This is a blog post I wrote as a guest post for my blog tour.
No doubt, the easiest way to travel to Europe is in a book.
In my novel, Paris Runaway, single mom Sadie chases after her 17-year-old daughter, who has run off to France. Sadie has never traveled out of the country before but feels compelled to follow Scarlett, who might be in danger.
Sadie has no time to think about the things that might make her travel abroad easier, but you do. Go ahead and grab your passport, but take a little time to smooth the way once you get off the plane.
Transportation: Figure out how you’ll get from the airport to your hotel without breaking the bank. In Paris, you can walk between the airport and the train station, just pulling your suitcase behind you. And when you arrive at the train station, you’ll see a huge electronic sign that announces departures for places like Budapest and Milan. It all feels so cosmopolitan. For about 10 Euros, you can buy a ticket to take you into the center of Paris.
Hotel: When you are travelling to a big city like Paris, or during a busy tourist season, like summer, arrange your hotel ahead of time. Sadie didn’t arrange a hotel. She pictures showing up in France, finding her daughter and returning home. But it doesn’t work out that way. After being awake for about 36 hours, she’s forced to beg for a hotel room.
Here’s an excerpt from Paris Runaway:
Then I wandered along the street until I spotted a little hotel just two windows wide in between the packed-tight Paris buildings. Exhaustion led me to stumble in, and I tried to remember some French words from my long ago high school French classes to ask about a room. “Une chambre?” I said, and the proprietor shook his head. I didn’t know if he couldn’t understand me or didn’t have any rooms available.
So I tried again, “S’il vous plaît,” I pleaded. I knew my brown eyes were ringed with circles that shone a pale blue amidst the crinkled lines that had formed over 50 years. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept.
I looked at the man behind the counter at the hotel again. “Please. Any room will do. I’m so tired. Maybe if I sleep, I’ll be able to figure it out.” I’d spoken in English.
I didn’t know if the man understood anything I said, but he pulled out a ring full of keys that clanked heavily. He turned down a hallway behind the counter and motioned for me to follow as he walked toward the interior of the hotel, away from the street.
Sadie got lucky. Hotel rooms are difficult to come by in Paris during the summer. In the rest of France though, I’ve traveled from town to town without hotel reservations. Each town has a tourism office. Stop in the tourism office and ask if they can help you find a room. Tell them how many rooms you need and what you want to spend, and they’ll do their best to book a room for you. We always had luck with that, even as we rode our bicycles to French towns.
Language: Most places in Europe, people speak English, but they do appreciate it if you try to speak their language. Some of the basics you should learn are hello, goodbye, please and thank you. A recent Facebook sign shows French restaurateurs informing patrons that a cup of coffee is cheaper if they begin their order by saying hello, “bonjour” and please “s’il vous plaît.” It’s important to know that French shopkeepers expect everyone to say hello when they walk into a store.
Don’t follow Sadie’s lead and show up in France without some basics, like in this excerpt from Paris Runaway:
“I’m in Paris searching for my daughter who ran away.” The words stuck in my throat and melted away in the empty hotel room.I hope you’ll take a trip to Paris in my novel, Paris Runaway. Then afterward, maybe you’ll be inspired to try some actual travel too.
I wished I’d had time to practice those lines in French.
Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France today. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what you think about my love affair with France, or your own love affair. And consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.