5-The first look at Paris

I’ve been writing about my experiences planning and leading tours in Europe. This was brought on by a friend at church asking me how I liked my recent “vacation” there. Don’t get me wrong, traveling in Europe is a blast and I wouldn’t do it if I did not really enjoy myself.  But, there is a lot of work in it too.  In the previous episodes I’ve collected the group from the airport, gotten them on a bus, traveled to Paris, unloaded the bus in heavy traffic, and gotten them checked into the hotel.  Now, several hours later, we head out on foot to see the sights.

I’m a firm believer in providing travel skill lessons at every location we visit.  In Paris, this means learning how to read a map and how to get around on the metro.  You’d be surprised at how many people have never taken any form of public transportation in the USA.  So initial exposure to the subway is an intimidating experience for many.

OK, picture this… off I go walking down a crowded sidewalk with twenty-five people in tow.  After a few blocks, they stretch out for almost an entire block.  I’m often accused of walking too fast, but I really have tried to deliberately slowdown in recent years.  Still, it is impossible to all stay together.  The sights, sounds, and smells of Paris bombard us from every angle.  Dead chickens with their heads still attached attract attention in the butcher shop.  A window full of smelly cheeses draws those with sensitive noses.  A guy on the street corner holds out a copy of the free daily metro newspaper… and everyone is afraid to take it from him.  The hot breeze from a kabab shop hits us broadside as we walk by.  Finally, we arrive at the metro entrance.

Hurriedly, I gather my group to one side and explain the Metro system showing them on their maps where we are now and where we are going to go.  Then with a big sigh I say, “Let’s all try to stay together and get on the same car.”  So down into the Metro we go.  

There is always one person, you know the type, where if anything can go wrong it will go wrong with them.  So we all get through the metro turnstile and I look back to find one of our group members who can’t get his ticket to work.  Hurriedly I fight the incoming crowd, feeling like a salmon swimming upstream, trying to assist the guy with putting his ticket in right-side-up.  Ahhh… all is ok, we’re in!

Down the stairs, then an escalator, and finally we arrive on the platform.  The big yellow line clearly marks the don’t not cross boundaries… or at least I thought so.  Groups are unique when it comes to standing and waiting for something.  Where most people simply find a spot out of the way and wait, a group tends to bunch up in wads.  I don’t know if this is because they feel there is safety in a wad, or maybe it is just because they want to talk to one another.  Regardless of the reason they always stand in a wad, cross the yellow line, and jam the walkway.  Check it out the next time you’re in a group and see!

When the train arrives my group gets anxious, so I shout out, ” Get on this train.  Remember, three stops and get off!”  I take one last look on the platform to make sure everyone’s in, the buzzer sounds alerting imminant departure, I step on, and off we go….

(to be continued)

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About the Author
David McGuffin established David McGuffin's Exploring Europe, Inc. in 2001 to formally offer European tours. Since then, he has taken several thousand satisfied customers on memorable and educational tours to Europe.
  1. Susan Reply

    So this blog reminds me of the night we were riding the subway late in Paris and when it came to a stop which was nowhere near where we were going the lights came on and we were told that we must get off as they were going to be working on the metro. Off we got.. We did find our way back to our hotel after many different discussions between David and Charlotte about which way we should go. I purchased a lighted map maginifier after that trip, becasue we sure could have used one.

  2. Katie Carter Reply

    Paris subways were my worst nightmare! One bad ride with another intoxicated Parisian and it almost ruined me! I still need to go with you and Natalie to redeem myself.

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