I started watching Emily in Paris on Netflix, which is an entertaining series about an American named Emily who lives in Paris. How self-explanatory. The main character Emily kind of reminds me of myself, because like her, I have run into some unusual, odd and misfortunate scenarios while traveling. The show has inspired me to share my travel adventures, including my not-so-welcoming trip to Paris. So here’s Kennedy in Paris.
Before I get into my Paris trip, here are some tidbits to break you in. My family has always been the type to travel—more on a whim, rather than planned trips. When my grandma asked if we’d like to go to Florida, it meant, “Do you want to hit the road in 30 minutes?”
Almost all of the time everyone was interested. We would pack a bag and load into our old, hideous 12-seater van. My dad used this van for his band at one point. It looked like it could have been purchased with marijuana instead of cash. The van packed the whole crew, but it was an eye sore.
But who cares? Well, we did when it broke down, resulting in a six-hour pit stop on the way to Disney. In the end, we got to our destination and enjoyed.
Mine is Bigger than Yours
Our family would pack into the van that looked like what is pictured below and drive 16 hours to Florida. We did this frequently. The best feature of the entire ride was a small TV in the backseat; one of the old, boxy, heavy TVs from the early 2000s. We put this TV in the back along with a DVD player to enjoy some flicks. It did just as great of a job as the TVs built into the back of seats equipped in fancy SUVs.
On the interstate one trip, our giant turd was coming up beside one of these aforementioned fancy SUVs with the built-in TVs. As soon as we passed Mrs. Fancy Pants, she immediately flipped on all of the TVs in the back two rows of their vehicle to show off her high-tech gear. So we grabbed our TV and showed it to her. “OURS IS BIGGER!”
I Promise I’m Not Sketchy
Since we traveled frequently when I was growing up, I didn’t think too much about flying solo for the first time. I was going to Italy, but I was more excited than nervous. I got to the airport, not really knowing what I was supposed to be doing, but I definitely pretended.
All was well on the flight there. After a month-long Italian adventure at 16, it was time to say “Ciao” to the beautiful country. I arrived at the airport and acted like I knew what I was doing again. I dropped my bag on the belt, went through security and got to my gate. I was waiting for about an hour or so and heard, “Kennedy Nolen” over the intercom.
It was only my third or fourth time flying, so I was getting a tad nervous. I was busy and distracted, looking around for anyone who was acting suspicious. You know, the bald man sitting alone by himself, sweating, looking around, aggressively texting some assassin accomplice. I was trying to pin down the weirdo. They say, “If you see something, say something,” right? So I was just observing the people I’d be traveling in close quarters with. If a murderer was going to hop on board, I wanted to know before getting on the plane.
I heard my name on the intercom again. I went up to the counter. They had my humongous suitcase.
“Is this yours?” the employee sternly asked.
“Sure is 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂,” I said with a goofy smile, showing TSA I was not a plane hijacker, kidnapper, murderer nor unibomber.
I realized what was happening. I forgot to check my bag with security before boarding. I was the weirdo I was trying to point out.
They searched my suitcase, every single crevice, ensuring I wasn’t attempting to smuggle cocaine or meth back to the U.S. They almost didn’t let me on the plane.
Luckily, I acted like I had no idea what was going on. Well, I didn’t have to act much. After that fiasco, I was one of the last to board, but I made it back to the U.S. unfortunately.
The Fake Five and a Hungry ATM
Solo traveling experiences just seemed to get worse as I got older.
I completed my entire sophomore year of college in England, just an hour southeast of London. It was incredible—from working London Fashion Week to attending the Brit Awards, life was good. (Yes, I will tell every soul I encounter I worked LFW because it was the peak of my existence.)
It was about 6 a.m., and I was in London by my lonesome preparing for the first meeting of London Fashion Week. I ordered a coffee to help cure my hangover and to boost my energy for the meeting. I paid in cash, drank it and left.
Later in the day, I went to the hotel bar for some water and probably some hair of the dog. I attempted to pay with cash, which included the five pound note the barista had given me earlier in the day. The woman told me the bill was a counterfeit, and she wouldn’t accept it. I was annoyed, but she knew my 18-year-old foreign ass wasn’t just creating fake cash to use. She told me if I took it to the bank, they’d replace it with a real one. I don’t necessarily believe that, because what if I had a fake 100 pound note? Would they have replaced that? Doubtful. If so, I may be on to something.
I didn’t want to mess around at a bank, so I held onto the fake five. A lot of museums in London are free, which is wonderful. This means a lot of them rely on donations. I went to a museum later that day, and I saw this gigantic donation box with a tiny sign that read, “5 pound donation encouraged.” I dug into my wallet, grabbed the counterfeit five from earlier and dropped it into the box.
Hey, if you want a real one, just take it to the bank. “They’ll give you a new one.”
A few years after the encounter with the fake five in London, I went to South Korea to visit my brother. He was a teacher and lived there for a couple of years.
Any time I am traveling, I typically withdraw large quantities of cash out of the ATM to avoid hefty fees with each transaction on my debit card. I probably won’t do this now, because who knows if someone in Ireland or something is reading this, planning to stalk me at an ATM and swoop in to rob me. I may need to go with another method…
When I was in the city south of Seoul where my brother lived, I was getting low on cash from the first time I took out money. He and I both headed to an ATM close to his apartment.
I put my card in the ATM, and it …..
….didn’t give it back to me?
It ate my card. My card was a fly, and the ATM was a Venus Flytrap.
It was my only lifeline of currency I had. We called the company who fixed the machines and it was going to likely be a day or two before they could do anything about it. Luckily, I was with someone I knew. Had it been a time I was alone, I would have been shit out of luck. Note to self and fellow travelers: Carry a couple of cards while traveling abroad in case the ATM needs a snack.
Paris Kind of Sucks
Here is what you all came here for. My trip to Paris.
I graduated college in May of 2018 and wanted to reward myself with a nice European solo vacation. I was planning to go alone, until one of my friends said she would go too. When I got to Europe, I planned on kind of balling out and treating myself because although college was fun, it also really sucked. This trip would be my last hoorah before “real life” happened.
Rather than using money I had saved up to move out and move away, in typical Kennedy fashion, I cashed out on a four-country tour of Europe for over a week. If I could take off two weeks from work, hell, even one week, I would get the next flight to Italy and pay TSA to let me in the country since they’re not allowing entry to Americans.
My friend Allie and I packed our bags, and Paris was our first destination. For the past couple of years, I had been holding off on visiting Paris because I didn’t necessarily hear anything positive about the city. Despite this, I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa, so we made Paris the first stop of the trip. (Also, we booked a one-way flight from Chicago to Paris for 200 bucks and couldn’t beat the deal.) We landed and took an Uber to our hotel. We checked in, unpacked, changed and went to dinner.
Our server really wanted a photo with us:
We ate good food and drank even better wine. We headed to Champ de Mars and watched the Eiffel Tower light up at night. It was incredible. After sitting down for a while, some man came up to us and asked me to go to lunch with him the next day. I politely declined. He insisted. He also told me if I have a problem in Paris, to let him know, not the police.
While this random pedestrian is still talking with us, another French man came up and asked for a lighter. In French, Creepy Lunch Man told Lighter Guy to go away and stop talking to us. We had no idea what he said at the time. Once Creepy Lunch finally left us alone, Lighter Guy and his two friends came and chatted with us. He told us Lunch Insister was rude and basically translated his comment.
Allie and I chatted with them for a bit, and they were genuinely decent people. Lighter Guy worked security at Moulin Rouge, and invited us to come the following night. We highly considered it, but saw the ticket prices and declined. If he would have let us in for free, it would have been a different story.
We said bye to our new French friends, headed back to our hotel, and went to bed.
A Few Transportation Situations
I had almost every detail of this day planned out. We awoke and headed to the Louvre, saw Mona Lisa, took photos by the glass pyramid and did tourist attractions as such. In the afternoon, our plan was to visit the Palace of Versailles. We opted to take an Uber rather than mess with finding the train. It was the easiest and quickest option.
While we were in the Uber for approximately three minutes, another car nailed us.
The driver of our vehicle and the other vehicle spoke for maybe five minutes, as Allie and I are just like, “hello?” We contemplated ordering another driver, because usually collisions and such take a while to figure out.
We were wrong.
Our driver must not have cared too much, because after a short five minutes, he hopped back in as if nothing happened.
Next thing you know, we were at Versailles. The palace was massive and grand, with beautiful gardens and landscaping.
To get back to our hotel, we also opted to use Uber for the same reasons mentioned previously.
The driver called me to inform me he was here. The language barrier was … an issue. He kept asking if I was near a hotel. I could not find any sort of hotel near me whatsoever. I told him we were outside of the gates of Versailles, and he still asked if I was close to a hotel. This conversation went on for another 10 minutes, before he got really frustrated and would not stop calling me. I blocked his number and decided we needed to find a train station.
The nearest station was about a 15-minute walk. When Allie and I got to the station, IT WAS CLOSED. No more trains were going back to Paris for the day. I didn’t want to get the same Uber driver who hated me, so we had to figure out something else. Are you ever so frustrated you laugh? Allie and I, who cannot speak French, were potentially stuck in a suburb of Paris. I guess in the worst possible case, we could have walked the 11 miles back to our hotel?
Luckily, a French couple also attempting to head into Paris asked us if we were on our way into the city. The person working at the station told them they would need to walk to another station to get a train into Paris. We followed this kind French pair like they were Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau and we were Lewis and Clark.
We luckily made it back to Paris in one piece and had walked 10 miles in total that day.
A BIG BUG ON THE FLOOR
The next day did not turn out to be roses and sunshine. Don’t get me wrong; we were in Paris. I could have been punched in the face and still had a good time. Being in a different country doesn’t feel like real life to me. It’s 10 times more fun. But what the next day had in store for us was not fun.
I woke up, showered and got ready for the day while Allie snoozed a little. While turning on the lights, I looked down and noticed I was within inches of stepping on a large cockroach.
If there is one in day light, there are hundreds more in hiding. Allie and I called the front desk. We needed either a new room or a refund.
“Hi, this is Kennedy, the resident of room number XXXX, and there is a giant cockroach in our room,” I said to the woman who answered.
“Eh… Cock? Roach?” she questioned, clearly not understanding.
“Uhm… A big bug?” I said, to simplify my point.
I could tell she couldn’t understand me, so I googled the word for cockroach.
“Okay… ‘cafard’?” I say, very poorly in French. “Cafard.”
She handed the phone to a different man. She was over it.
“Hi, how can I help you?” the man asked.
“Yes, hi. Could my friend and I have a new room? We found a cockroach in ours,” I said, hoping we could even get a discount.
“OH. A COCKROACH??? Yes, come down to the lobby and we will get you a new room,” he said.
Allie and I packed all of our shit as fast as we could, moseyed on down to the lobby and attempted to find this man who promised us a new room. One staff member got another staff member who got another staff member who got another staff member who got us the majestic wizard who held the key to our new abode for the night.
Nicolas, the Technician
After about an hour, we were pleased to step inside our new room. It was on a different floor, but the room was identical to the previous. Our plans for the day were more lax. We had reservations for a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Eiffel Tower and were likely going to just walk around and enjoy our final night in Paris before we headed off to Brussels, home to all of the essentials: waffles, chocolate and sprouts.
I was going to curl my hair, charge my phone and then we would grab coffee. I plugged in my curling iron. It didn’t turn on. I thought potentially it was just the outlet in the bathroom that didn’t work. I plugged my phone into a different outlet. It also didn’t work. I tried to turn the light on. Nothing.
We weren’t enthused. We called the lobby again, and they tried to tell us it was just our American outlet converters. I told the man that was not the case since they had worked in our other room and in the lobby of the hotel. After hearing my complaints, the man said a technician would be up to check it out. He assured us it would also be okay if we weren’t in the room while he was there, so we went to get coffee.
Afterward, we returned to the room and the outlets still did not work. It had been over an hour at this point. We called the lobby again. The man told us Nicolas the technician would be up in a few minutes. Thirty minutes went by, and we really needed to leave to make it to our reservation at this boujee rooftop restaurant. I called the lobby again, and asked where Nicolas was. The man said he didn’t know, but he would be up to our room shortly. He assured us to go ahead and go on with our plans, and it wasn’t important that we be in the room while he was fixing the situation.
Allie and I were over it. As we were leaving the hotel to go to the restaurant, we saw a maintenance man just having a cigarette and piddling around. Whatever. Maybe he was taking a break, and he would go to our room shortly to fix our first-world problem. Some wine and good food would help us, so we went to lunch and acted like all was well.
We also went to a few notable Parisian landmarks, like Notre-Dame and Arc de Triomphe. It had been five hours or so at this point. We headed back to the hotel to check out our electrical situation. Since it had been a total of eight hours or so, we figured the issue would be resolved and Nicolas hooked us up. Maybe two bottles of champagne were on our table for the trouble?
Well, this is my life, right? Of course when we stepped in the room and flipped on the lights, NOTHING happened. We tried to plug something in to see if it worked. Of course it didn’t.
I was ready to leave the hotel at this point and find somewhere else to stay. The French aren’t known for being kind, so I stuck it out, knowing no refund would be applied. I didn’t want us to be out the ~100 Euros.
One of us called the front desk and told them our situation, because it was a new shift, therefore a new person was manning the desk.
“Ah, yes. Let me call Nicolas the technician. I will call you right back,” he said.
At this point, I felt like I personally knew Nicolas.
Within a few minutes, the front desk man called us back.
“Hello. I spoke with Nicolas. He said the fifth floor has been without power all day. They should have moved your room hours ago.”
OF COURSE IT HAS BEEN WITHOUT POWER. I’m assuming the first guy at the front desk never even spoke to Nicolas the technician. We were moved to another room, and all was well.
When we were leaving the hotel the following morning, I saw a dead cockroach outside of our room in the hallway. I knew it was time to get the hell out of Paris.
TL;DR: Don’t have high expectations if you go to Paris. Better yet, save your time and go to Amsterdam or Rome instead.
P.S. If anyone wants to go to Europe “after” COVID, let me know. Stanton and I will be going eventually. Also, I’ve lost nearly 20 lbs since my last trip and need cute pics.