How did this journey begin? Like all journeys, it begins with an idea. The idea of going to Paris was brought up by a friend of ours during the summer. I believe it was the Fourth of July celebration, as we were on the lawn having barbecue and adult beverages. Our friend said that she was going to be in Paris for her 50th birthday and all were invited. Having nothing to lose at the time, of course we agreed to be there. I’m sure that she did not think that we were serious. For that matter, we probably were not even serious. However, the idea of going to Paris did resonate as an awesome adventure. Like many ideas, we put this on the back shelf and forgot about it for awhile. It really was not procrastination, we just went about our busy lives.
Summer quickly went to the holidays and the holidays in to the New Year. After the New Year, our attention turned to tax season. Our friend’s birthday is April 15, Tax Day. Deb and I looked at each other and realized that if we were to be there for her birthday, this was the time to get ready for Paris. We approached our friend about her plans and quickly realized that we were different types of travelers. During the year, she’s a planner, a very “attention to detail” person, and so we thought she would be ideal traveling companions. However, during discussions, we quickly found out that her idea of traveling is not to be hindered by a plan and is very C’est la vie, “That’s life,” and “Such is life”. Why would she want a plan as she does at all year? Deb needs a little bit more structure than a plane ticket and credit card; particularly since this was our first major trip outside of the United States and where we would actually have our passports stamped.
As luck would have it, the timing of a Rick Steves’ tour was perfect. We could fly in the week before her birthday, do the tour for a week then meet her for her birthday. So, if you asked why we picked the Rick Steves tour, my answer would be like many good decisions, it was Deb who found it and made the decisions. We found the “7 days in Paris” Rick Steves tour with just the right dates.
Our friend thought it was perfect. I’m so glad we could have this with open and honest communication about traveling styles with her. That’s speaks loudly as to why she’s our friend.
We also decided this would be a pre-25th wedding anniversary trip to ourselves.
We started to research the Rick Steves tour. There were many appealing things that we soon discovered. The first thing we noticed with the Rick Steves tour was the emphasis on how to become a good traveler. We were not some package that was driven to see this scene that, and at the end of the ride you’re done. We were learning how to become a native for the day.
The first thing was packing; a cardinal rule with the Rick Steves tour is that you only pack what you can carry on the plane. If there’s a snafu with luggage under the plane versus carry-on, your experience will become diminished. We learned that if your luggage were to be lost, your vacation time could be lost wasting time chasing down your luggage. Debra told me that minimal packing was skill that she wanted to learn anyway as she always felt that she packed too much on any given trip, so this was a bonus.
We then discovered that the itinerary was a nice mixture of group and personal time, during the downtime there were plenty of opportunities for us to choose what we wanted to see. I will address this point on our arrival page.
There are a lot of educational tools available on the Rick Steves website. There is a phone app with walking tour that we could download. There were books that we could buy that are updated annually. There is an awesome YouTube channel that not only highlights where the tours are, but how to travel, introductions to the country, and background of History of Art in the country where we were going to visit (we took the crash course). With some study, we developed a lot of confidence of what to expect, which freed us up to just enjoy the experience. By no means are we seasoned travelers, but by the time we left we were well informed travelers.
The only thing I decided to do that worked out very good for me that I did not see in any of the videos, was a good pair of hiking shoes. This is a crossbreed between a normal tennis shoe and a hiking boot. I got a pair of Sketchers that worked out just perfect. They were comfortable like a tennis shoe, had some ankle support for hiking through the grass and uneven surfaces, and they were sturdy enough for wet weather. Even though we didn’t have any torrential downpours, there were times that the sidewalks were wet and had puddles.