Paris NYE: Flashback to My First Trip
Location: Paris, France
Accommodation: Not worth mentioning
A little background information to start
Back in 2012, I was living in Richmond, Virginia for almost two years with my boyfriend. Life wasn’t bad but it surely wasn’t good. I had a job that I enjoyed, enough energy to have a 2nd job just because, I felt good that I was able to live independently, and I was working on my online Master’s Degree. From the outside, it looked like I was living THE life. However, in reality, I wasn’t happy in my relationship, my anti-social tendencies resulted in having made NO friends at work or otherwise, and I missed my family back in New Jersey but couldn’t tell them or they would worry.
After some long heart to heart conversations with my best friend, I decided that “OK” wasn’t good enough and committed to making some pretty massive changes in my life. I set out on a quest to “Find V”, I wanted to know who I was outside of a relationship, outside of academics and work, and at a distance from my family. So I did just that!
Taking the Leap of Faith
I took the leap of faith! My boyfriend and I mutually ended our relationship. We both realized we weren’t happy and at completely different phases of our lives. Did I cry? Yes. Was it hard? I thought so at the time. Was it the right decision? More on that later. The next steps were to figure out the things I actually liked to do or wanted to try. At this point in my life, I was 22 years old and the only time I had ever been on an airplane was with my late grandfather (Papi) on a sports trip to Atlanta in the EARLY 2000s/late 90s (cue the embarrassing picture of when I was practically a boy).
My Papi, Aunt Nikki, and Uncle Timmy would ALWAYS talk about their travels and it sounded like so much fun. Done! I wanted to try it. So I reached out to my limited group of friends to see if anyone was down for a trip. No one was available or in the position to go, so I walked away with my tail between my legs.
It took me all of 15 minutes to realize I was SICK of waiting for the perfect moment, SICK of waiting for someone to hold my hand. As a result, I decided I wasn’t going to wait anymore. In mid-November, I started my research and plan of execution.
PAUSE You’re doing WHAT?
WAIT, WHAT? I was raised by my lovingly crazy worried grandmother that watches FAR too much news and true crime stories. She instilled in me for as long as I can remember that pretty much EVERYONE was out to kill you (*slasher background music*). Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive of how I was going to do this but I wasn’t going to let it stop me. After doing my routine research, I found Contiki. It is a tour company that specifically works with 18 – 29 year olds. PERFECT! I booked my FIRST EVER international flight (and only 2nd flight ever) and chose the Paris New Year (Paris NYE) tour that started in London.
Naturally, my grandmother was mortified and told me I was crazy to go that far with a bunch of potential serial killers. I’m not quoting directly but that was pretty much the gist of it.
2nd Flight Ever and 1st International Flight
Fast forwarding to my departure date. You could tell I wasn’t a seasoned traveler based on my choice of attire. I was dressed to the nines, heeled boots, makeup done, and JEANS!!! Now nothing is wrong with looking presentable when you go to the airport BUT I was getting on an eight-hour red-eye flight. There was NO need for the fancy.
This sweater nearly got me in trouble. When I walked through the full body scanner, it looked like I had on a bomb vest on the display screen. It was crazy! Apparently the “sparkles”, caused the false positive which prompted a pat down by a female TSA agent. It was definitely a weird experience that I try to avoid. Though, I have accidentally worn this sweater TWO additional times to the airport. What can I say its really comfy!
Even after the TSA pat-down, I wasn’t scared of this new adventure, nervous maybe but I was extremely proud of myself getting this far. I did a lot of research about the trip before getting to this point because I never traveled by myself within the states let alone internationally. Using this website, I mapped out how to get to my hotel on the Tube. I didn’t get much sleep on the plane because once we were in the air, I was so excited!
Arriving in London
The flight and getting to my hotel went off without a hitch. I arrived around noon and had some time to take a nap before meeting up with my group. Not sleeping on the plane wasn’t the greatest idea, I was exhausted. When I woke up, I wasn’t brave enough to venture too far but there was an outdoor mall (The Brunswick Centre) within walking distance. I went to Starbucks (*cringe* I could have done this at home) and people watched for at least an hour. After, I went to a bunch of shops and picked up some souvenirs and then went back to the hotel. That night, I met with all the tour groups that were set to leave early the next morning. We went through a short orientation and then went to a local pub to grab dinner. Shortly after I headed back to my room.
Bright and early we loaded up the coach and started our trek to Paris. Crystal, our tour manager, was really great. On the bus ride, we did a lot of fun icebreakers (some corny and some really cool) and she gave us some fun facts about the areas we passed on our way to Dover to get on the ferry.
In this time, I was able to strike up conversations with some of the girls seated around me. We had a great conversation, talking about our lives back home, our travels (or lack thereof), and what we wanted to see in Paris. Based on shared interests, we all made plans and formed little mini-groups for the next day. At this point, I’m even more proud of myself for being able to kick my anti-social behavior to the side for a moment and truly enjoy everyone’s company.
Arriving in Paris
It was about 8PM when we finally arrived in Paris and it was raining. BUT that didn’t stop us from celebrating and dancing to the perfect song upon arrival, Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Ni**as in Paris”. Everyone on the coach was going crazy, say what you want about them but they sure know how to make a hype song! We stopped at the hotel, unloaded, and then hopped back on the coach for our city tour.
The bus drove around a lot of the main sites, the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower. This time of year is exceedingly beautiful in Paris at night, even when it’s raining. All of the Christmas shops and lights are still up and illuminate the entire Champs Elysees. To be honest, we barely realized it was raining when we got off the coach to stroll around. After this short stop, we all hopped off the bus for a quick photo op at the Eiffel Tower and then headed back to the hotel.
Day 2 in Paris
The next morning we went on a short perfumery tour and then had the rest of the day free. As planned, a small group of us wanted to go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I was in pretty good shape back then but I was NOT prepared for the 284 steps to the top! But the climb was WELL worth the effort. We got some great shots of the city and I was photobombed in the most epic ways!
I can’t remember the exact order of things (it’s been almost six years now) but over the few days we were there we saw a lot. We went to the Musee du Louvre (anything less than several days is a short trip to the Louvre), went on a Seine River Cruise, had dinner at a fabulous restaurant with heavenly wine, pre-gamed for NYE at a bar with the MOST delicious sangria, and last but not least BROUGHT IN THE NEW YEAR IN PARIS!!! I vaguely remember calling everyone I knew to drunkenly say “Bonne Annee” even though it wasn’t quite the new year back in the states.
RESTAURANT AND BAR INFORMATION
La Bonne Franquette
18 Rue Saint Rustique, 2 Rue des Saules
75018 Montmartre Paris
Havana Club Bar
13 rue du Petit Pont
It goes without saying, it was a great trip and changed my life. Not because of what happened in Paris, but because I made it to Paris by myself, not knowing anyone, breaking out of my shell, and truly enjoying myself. It was a trip of EPIC proportions for me personally. If you meet the age requirements, I recommend taking a Contiki tour. It gives you the freedom to travel alone but with the “safety” net of making new friends to keep an eye out for you. I like to call this “Faux Solo” travel. Even if you don’t meet the age req., there are SO many tour companies out there! Figure out where you want to go and research the companies that go to those destinations. In this post, I give you the top 5 reasons traveling solo is amazing!
Getting back to the question “Was it the right decision to take the leap of faith?” 200% YES!!! You will never know what you are capable of if you don’t take that leap. It was one of the best decisions of my life and made me realize there was much more to “Sylvia” than I had ever realized. With that being said…
When is your next/first trip to Paris?
Because Paris is ALWAYS a good idea.