When Plans Go Sideways

I consider myself an experienced traveller.

For the past 20+ years, we’ve travelled through 20-some countries managing the variety of both pleasures and challenges that come from navigating foreign languages, customs, food, and everything in-between.

I’m not however particularly good at any part that involves chaotic streets. My family can attest to the fact that traffic and crowds can and will fluster me.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

For the last day of our vacation, we decided to head back to Paris a day early. Gilles, bless his heart, knows I love Paris and it had been 12 years since our last visit. A leisurely day reacquainting ourselves with my favourite city was on the agenda.

At the Palais de Chaillot
Don’t you just love the expression on his face?
You were looking at his face, right?

From our hotel near the airport, we headed downtown on the train. It was surprisingly easy considering that on every other trip we’ve ever made to Paris, the subway system always confounded us. On our very first trip in 1997, it took our then 9-year-old son to figure out the subway and get us around the city.

This time we were on our own and we had a lovely day … until we didn’t.

It wasn’t the weather that was a challenge – a turbulent day of dark moody clouds, picture-perfect blue skies, stunning sunshine, torrential rain, blissful calm, and umbrella-turning winds.

It would be the crowded streets and absent subway.

Yes, I really am standing in the middle of the ChampsÉlysées facing down all those cars.
How could I do that and not get killed?
The road behind me is closed … and so was the subway.

If you don’t know Paris, this is a city of exquisite details and I was in hyper-mode to capture as many of them as possible. Who knows if and when I might ever be back here again, and I wanted to get the most out of this impromptu visit.

Our day started at Notre-Dame Cathedral which had been badly damaged in a fire twelve days earlier.

Already extensive work had been done to begin the restoration process.
Notre-Dame Cathedral
Fontaine Saint-Michel

We gradually made our way to the Eiffel Tower – after a few stops to get out of the pouring rain.

The iconic tower is now surrounded by a bullet-proof fence as an anti-terrorism measure and we discovered the crowds were significantly denser than we remembered on previous trips.

If it was this busy on a weather-weird day in April, what was it going to be like at the height of tourist season?!

These bullet-proof panels are said to be 10 feet high and 2 inches thick.

We picked our way through the slow-moving throngs of people and eventually found ourselves at the Arc de Triomphe.

Let me establish at this point that we knew the subway station we needed to get back to our hotel was just beside the Eiffel Tower … about a 15 minute walk from where we were now standing at the Arc de Triomphe.

We had been warned about potential subway closures around the Arc since it has been a popular location for the recent ‘yellow vest’ protests over the past several months.

These protests have often become violent and the evidence of heavy damage to stores along the Champs-Élysées attested to the rioting that had occurred.

Access to the Arc de Triomphe was closed and there was a significant police presence all along the Champs-Élysées … even though there were no protests in progress.

Police, police, and more police.

It was now late in the afternoon and I suggested we walk back the way we had come to pick up our subway station to the hotel. Sometimes, however, I’m convinced that if there is a hard way to do something, Gilles will find it.

He thought it would be ‘easier’ and ‘faster’ to catch one of the many subway stops along the Champs-Élysées.

It was neither.

As we walked, and walked, and walked, it was becoming frighteningly clear that MANY subway stations had been closed by the police as a preventative measure.

I no longer had any freaking clue where we were … except it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

As I became more and more agitated, our original 15 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe degenerated into a two-and-half hour trek – along with hundreds of other people – on a mission to find an open subway station.

Hailing a taxi or calling an Uber wasn’t even a choice on the heavily congested roads, as everyone was seeking a way out.

At one point in this odyssey, Gilles actually commented that I “looked stressed”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!

Even the Siene was looking angry by this point.

We finally dragged our sorry selves into our hotel room around 9 pm – 4 hours after our initial decision to head back. We were tired, hungry, barely speaking to each other, and we still had to pack for our flight home the following morning.

Paris, I do love you, that hasn’t changed … but I now feel like I need a do-over.

115 comments

    • Thanks Sue. It makes me feel better knowing you would have had the same reaction. Of course now that I’m comfortable at home I wonder what all the fuss was about and why couldn’t I just “go with the flow”.

      It only goes to show that even in a place we absolutely love, we can have a bad experience. I can see how people decide they hate a place because of a single unpleasant event.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Damn. My bosses leave for Paris tomorrow. I sure hope they have a good time. I mean, it’s PARIS, ffs!
    I’m so sorry you had that trek, and hungry no less! Awful.
    Still jealous though. My last unexpected four-hour trek was out in the cornfields of rural Indiana. You know, when the man didn’t ‘need’ a map. Your scenery was much better 😉

    Like

  2. Ahh, damn. 😦 I’d hate it all just as much. I hate crowds and the feeling of sheep they give me. Add to that certain closures and police, and I sit down and don’t move or join the protesters. You’ll be back in peace time.

    Like

  3. Wish I had time to enjoy the comments here too – but at least I was able to enjoy the post – and we have been there – well we have had certain vacations experiences with similar delays and detours – and so I could feel the exhaustion – and the Famous river did look angry – also – the protective glass says so much – it is so sad that protestors have to be violent –
    Anyhow – hope you get your do-over some day

    Like

  4. That is a frustrating misadventure. Had you known it was going to take 4 hours you could have found a cafe or an art museum and passed 3 hours in pleasure before getting a taxi. I think you need a do-over and should head back to Paris soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes the neurons in the brain don’t fire the way they should have. Unfortunately neither of us thought of that solution until a few days later 😕
      Sometimes when you’re knee-deep in a problem, you just keep digging instead of taking a look around for alternatives.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful photos Joanne! I hope you get your “do over” without the fluster and stress. Fluster and stress is why I am a terrible traveler and stay close to my own beach and restaurants. I would love to do a Frances Mayes and go to Tuscany but I would be flustered and I am sure I would get a cranky!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve pretty well described me. I’m not a great traveller – but I do like to travel. As long as I can get some down time to recharge, I can hold it together, but it’s hard to do when there is a limited time frame to work with.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bushwa! Joanne, I’m so sorry that didn’t go better. Four hours, stuck in that kind of crowd, with it moving along with you as you tried to escape. I honestly don’t know what I would have done.
    LOL, but I take it your husband has a gift for understatement. 😉 Hugs on the wing.

    Like

    • hahaha! It’s more like he has a talent for foot-in-mouth 😏
      The good news is that although it happened at the end of our trip, it didn’t ruin the overall feel-good vibe we had when we got home. The martini didn’t hurt either 😉

      Like

  7. Hi Joanne,
    Sorry your trip went “sideways”…especially when you have such a fondness for Paris. Is this congestion and subway closures common now? If so, if I tell husband Dan about it he will never agreed to visit Paris, one of my true travel wishes.
    You are certainly more experienced than we, but that sounds like an extremely stressful 24 hours!

    Like

    • I really don’t know what’s ‘normal’ in Paris anymore. The yellow vest protests have certainly stirred things up the past few months.
      I think the reality is that no matter where you go now, the best course of action is to expect the unexpected. Clearly we hadn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Joanne, I am with you on the traffic and crowds. Your one traffic photo does depict chaos. Your photos do capture some of the exquisite detail. We were in Paris in 2002. I realize change is inevitable. Travelling on subways used to be a common occurrence. Sadly, not now. You and Deb are a great match…… between her turtle porn and the angles of your photos😉Yes, I was looking at his face🤪

    Like

  9. Thank You telling about Paris. It is one of my favorite cities. It is now 5 years, when last time visited there. Since my first visit there was 1975, there has been many cases, like pickpockets and body search once – that’s life. Anyway, I love Paris.

    Have a good day!

    Like

  10. I feel for you, Joanne. Going back to a city we love should never be a bad experience. But the truth is, Paris has become a complicated city. The constant protests, the strikes, the terrorist attacks, all have taken away the city’s charm. And bad weather is always a real bummer. I’m glad you and your hubby made it back to the hotel safely. That in itself was a blessing, given the circumstances. And you manage to take great pictures!

    Like

    • As with an ancient city, I think Paris has always been complicated. I’m currently reading a book about the French Revolution and it’s just reinforcing that perspective.

      Sadly, humans have this innate inability to get along 😕

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Poor Giles. That wouldn’t happen to me because I’m usually too intimidated to venture beyond a four block radius of my hotel! Well, not quite. But almost. 🙂 I give you credit for re-living this in your post; I suspect you never once thought, “this will be great fodder for my blog.” – Marty

    Like

    • Oh Marty – true words! I don’t like to dwell on the things that don’t go well … ESPECIALLY when I’m not particularly proud of my ‘performance’. When I get flustered, it’s usually not pretty 😕
      … but in the end, I had to admit that a bad experience does make good blog fodder 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Joanne, I think anyone who has traveled can relate to this post at some point in their lives. Some of us more than others. Wanting a ‘do over’ is a good sign. A lot of folks would throw in the towel and stay home. Love your photos.

    Like

    • So true! It’s rarely all unicorns and rainbows but I have to admit that I’m starting to find travelling rather exhausting now. In particular, the process of catching a flight now just sucks the joy out of a trip for me.

      Like

  13. My, he is a fine specimen, isn’t he? Especially his [cough] face. Face. I was definitely looking at his face.
    (BTW, Maggie’s “not-the-face” line sent me into hysterics!)

    As a child I endured a dark, unpaved walk along a country road after a winery visit in Germany where my father declined the offer of a taxi declaring our destination was “just around the corner”. It wasn’t. We never let him forget it.

    I’m with you on the Metro. Have never and probably will never get my head around it. London, on the other hand, I adore. I could ride the Underground all day. I don’t know why.

    Glad the marriage survived. It’s miraculous.

    Like

  14. I think I’ll retain my fond memories of Paris ‘before’ all this heinous behavior around the world has created the situation you found yourselves in and not make a return visit. I may not have lived to tell the story. 🙂 And, I tried to focus on his face, but it seemed other parts were a different color and it kept drawing my attention. 🙂

    Like

  15. gorgeous photos, thanks Joanne. We were in Paris for a few days last year and it was wonderful – but then none of the yellow vests were in the ground, the weather was perfect and we walked a great deal. Also used a tuc tuc – I don’t know if you know these tiny taxis, but the one that took us to the Champs-Élysées on the day it was raining was pretty well covered by transparent ‘umbrella’.
    My husband STILL doesn’t know much about his wife …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t remember seeing any tuk-tuks in Paris, but was surprised to see them in another French city – Lille. What we did see a lot of were electric scooters – the type you stand on like a skateboard. They actually looked like a fun way to get around although I would have been reluctant in the heavy pedestrian traffic – too much risk of people stepping off the sidewalk into your path.

      … as for husbands …. well, what can I say? 😉 I doubt he could say anything about himself that would surprise me, but apparently the opposite isn’t true 😏

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I think the mayor of Paris needs to apologise to you and offer you a personally guided tour, free of charge, in his limousine as compensation. As their biggest fan you deserve no less!
    You did come back with beautiful images of Paris, even if the graffiti on the Fontaine Saint-Michel shows that there are idiots everywhere…

    Like

  17. No, it wasn’t the statues face that I saw first…
    I’ve never been to Paris and am thinking I might never go. I don’t enjoy crowds at all and have been so fortunate to have done so much of our travel back in the days when there were far fewer tourists.

    Like

  18. If after two and a half hours of walking around my husband turned to me and told me I looked stressed, I think I would have slapped him. Whew. Why, yes, I do feel better, thank you very much. OMG, Joanne…..!

    Like

    • I’d take a do-over even with poor weather and crowds. It’s a city worth the effort 🙂

      I hear you are having a heat-wave on the west coast. Could you send some of it our way? We could use it!

      Like

    • We were definitely surprised by the size of the crowds almost everywhere we went. We didn’t expect it at this time of year.

      The last time we were in Paris in April 2007, it was quiet and it was a treat to walk around the city. Tourism seems to have exploded over the past dozen years.

      Like

  19. Sounds grim, Joanne. As for where to look with the statue, the page down feature gave me the head in one scroll and everything else in the next. 🙂 I didn’t know about the bulletproof glass around the Tower.

    janet

    Like

    • I knew the Eiffel Tower had been fenced off so it didn’t come as a surprise. It was sad though because it’s changed the flavour of the area. It used to feel like a big park with people milling around. Now, well … definitely not.

      Like

  20. Oh. Dear. I have walked miles in Paris, but this does sound grim. As for not speaking – been there too! In Canada of all places. We wandered around Niagara Falls separately. Can’t remember why now 😉

    Like

  21. What a strong marriage you have to survive a 4 hour detour. The circumstances sound like hell . Stressed? I felt my blood pressure rising as I read. Can’t imagine how it would have been for real.

    Like

    • Either that or we are both saints for putting up with each other 😉

      It definitely wasn’t a great situation but I can now laugh about it. In hindsight, we should have simply stopped walking, found a place to have a drink and something to eat. I think the situation would have looked a lot different with some food in our stomach.

      Like

    • I think they needed to act very quickly to cover the exposed roof to protect what’s still inside. I was impressed by how much scaffolding was already up .. and I think some kind of tarp/mesh covering. There is still a long journey ahead though.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Kind of odd that you said the subway system on previous trips confounded you – that is one thing I love about Paris is that the subway is so easy. And, of course, it is a great walking city, just big. And I guess you found out how big! I’m sure I would have had the bad luck of hitting every single closed station myself… Anyway, despite the long trek back to the hotel, I’m sure it was nice to get back into Paris. (When I’ve been there, I’ve avoided the Champs-Élysées area like the plague. And of course, the Place de la Concorde is the one place in Paris that is awful to walk….)

    Like

    • I don’t know what it is about Paris’ subway system but we just can’t seem to wrap our heads around it. We finally thought we’d cracked the code on it and this new challenge jumped in our path!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paris a huge city, so… I always compare the subway map with the street map, so I get a picture in my mind. Also, I’m good with directions, so usually can figure out where I am. Of course, that makes getting loss that much worse! Like your adventure 😉

        Like

  23. Oh dear. I don’t think I would have enjoyed that at all, Joanne, even though I would one day love to see the city’s art and history. I can’t even handle Portland, Oregon. Ha ha. A do-over doesn’t sound too bad. And I was looking at the snake, not at the um…

    Like

  24. What Gilles did to you is similar to what I’ve been known to do to my wife. And she never lets me forget. Personally, I think a four-hour hike through Paris would be fun. But also exhausting.

    Like

    • It sounds like your wife and I could commiserate about a lot 😉

      The first 6-7 hours of this day – which was mostly walking – were lovely. After that point I was simply worn down and the word ‘fun’ never entered my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I figure if you came home together, it all worked out. When plans involving transportation change, things go sideways quickly. It does make for interesting stories. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    Like

  26. Really enjoyed hearing the reality of visiting Paris on your recent visit, Joanne. With the Yellow Vest protests, terrorist shootings, and Notre Dame on fire in the recent news, it was a pleasure to walk with you and your husband in this revered city to see the reality of the sad disturbances. Although Paris has had many tragedies lately, it still shines. I’m impressed that the ND repair work had already begun only 12 days after the fire. Enjoyed hearing your story about the subway difficulties. You are a stalwart traveler and an excellent storyteller, thank you.

    Like

  27. Last time I was in Paris a pickpocket almost got away with my wallet and passport so I’m not in a hurry to return. I’m glad I saw it back in the seventies when it was still popular but not as crowded and chaotic.

    Like

  28. Oh, what a shame! I never think of Paris like you described it. What happened to its charm and style? So sorry that happened, but you did make it back home in once piece. Still four hours? I’d be irritable, too.

    Like

    • Thanks for validating my grouchies. Sometimes after the fact I question whether I overreacted (you know, Drama Queen … really good at it … 🙄)

      After all that, I still think Paris is delightful … if just a lot more crowded than I remembered.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Joanne, I love how you present a true picture of travel. It’s not all Instagram bliss and Facebook Fantastic (unless you are just laying on the beach reading books, in Barbados…ahem!). There are days of wonky weather, too many people, traffic snafus, and missed destinations…especially when you have an ambitious agenda to follow. Glad you survived, and are back home again, getting ready for your (our) next adventure!

    Deb

    Like

  30. Joanne, I just love your story telling. I am much the same as you with crowds, and not knowing where I am or what I am doing. And my cheerful husband just sees it all as an adventure and does not understand my mood! I have been wanting to go to Paris, but after reading this, I realize now is not a good time with all of the turmoil over there. What a shame. Thanks for always writing The most interesting and entertaining posts

    Like

    • Thanks Jacquie – that’s so nice! I would hate for this story to dissuade anyone from going to Paris because I would go back tomorrow if given a chance.

      I was shocked on this trip to discover that my husband didn’t know I was claustrophobic. We’ve been together for 37 years! How could he not know this?!! As I said to him, did he think I turned into crazy bitch woman for no apparent reason?

      Men. 😏

      Like

  31. One year, we did a day in Paris after a 2-week vacation in the Pyrenees (calm and nature type of trip). At that time, there were no flight from Toulouse to Montreal or Toronto so we had to get back to Paris to fly back to Toronto. We had decided to stay one extra day so we could spend it in Paris; a city we had visited often and loved. But on that trip, that was a huge mistake. It was raining in Paris, it was dirty, noisy and miserable… we hated Paris that day and it took us 10 years before we went back on vacation to Paris to fall in love once again with the city. Paris is maybe not a city for a one day stay at the end of a trip… (Suzanne)

    Like

    • Wise words, Suzanne. I’d never seen this capricious side of her before. All I know is that when you’re as beautiful as Paris, you deserve another chance 😏

      You have to admit though, going from the calm of nature in the Pyrenees to the chaos of Paris would be alarming at the best of times!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s