The trouble really started two days before. The master plan was to travel up the coast of Italy and ride the gondola up over the mountains into Chamonix, France. This route promised a breathtaking view of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn; we were both really looking forward to it. Getting to the base of the lift was a bit more challenging than we had worked out. We took a train up to Aosta and then a two-hour bus ride up to the base only to arrive 10 minutes too late - the gondola had closed for the day. We were stuck. We found a place to spend the night and tried to make the best of it. At the crack of dawn we were back up at the gondola - ready to be the first ones on! Mother Nature however had other plans. It was too windy to safely run. We waited several hours hoping that the winds would ease up and we could get over but they decided to close the gondola for the day - the weather was just too bad. To say we were disappointed would be an under statement. Grumpiness was starting to set in. Our only option, take the two-hour bus ride back to Aosta and get on a train to France. As luck would have it, there was some issue with the train while traveling through Switzerland; we had to take a bus from one train station to another. On the bright side, this did allow us to experience a bit of the local culture, the bus had to stop at one point as a herd of sheep was shepherded down the street. This is not something you see every day! Well, if you live in whatever town we were in you probably do, but for this American tourist it was a first. It at least lightened the mood ever so slightly. We finally arrived at the train station and just barely made it on the last train to Paris for the day. We lost two days of site sightseeing, we were spending the night on the train; we were tired, hungry, and cranky.
We finally arrive in Paris around mid-day. The train station was hopping - there were all sorts of soccer fans wearing team colors and cheering and chanting. It's hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm and energy - I started to perk up and get excited. As is typical of this trip, the first thing we needed to do was find a place to stay for the night. This is where I need to tell you that my boyfriend worked for Marriott hotels. He could get an employee discount at any Marriott property. On this trip we wanted to get the full European experience and stay at locations off the beaten trail and up to this point it was great. However, given the difficulty in getting to Paris in the first place and that it was the middle of the day, I wanted to just find the Marriott and be done with it and enjoy the rest of the day. He refused to do that. I was not happy! So we are walking down the streets of Paris looking for a hotel and I realize we are walking past the Louvre. The Louvre is blocks long - and I want to be inside looking at the artwork not walking past it. With every step as we walk along beside the building I grew angrier and angrier.
We finally find a hotel in an old historic building - had I been in another frame of mind I would have been charmed by the architecture and ornate detail. The aesthetic was where the charm ended - you needed to say a Hail Mary while riding the elevator, the room was well worn, as were all the amenities such as towels and linens. But it was just over night and now that we had found a place we could go out and explore. However, we weren't on the same page about what we wanted to see. We ended up wandering aimlessly, we went by Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge, and we walked along the street above the Seine. It was not romantic; there was nothing remotely romantic about any of it. We didn't have time to take in any museums. We didn't venture anywhere near the Pont des Arts - probably a very good thing, since there likely would have been something going over the bridge and it wouldn't have been a set of keys - there would be no Locks of Love on this visit. We found someplace to eat that wasn't even memorable and by that time the sun had set - I wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower. He however decided that Paris was too dangerous to walk around in at night. It's the City of Lights - are you kidding me! At this point we were no longer on speaking terms. We went back to the hotel in silence where I just got into the bed, which consisted of a mattress on the floor and pillows that were sewn, yes sewn, to the bedding. We left the next morning.
My first trip to Paris - a total disaster!