Are you a citizen of the world or a cranky American?
It’s Saturday, May 4, arrival day. For so many weeks, this is the first day on the itinerary…you leave on the 3rd and arrive on the 4th. Beside May 4th, on the itinerary I write “PARIS” but no plans. I know not to fill this day with arduous sightseeing – it’s a blank slate.
On the first day of my very first trip abroad, one of my favorite professors, Tom Howell, led our group on a boat cruise down the Thames. There it was – a kid from Pineville, Louisiana, was introduced to London on the river of the Romans, Shakespeare, Monet and Churchill. Standing at the rail, London rolled out before us: Parliament, St. Paul’s, The Tower. This first adventure didn’t require physical or mental acuity – just awe. It was the right beginning to that trip and to a life of travel.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. Samuel Johnson
One Thing. This set the plan for me. On your first day, do one truly wonderful thing – see the famous corner where (fill in the blank), walk a boulevard, find a site from your favorite novel, have your first soufflé.
Why is this important? It’s the first day of the trip you’ve planned so carefully. This day can set the tone for the rest. Are you a successful citizen of the world gliding through international capitals or a cranky American who can’t figure out the subway ticket machine?
So on my first day in Paris, I found a restaurant recommended by a friend, Julie, who knows a great deal about Paris. It’s Le Souffle and they can serve a multiple course meals comprised solely of soufflés. This I had to see. To get there, I sorted out the map, bought a carnet of metro tickets, navigated my way to Le Madeleine and then enjoyed a very Parisian walk down Rue Royale. A quick turn on Mont Thabor and there it was…Le Souffle. (Small victory – I am a successful traveler and will be given lunch).
After a celebratory cheese soufflé, I could let the rest of the day unfold with a lazy walk down Rue Rivoli, then across the Seine and back to my hotel for the inevitable surrender to sleep before the sun set!
What I Learned
The first day is great for running errands, maybe validating your Rail Pass and making train reservations. A couple of necessities are crossed off your list but also you learn or relearn how to use public transportation and find ATMs. Bank a success.
Everything seems complicated the first day…and then on the second day, you’re experienced.
Bonus tip. Boiled eggs. Many breakfast buffets have a basket of boiled eggs. If this basket is adjacent to a vat of hot water, they may not be boiled…yet.