Paris Memories Part 2: Disney

Photo Jun 09, 12 04 27 AMI would imagine when most plan their very first international trip to Europe, their first thoughts don’t necessarily think of Disney.  Cathedrals, museums, and monuments maybe, but Disney?  I guess it takes a true love of all things Disney to be that person that gets excited when they first learn they are going to Paris simply because there is a Disneyland there.

I recently wrote about the special memories I had from my first day in Paris when I went on my walking food tour.  I would have to say that having the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris tops the list of my amazing Paris experience.  I was lucky enough to get to share the day at Disneyland Paris with my cousin Jeannette.  She flew in to spend a week with me.  This was actually one of our last adventure days before she left to go home.  A good way to end things with a bang as far as I’m concerned (although I didn’t let her stay to watch the fireworks, because I was so exhausted…. so maybe it wasn’t much of a “bang” after all).  🙂

Now I admit I had some pretty grand notions of what my Paris Disneyland experience was going to be like.  I was so excited that I spoke about it often to my coworkers prior to the anticipated date.  I was only slightly deterred by them telling me that if I frequented California Disneyland, I would most likely be disappointed with the Paris version.  Seriously… how could one every be disappointed with Disney?  I would not let my excitement be squashed.  I was going to go and experience the Disney magic in all of its glory.

My first thoughts of Paris Disney?  I will admit, I was a little surprised at the size.  Having been to Disneyland in California hundreds of times, and Walt Disneyworld in Florida 4-5 times, it was in fact smaller.  However, I found it very charming.  And that castle… SERIOUSLY?  Being a native California girl, I feel like I’m being a traitor when I say that this castle is way more spectacular then the one in California.  The outside has much more of that fairytale look, not to mention the inside has a fire breathing dragon!  I seriously got goose bumps.

I was very excited to see that not only did they have some rides that they do not have in California or Florida, but they also had some modifications to similar rides.  For instance, The Indian Jones ride in California is completely different then Paris.  Not really knowing much about the Paris version of the ride, I of course was willing to check it out and give it a try.  Little did I know that the ride in Paris is actually a roller coaster that goes upside down (I don’t do upside down!).  We were already to the front of the line when this was discovered, so I had to suck it up and go on.  It wasn’t to terrible and I’m definitely glad I tried it…. at least once.

I wouldn’t be doing the day justice if I didn’t mention the Raratouille ride. Although they don’t have this in California or Florida, I was still much anticipating this one after watching many YouTube videos about Disney Paris.  This ride was super cute and has you being chased around inside your little rat-mobile as if you yourself were a rat.  Adorable!

Although I believe there are pretty mixed feelings about the It’s a Small World ride, I personally love it.  It’s is one of the few rides that lasts more then 30 seconds and is a wonderful place to rest your feet after walking all day.  The Paris version was great because we got to see a larger section on America which was pretty cool.

There were many times in the day when I would get lost in the Disneyness of things and forget that I was in another country.  Disney is such a familiar place for me, that it was easy to feel at home there, even though I was thousands of miles away.
There were certain rides that would pull me back to reality though.  Although I was in Paris, and shouldn’t have expected otherwise, I still found it fascinating to go on some of the more familiar rides (Buzz Lightyear, Snow White and the Seven Drawfs and Pirates of the Caribbean for example) and have them be speaking French.  It was a reminder that I wasn’t in California this time!

As for my general opinion of the park, I would say it was well worth the hour and a half train trip there.  Would I do it again?  ABSOLUETLEY (because that would mean I would get another trip to Paris).
Specifics on my park experience?  The food was… well I’d rank it as “okay”.  I didn’t eat anything that made me say “wow”.  With that being said, I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t decent either.  My only regret is that we didn’t make reservations to eat in one of the theme restaurants like Bistrot Chez Remy.  I believe that would have heightened the eating experience a lot.  The crowds….  average for Disney.  I would say maybe slightly more wait time in line at the rides, which could simply be that the park itself is smaller.

Overall, a total thumbs up!  IF I ever get to return, my hope is to stay in the Disneyland hotel that is actually located directly OVER the entrance of the park.  Can you imagine the amazing views from your room at night when all the lights come on?  That is something that is going on my bucket list.

I am not sure if I would ever be able to find anything negative about Disney.  Which is why in 2018 I will have my feet in three different Disney locations.  Paris was the first.  California the second and Disneyworld in Florida will be the third.

Love you Mickey!  Until next time.

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Paris Memories Part 1

Photo May 28, 12 40 19 PMAlthough it has only been three months, I must admit that my time spent in Paris seems like it was ages ago.  It is hard to believe that just three short months ago, I was roaming the streets of another country.  It is interesting how even with all the anticipation of going on such a grand adventure, once it is over, life sort of has a way of pulling us right back into the same old routines and soon the magical wonder of it all is quickly forgotten.

One of my fondest memories of the trip was my first full day in Paris.  I arrived on Sunday and did not have to start work in the office until Tuesday.  That gave me all day Monday to explore.  I know myself well enough to know that there was a high probability that once I arrived and I had to struggle with the language barrier, that I could quickly become a hotel recluse and spend the majority of my time locked up in the safety and comfort of my hotel room.  In order to make sure that I forced myself out and about I decided even before I left that I was going to book myself on a tour for my free day.  This would require that I had to leave my hotel room (if I actually paid for something, I would be much  less likely to try and talk myself out of going).  Needless to say, I was right.  When I arrived on Sunday, I took a walk and already was having some anxiety trying to figure out how to get food or find my way around.  To make matters worse, my phone was not working properly, so I did not have GPS.  I ended up relying on printed directions that I just happen to bring with me (good thing I have major OCD when it comes to planning and organizing and had everything printed and neatly organized in a binder).

With all that said, I did manage to force myself out on that lovely Monday morning.  I did not appear to be suffering from jetlag which was a bit of a surprise.  My body seemed to adapt rather well to the change.

My first major hurtle was to make my way onto the RER with a transfer to the METRO.  It went relatively well, but not without some hitches.  I ended up buying the wrong tickets, and as luck has it, I bought a 10 pack of tickets.  So now I had 10 wrong tickets that were not usable for the locations I would be traveling.  Trying to communicate with the RER employee to have them explain to me why my tickets were not working was comical.  However, through some broken English on their part (which I was INCREDIBLY greatly for), we managed to figure it out…  basically I messed up.  I ended up going back to the ticket machine and purchasing a Visite pass which would allow me to travel and transfer among the RER and METRO for a full day.  WONDERFUL option and one I would highly recommend to anyone that will be using the RER/METRO during a stay in Paris.  They have 1, 2, 3, or 5 day passes.  Well worth the money to eliminate a lot of the stress of constantly buying more tickets.  Due to my direction print outs, I had handy the RER/METRO schedules and when and where I was supposed to transfer.  Transferring (at least for this one trip) was much easier than I anticipated.  More stories on transferring around the METRO that were not as successful will come later on in my trip.

I finally arrived in Saint-Germain.   This is where I would start the wonderful journey on my WALKING PASTRY AND CHOCOLATE TOUR.  The tour way exceeding my expectations.  The tour ended up being just myself and another couple, so we had some personalized service from our lovely tour guide.  We visit several patisserie, boulangeries and saving the best for last… ate a lot of CHOCOLATE!

Remember, this was my first official day in Paris, so you can imagine I was instantly sucked into the joy of food after going on this tour.  After just a few stops on the tour, I decided I wanted every pastry and every type of bread I could get my hands on in Paris.  Although this tour forced me out of my comfort zone and required me to do a lot of things I would normally be apprehensive to try on my own, it also ended up being the starting point to my 15 pound weight gain that would slowly occur over the next four weeks.

On the tour, we walked some beautiful streets of Paris and stopped into about 6-7 shops to sample a variety of pastries, breads and chocolates.  I tried my first world famous Paris macaroon and had the most amazing pastry with this cream inside that was the most incredible thing I believe I ate during my whole stay.  The only thing I had a hard time with was our very last stop where we were going to get “hot chocolate”.  This was definitely not an American hot chocolate.  It was basically like drinking melted chocolate.  I could only drink less than half of it and had to throw in the towel.  It was delicious, but just a little to rich for me, especially after having all of those other treats on the tour.

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This was my absolute favorite!  I wish I could remember what it was called.  I just call it heaven!  This is worth flying back to Paris for… yes, it was that good.

Here are some fun pictures of the tour and some of the places we stopped.

So that was my official day 1 in Paris.  So far at this point in time, I am still feeling pretty good and confident.  I did get lost trying to find METRO to get back to the RER and back to my hotel.  I had no GPS and spoke no French to ask anyone for help.  There was a short panic moment, but I managed to keep myself together enough to remember I saw a sign near one of the METRO stations (not the line I wanted, but another one) that had free WiFi.  I managed to get on google maps and screen shot the walking directions to get me to the METRO station I needed.  What should have been a 30 minute ordeal ended up taking me 2 hours.  Just the mere fact that I remand calm gave me hope that I could manage the next four weeks just fine.  Whether I actually managed “just fine” is definitely debatable.  More on that to follow…….

Back from Paris and on with Life

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Four months later, here I am… finally getting back to my blog!

So much has been happening the last several months since I went M.I.A.  I successful survived my first international travel and spent an entire month away from home in Paris (both working and playing).  I’ve done some other traveling as well since returning home…. all much closer to home then France, but still fun and happy adventures.  Don and I also started a new way of eating to try and get our weight under control (I came back from Paris with about 15 pounds of croissants and baguette weight).  We decided 2 months ago (9 weeks to be exact) to start eating KETO.  High fat, moderate protein and low carb.  I’ll discuss more about our keto journey in a separate blog.  We also recently celebrated our one year wedding anniversary!  Ahhh…  1 year married, but almost 15 years together (I am apparently a very patient person).

Right now I am going to focus on looking back on the month I lived in Paris!   So many good memories and also some tribulations, but regardless of good or bad, this was probably my biggest life adventure….  so far!

I left for Paris May 26th, Memorial weekend.  I did not return home until June 24th.  I have some mixed feelings about the trip.  I am very grateful to my company for sending me on this adventure and allowing me to basically live and work in another country for an entire month.  Yet, I cannot say that if given the opportunity I would do it again.

I know it is probably difficult for people to comprehend that a free month long trip to Paris could be anything but fabulous.  Yet, it is important to keep in mind that I am someone that deals with pretty extreme anxiety and I suffer from intense panic attacks.  To add to this, I also have some OCD issues that I deal with on a daily basis.  When you add all of these things together, what I find is best for me to stay as mentally stable as possible is routine.  This is part of why I consider myself an introvert.  I feel much more comfortable and happy when I am home in my own familiar environment.  So, as one can probably detect from all of this, leaving home for a month and going to another country was about as outside of my comfort zone as I could get.

So many Paris memories to share, but to much to put into one blog.  Some of the highlights were flying business class for the first time and visiting so many different monuments and museums.  I took the most wonderful walking food tour on my first full day in Paris.  I was able to figure out the Metro and even went and saw a show at Moulin Rouge.  I had some fantastic food and got to know my Paris co-workers through some fun teambuilding activities.  However, even with all of these wonderful memories, I still remember nights of such intense homesickness that I still to this day am surprised I made it the full four weeks.

I am proud of myself that I made this journey and was able to accomplish so much on my own.  I learned a lot about myself and realized I was a lot stronger then I often give myself credit for.  By no means am I saying I was the most outgoing and adventures person while I was in Paris, but I do think that the things I did accomplish were major for me and for that reason, I am happy with the outcome.

More Paris stories to follow….. as well as many more life adventures!

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36 Days Until the Start of my Paris Adventure

pexels-photo-236514.jpegI wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that seeing that 36 day countdown isn’t a little of an anxiety inducer.  Time has gone by so fast since I first found out I would be spending a month in France for work.  There is rarely a day that I do not have a crazy mixture of emotions about the whole experience.  I feel an enormous amount of excitement when I am doing research and making plans and yet, when it’s late at night and the house is quiet, I lay there thinking about leaving for a whole month and I feel the anxiety levels go up.

Today the emotions are more leaning towards excitement.  I just received in the mail my Paris Pass.  The Paris Pass is 6 full days of access to over 60 museums and monuments.  It also includes 6 days of unlimited public transpiration (Metro/RER/Bus) and includes a day on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, as well as a Seine River cruise.  Although I will be in France for a month, this pass is going to be very useful when my cousin arrives and we hit the streets to try and get in as much “tourist” type stuff as possible in the week she is there.  Not only does this pass save having to stand in lines for tickets, but at some museums and monuments, they have express lines where you get to bypass the queue and get in quicker.  Due to our long list of places we want to see, any amount of time we can save is going to be helpful.

So far our “must-do” list is pretty extensive.

  • Eiffel Tower
  • The Louvre
  • Notre-Dame
  • EuroDisney
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Sacre’ Coeur
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Champs-Elysees
  • Montmarte
  • Pantheon
  • Latin Quarters
  • Musee de Cluny
  • Versailles
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Sainte Chapelle
  • Paris Opera House
  • Pere Lachaise Cemetery
  • Finding a specific yarn store to get yarn for my dear friend Chris    🙂

There are a few items that are on the “maybe” list.  One of those being the Catacombs.  I am not so much freaked out by the fact that it is undergrown tunnels full of human bones, but what does worry me is my claustrophobia.  It would be horrible to get down there only to have a panic attack because my claustrophobia decides to kick in.

Doing lots of research (and watching countless amounts of YouTube videos) has been helpful in making me feel brave now, but I worry that as soon as the plane lands and I try and venture out on my own (not speaking the language) that I am going to fumble my way to the hotel and lock myself in the room!  I have great plans and expectations in my head, but reality is often a lot different then the plans we make in our head (so I’ve learned the hard way in many other aspects of my life).  I cannot speak for my braveness on day one, but in order to “force” myself to leave the hotel room on day two, I already booked a walking food tour the morning of my second day.  It is a chocolate and pastry tour to be exact.  I know there is no way I will miss that.  Not only will it force me out to learn the Metro/RER system, but it will also hopefully give me some confidence in  ordering pastries and bread (which I plan to eat everyday as much as possible while I am there).pexels-photo-461060.jpeg

So, now that I have my Paris pass and I am partially through making itineraries and reservations (still underway, but almost half way complete), the next step is to try and figure out what to pack.  Packing for 28 days is going to be difficult.  Especially since I need to figure out how to incorporate relaxing clothes and work clothes.  This is going to be a challenge for me.  I know I am going to want to bring everything, but I need to keep it down to one suitcase.  Oh my!!

 

Preparing for a Month in France

 

flash cards

Learning French

So, I think it is safe to say that there is no way I can master the beautiful language of French in the next 8 weeks.  However, what I can do is take some time to learn the most important basics of the language.  Things like “hello”, “goodbye”,  “please”, “thank you”, “how much does it cost” and “I would like a croissant”.    For myself, these 6 things should get me through most of my stay in France.
I have resorted to going old school and using flash cards.  Surprisingly, it is actually helping.  In the past week, I have been able to memorize counting from 1-10.  Am I pronouncing them all correctly?  Absolutely not.  However, from all the research I have done so far, it has said that if you at least “attempt” to speak the language, you are apt to get more help.  So, I may butcher one of the most beautiful languages in the world, but I will do it with grace and dignity (Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m sure I’ll be embarrassed as heck… but that is part of learning to live out side of my comfort zone I guess).

Research and Preparation

My trip is not for 8 weeks and 2 days (but who’s counting), yet I already feel completely behind in terms of preparation.  I normally have everything so much more under control.  When it comes to traveling, I am a fanatic on research, organization, pre-booking and pre-preparing.  I am NOT one for living by the seat of my pants.  For me, anxiety comes quickly when I am in a situation that has not been carefully thought through and organized full force.   Spontaneous?  That is not in my vocabulary.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do not find spontaneity a bad thing.  In fact, just the opposite.  I envy those that can just go with the flow and let life lead them in whatever direction it has in store.  My brain however does not like to play that way.  I do not do well with the unknown.  So anything that I can control ahead of time, helps to ease a lot of that anxiety.  My husband calls me a controlasorous. Very funny Don.

 Planning this trip however has been particular challenging.   This is my first international trip and to say I’m intimidated is a massive understatement.   The thought of just getting through customs and finding a taxi to take me to the hotel is overwhelming.  Then there is the language barriers to deal with for what should be simple tasks like checking into the hotel or figuring out the metro system.  I have to admit, I am not the bravest person.  Part of this adventure is to try and help me realize that I am capable of doing more then I believe I can.  Fingers crossed!

With all of that being said, being this is a business trip and I will be working a good portion of the time I am there, it is even more imperative that I keep focused on my planning and preparation.  Even 4 weeks in Paris isn’t a whole lot of time when you have to add work into the mix.  The next 8 weeks will be about making an itinerary, figuring out what to pack and trying to organize my thoughts to help me get through an 11 hour flight (I’m afraid of flying by the way… just to make things even more complicated).