transport around the city – I knew there was an underground-like system but having been to New York last year and gone the wrong way on the Subway, I wasn’t too sure how I would handle the metro. But I can’t speak more highly of it – using Google maps, it told me my final destination and what direction to be going in and we didn’t go the wrong way at all!

It’s definitely nicer and easier to understand than the London underground but would probably be much more difficult if I didn’t have Google maps on my phone.

It’s really reasonably priced, surprisingly easy to use (well, if you’re only wanting to buy single tickets and have Google maps!) and the ticket machines have lots of different languages to choose from!

And with that in mind…

t h e   l a n g u a g e

Before going on this trip, I felt confident in my minimal English – if nothing else, I knew how to say “sorry, I only speak a little French, I am English!”. But we got out there and I froze – I suddenly felt like everyone was judging me and I didn’t want to get anything wrong so I didn’t feel confident enough to try.

After the first few interactions, I did get a bit braver but then in the city it only took my vague attempt at a ‘bonjour’ for anyone to start talking to me in English. What it taught me is that I really should have brushed up on some key phrases before I left, but actually – I remember more French than I thought and my biggest barrier was confidence!

The thing that really helped me was that I thought if I was working in London and someone came up to me and tried to speak English as a second language, I’d be pleased that they’d given it a go rather than them making me speak their language! I’m sure most of the people who worked in Paris felt the same, I just needed the confidence to try.

f o o d

Following the language barrier, the next thing I was more worried about after we got there, was ordering food. I’m quite a fussy eater anyway and I get a little bit anxious about the ingredients that might be used that aren’t necessarily listed on a menu or packaging (mayo in sandwiches is my worst enemy!).

On our first day, we got sandwiches from Lidl, the next day we had lunch at McDonalds and dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (where the menu was in English anyway), the next day was a bakery for pastries (we were getting a bit braver), back to McDonalds (because it was easier and we knew we’d like it, we’re both a lil fussy) and another Lidl dinner. It’s something I definitely want to work on for the next time I go to a non-English speaking country because I didn’t feel immersed in the culture and I did feel a little like I was cheating.

But it’s intimidating on so many fronts – the language, worrying about having to eat something I don’t like (or going hungry) and wondering whether the places we were going were commercial enough to have English speaking staff or if it was too rural. Granted, most of this is in my head but it was something that I now know bothers me and I need to be aware of and face if I want to try more authentic food.

So in conclusion – I think in terms of first time lead traveller, I’d probably have been better off picking somewhere that is predominantly English speaking for my first trip, however I feel marginally more prepared to go to other non-English speaking countries, especially as most people we had to interact with in Paris spoke English to a service level.

I’m already looking to book a trip to Amsterdam in July so any recommendations and top tips on learning key phrases in Dutch would be welcome please!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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planning a weekend trip in Europe | travel

2019, lifestyle, travel

Hello!

When I first started blogging, my three topics of choice were lifestyle, music and travel and I really did not show that in what I was writing. I’ve made it a little personal goal of mine to write genuinely relevant travel content this year, not ‘I wish I could travel here’ and ‘one day I’ll go to these places’ but stuff that genuinely reflects where I am in terms of travel at the moment.

Long story short, my boyfriend and I have had a trip to Paris in the works since last January (yes, I mean 2018, 13 months ago) and after mishaps getting my boyfriend’s first passport, spontaneously buying EuroStar tickets in November because they were so cheap (£29 per person each way, £116 total – utter bargain, keep an eye on trainline because it’s so worth it in what you save!) and everything else – we’re going to Paris for 3 nights at the end of March.

Slowly I’ve been ticking off the things I need to do – this week I’m going to book a hotel (because gal’s gotta save) and for my boy’s birthday (one whole year after declaring I would take him to Paris in the first place) I wrote up a kind of mock itinerary and sure, he can scrap it and write a whole new one if he likes but wow, I put so much time into it.

(let’s pretend this screenshot of my laptop screen is edgy and creative and not just a bit weird or lazy, I was aiming for edgy okay)

So I’m going to have a little chat about how I made this itinerary – I got a bit hung up on hotels and stuff but a few people on Instagram said not to worry about finding somewhere too fancy because for our first trip to Paris we should spend as much time as we can in the city and where we stay is just somewhere to sleep. So at present I’m hoping to book this ibis hotel which is near the Gare du Nord train station where we’ll be getting the Eurostar too but a couple of people have told me to have a look on AirBNB as well but I’m kind of skeptical and it scares me a bit so if anyone has any AirBNB advice or where to stay in Paris recommendations please do let me know, probably on Instagram is easiest! Or a comment, whatever floats your boat.

But back to my itinerary! I put a lot of research into this but I also made the most of instagram by blocking my boyfriend from seeing my stories (it was a birthday present surprise, I was trying to be subtle!) and asking for recommendations and writing down everything that people had suggested.

And then, like the basic bitch I am, I googled ‘things to do in Paris’ – but more specifically, my sister recommended getting the Paris pass which gets free access to a bunch of attractions. I haven’t bought this (I’ll explain that in a second) but there is a free 120 page guide to the city that I downloaded and scrolled through and made notes of the things I thought Lucas (the boy) and I would be most interested in doing.

From there, I condensed the list to things I actually thought we would do and then I used Google Maps to be able to visually see where all these attractions were to try and group the things that are in similar areas and plan out our days a little bit. Most of Thursday and Sunday are taken by travel but there’s still two full days that we can fit in as much as we can!

When I grouped things I was looking for morning activities, afternoon activities and maybe one evening thing so there’s time for lots of things! Once I could see them all on the map there was a few things that I ruled out because they were so isolated but I grouped things and popped them on the itinerary.

From there I did a little more research into each potential thing and how much tickets or anything would cost and included that and I could also look around each area we’re in for breakfast/lunch/dinner and list a few options. Finding places to eat in advance I really struggled with – I think we’ll mostly just have a look at what’s around us when we’re ready for food and go where’s convenient and looks good but the one thing I have booked is Hard Rock Cafe Paris because I want to make sure we can get a table on Friday night. I’m so excited about it, ever since I went to Hard Rock Cafe in New York I’ve wanted to try as many as possible and I can’t wait.

I’m very aware that we’re not going to follow this itinerary to the letter (other than trains, we can’t miss those) and I’m so happy to go with the flow but I didn’t want to go into this trip with absolutely no plans because I definitely would have missed something amazing.

So that’s how I made our little itinerary and that’s our plans for Paris so far! I definitely want to have another look and potentially book a few bits in advance but I won’t be buying the aforementioned Paris Pass for a few reasons that I want to be explicit about – firstly, I think it’s incredibly expensive. If you’re going to do everything in the guide, then I’m sure it’s worth the money but for a two-full-days-in-city trip it is almost certainly going to be a waste of money. Secondly, developing on that – doing a quick price up of each activity that costs money that I think we’ll be doing and it costs less to buy them all individually than to buy the pass. Thirdly, I think it’s a bit gimmicky – being a tourist doesn’t have to cost that much money and if I wanted to I could definitely do this whole trip without paying for attractions or activities. The website sucks you in with ‘you’ll waste so much money if you don’t buy this pass!’ but when you add it up, it’s just not the case.

If there’s any recommendations or questions about Paris please do leave them in the comments! Although I’ve been on a few amazing trips, I’m still very new to travelling and being entirely responsible for everything we do so all tips and recommendations are welcome!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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