a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Jul, 2019

Two hours in Paris, part one

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

In my previous post, I wrote about our airline breakfast but I was getting a little bit ahead of myself.

There were many families on that flight, including a few infants, and I wondered if we were in for a fitful night’s sleep. Sleep was key to our plan. You see, the youngest and I were excited about the promise of Paris, or as much as we could squeeze into an 8-hour layover before continuing on to Phuket via Bangkok.

Unfortunately, sleep eluded us completely, but it wasn’t the fault of fussy babies. The babies were great! One fellow a few seats away snored something awful, which had me gritting my teeth and debating whether a drive-by poke was in order, but there were also a few other people in our immediate vicinity who were equally disruptive. I also couldn’t get comfortable. I slept for an hour, if that. The youngest slept even less. So when we arrived in Paris we were already feeling less than 100% but we soldiered on, because, hello, PARIS.

I had researched sample itineraries eg. “How to spend an 8-hour layover in Paris” and “What to do with eight hours in Paris” and found one we liked. We were keen to copy it down to a tee. The plan seemed simple: exit the plane swiftly (we paid extra to sit near the front); go through security; catch the RER blue line to Paris; get off at St.Michel/Notre Dame; stuff ourselves with baguettes and gelato; browse the books at Shakespeare & Co.; visit famous cafes of Hemingway; stroll the Ille de la Cite, etc.

We did none of these things. But let’s back up for a moment.

The plane exit went ok and we found the entrance to the Paris trains well enough but we got hung up trying to figure out how to buy tickets. The kiosks were confusing so we flagged down an attendant and he helped us, and even saved us a few bucks. We quickly learned that we needed to hold on to these tickets to enter and exit each station, which we’d do multiple times during our journey. Strangely, my daughter’s ticket did not work past the first gate so we had to beg strangers to help us. Thankfully everyone we met was very friendly and kind.

The RER train to Paris was delayed by 20-25 minutes. Here I was expecting that Paris trains would run with absolute and unquestionable punctuality! Wrong. And what was supposed to be a 40-minute to the city turned into a sweaty and panic-inducing 90-minute+ test of our patience and sanity. The train stopped for long stretches of time, seemingly for no reason. We finally asked a fellow passenger what was going on because we didn’t understand the announcements. Apparently, there was unclaimed baggage at one of the stations. Then trains were backed up. I accepted this. Of course, security is important, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Time was ticking and we were very worried about making it back in time to catch our flight to Bangkok.

When we finally reached our stop we realistically only had two hours to wander. Seeing Notre Dame was interesting but we were farther afield because it’s cordoned off and very much under construction. Oh well. We were in need of fuel so we dropped into the first cafe we saw, which was across the street. The youngest ordered a coffee with whipped cream and I opted for a latte and a croissant. When in Paris, right?

Croissant and a latte in Paris

It was an excellent choice. I had been feeling slightly nauseous. The heat certainly wasn’t helping and I was jetlagged and grumpy from the awful train trip to get to this point. We needed to rest and regroup and to do so in view of Notre Dame was lovely. (We were also directly next to a busy intersection but that was easily overlooked.) I was enjoying the view, savouring my meal, but then, nature called.

… to be continued.

3 Responses to "Two hours in Paris, part one"

2 | Claudette

July 12th, 2019 at 5:12 am


So the Swiss train system is supposed to be known for efficiency and on time performance, right? Well on our second day we traveled from Zurich down to Bellinzona and we had a half hour delay AND a mechanical. :)


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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