European Adventure

Mark Carlson

What is a typical trip? We usually go off to another state to do something that we want with either friends or with family. When it comes to me, it’s do something out of the ordinary. My trip starts off with something crazy. Planning in secret where no one in my family knew what was going on. One thing on everyone’s bucket list (if you have one), go to the Eiffel Tower. So what else can I do? That’s were planning came in. I had tickets to go to Paris a month before I left, but of course, I didn’t know where I was going to stay at all until 2 weeks prior to leaving. My flight left on Saturday, January 21st at 4:44 PM. This gave me the time to get ready and make sure I had all of my last minute things. Of course, heading to O’Hare would have been my problem since I didn’t want to spend 2 hours from my house in Burbank, all the way to the airport. I also didn’t have anyone in my family able to drive me, and I for sure didn’t want to pay over $100 to park there.

The morning of my trip, I thought that Uber would have been the best way to go, since that takes all the struggles out of the way. When I got to O’Hare, I was able to get checked in fast as well as get through security fast, because barely anyone was there in the morning – for international flights. Of course, we all know if we are from Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, that O’Hare International is the craziest airport that you need to make sure that you are early for. Throughout the flight, I had the normal seats. If you of course haven’t been on a plane for a while, they got a lot smaller than needed. The longest 8 ½ hours of my life just happened. I wanted to sleep, and of course I was able to for a little, but the seats were so uncomfortable due to the fact that I am 6’2”. About half way through my flight, I decided to pull out the laptop and look to see if I was able to upgrade my flight. I thankfully was able to. I chose the emergency exit seats, because those have the most room. Something that I didn’t know about the flight, is the fact that you get free liquor as well.

When I got to Charles De Gaulle Airport, I was super happy. I was able to finally stretch and enjoy the trip I was able to. In order to get to Paris, I had to take their public transportation. This was something I never really did when I went out of the country, because everyone has different points of how their systems work. They had the RER (the new train system — like our Metra system), and they also had the Metro (this is like the CTA system). Of course, we bought tickets that would get us through zone 1-3, because that happens to be everything that we wanted to see. The train system is nothing that we are use to, only due to the fact that both of their train systems (RER and Metro) are connected. In order to get the Paris from the airport, we first have to take the RER to the Notre Dame stop and change over to another RER that gets to Invalides. From this, we take the Metro for 2 stops and that gets us to Ecole Militaire.

Getting to the Hotel (Hotel Eber Mars), was simple and easy, since all we had to do was cross over the street from the train and walk around the corner to get there. This hotel is one that gives you the full feeling of Paris. Being able to walk out onto the small balcony, and the first thing that I see when I turned to my right was the Eiffel Tower. Of course, I wanted to be on the Eiffel Tower, but I have a fear of heights. Eventually, I get over the fear and just go and see it, but that’s later on. The first thing that I wanted to do when I got to the hotel was eat something. This isn’t the usual hotel that we have in America, where they have a restaurant connected to the hotel, but there is a restaurant on almost every block, if not more. Of course, after eating my lunch, my fiancé and I got back to the hotel and talked about the future plans of our trip. I was the one that had to plan most of it, but I wanted a bit of insight on what he wanted to do. Our original trip was supposed to be: Paris, London and Brussels; but that didn’t happen. We ended up changing our trip to: Paris, London and debating on Rome and Spain. We looked into flights from Paris to the 3 locations and we saw that London was a good one to choose with a flight that was under $100 each if not cheaper.

The first actual day that we were able to start doing things, was Monday. This was the day after we landed. Our trip consisted of seeing the Arc of Triomphe, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Of course, the Arc is something completely different in person, because it is so big that you have to sit there and just look at it for a while. So many people come to see a lot of things around Paris, but there is so much that has to been seen that it isn’t easy to do with a week only. The Eiffel Tower is one thing that we expect to be a lot bigger in person, but to what it looks like, it isn’t as high as I thought it would be. Of course, it is one of the greatest things that I have ever seen in my life, but I was seriously scared to get on it. My hotel room was only 3 blocks away from the Eiffel Tower, but we walked over to it quite a bit of times. The Louvre is one of the best art museums that I have been to. The Mona Lisa is there, as well as a built replica of Napoleon living quarter.

On Tuesday, we had to wake up early in the morning and have our breakfast at the hotel and go back to the airport. Tuesday, the day for London. There wasn’t that much time in London, because our flight returned back to Paris about 6 hours later. We had to go from the airport, to the shuttle, to the train and walk to Buckingham Palace, that happened to be through the park. Post seeing the Buckingham Palace, I wanted to see the Queen’s Art Gallery since I am into art. This wasn’t a far walk, since it’s around the corner, connected to the Palace. Post seeing the Palace and the Gallery. The main things I wanted to see was the Palace, Gallery, Big Ben, and the Eye (their ferris wheel). Using the train system in London is a lot easier, but the craziest thing I have ever seen was… yes… the Tube. This to me was the craziest underground subway system I have ever seen. It isn’t like the red line where it goes underground for a little, it is one that seriously goes so far down, it’s like flipping the Willis (Sears) Tower upside down and going straight down it to get to where you have to go. When you are in this remarkable system, you have to stop and question how they built this, because there is so much weight above the ground that they have so many big spots of openings underground without an issue.

Wednesday, we of course spent our time in Paris again and decided to have dinner at the same restaurant. After dinner, we stopped at the Eiffel Tower again, but this time, I went up to the second floor (after having a meltdown, because of my fear of heights). This was the most remarkable views I have ever been able to see. There is a part of the Eiffel that has access of being able to see the middle directly down, with a slanted glass throughout the edges, but that is pushing my limit to looking down. I was not planning on getting anywhere close to that.

Then we get to Thursday, the day to Spain. We went to Madrid, something else on a bucket list of mine. We decided to go there, because my fiance’s cousin lives there and they haven’t seen each other in over 3 years. As soon as we landed, his cousin was waiting for us at the airport. We went straight to the city and had lunch and walked around. We went shopping in Madrid since it happens to be super cheap. Of course, anywhere you go in Europe, they include the tax directly into the price of the item, because their taxes are super high. When it started getting dark, we went back to his cousin’s house and spent time eating dinner and talking all night long. Of course, when people don’t see each other for a long time, you sit there and talk for hours. That is exactly what happened to us. We talked until 2 AM and had to wake up by 5 AM to get ready to head back to the airport. Going to Spain and coming back, we decided to take another airport, Orly Airport. This happens to be a 30 minute train ride, but this is one airport that was recently built, and is so much easier to get around in. Getting back to the airport, we wanted to take an Uber just to be able to see what they had around the city. Seeing the views are remarkable. I absolutely fell in love with Paris when I got there.

When we get back to the hotel, the first thing we decided to do was sleep. We were so tired from constantly traveling and being on planes that we were ready to call it quits. After a few hours of sleep, we decided to stop at a few gift shops and get things for our families. For me, it was a bit harder, because my cousin’s birthday was the next day. I wanted to make sure I got her things that she would love and would realize that even though I’m not there, I still think of them all. After shopping, we go and head out to dinner and just take a stroll down the streets of Paris and just see what we can. Just being able to see things from outside was the gist of what we wanted to do if we could get in. After walking for about an hour, we headed back to the hotel and made sure everything was packed and ready to go, since the flight back was on Saturday, January 28th, the exact day of my cousin’s birthday.

To summarize my trip, I highly recommend going to Paris one day when you can. I would not suggest traveling to many locations, like I did. The only thing I would suggest, is that when you go, be careful of where you put your belongings and frequently check by skimming pockets that you have everything. Paris is well known for pick pocketing and you definitely do not want to have a wallet in your back pocket.

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